Murder Most Picante and If Wishes Were Dragons

Author: Karina Fabian

Publisher: Laser Cow Press

Age Range: Older teen, young adult.

Although these two books about Vern the dragon were not specifically written for a teen audience, older teens will enjoy reading them. Karina Fabian has produced two entertaining books which follow the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Vern – a dragon who lives in a garage out the back of the church at Little Flower Catholic Parish.

According to the prologue, Karina Fabian had to write about Vern because he wouldn’t leave her alone. And it’s no wonder, Vern really is an unforgettable character. He has a quick, acerbic wit:

“Saint George and I have a history.  The first time we met, he’d demanded I place myself under his command.  I countered with an invitation to join me for lunch – as the main course.”

Why is Vern living in a garage at the back of a Catholic church?  Well, that’s a convoluted story that involves a duke, some cantaloupes, a nuclear accident and a portal that opens between our world and Faerie – and a lost battle against St George.   It’s a long story that Vern only alludes to in passing.  What matters is that Vern is stuck here, and he’s not overjoyed about it. He tolerates his present situation with grim humour and resignation.

Vern is lovable despite his apparent disdain for the human world he is forced to live in.  He’s kind of like a big, shaggy dog who sighs and suffers the indignity of small children tugging at his tail and ears.  Vern doesn’t want to be in his present situation, but he is resigned to it. But that doesn’t stop Vern reminding the reader and everyone else he meets what a majestic, awesome and feared creature he once was.

Despite Vern’s droll humour, author Karina Fabian conveys his sense of loneliness and confusion and apparent disdain for the ‘Mundanes’ he has to live with. Submitting to what Vern believes is a call from God – he perseveres.  He’s a stranger in a strange land. Everything he does seems to end in misunderstanding and disaster. People are quick to think the worst of him. Vern is ‘the outsider’ that everyone stares at and gossips about.

Vern finds friendship with a group of dungeons and dragons players – a group of otherwise offbeat characters who are ‘LARPers’ – Live Action Role Players.  In their various role-playing costumes they enthusiastically invite Vern to join their group.  And he accepts, of course. They introduce him to dungeons and dragons, and he introduces them to a few real-life adventures.  I loved their acceptance of his difference – they celebrate his dragonhood and show him genuine friendship and acceptance.

As readers we can’t help but love Vern.  Who hasn’t felt frustrated, trapped, underappreciated and misunderstood at some time?  For anyone who has ever felt like the odd one out who just can’t get a break – Vern is your new hero. In spite of himself he begins to feel a real sense of friendship and loyalty to his newfound friends.  He eventually manages to become a hero by solving a murder mystery, saving Father Rich and taking a few bullets in his hide for his efforts.  By the end of the first book, we’re cheering for Vern.  Older teens will love it, especially teens who are into d&d and cosplay.

Author, Karina Fabian.

Book two, If Wishes Were Dragons, is a continuation of the story of Vern.  It is a longer and more complex tale that involves Vern and his LARPing friends rubbing an old genie lamp and being transported into Faerie land where Vern needs to sort out a few of the unanswered questions that have been bothering him.  Saint George took his memories (along with his fire-breathing abilities and massive size).  It’s time for Vern to regain his memories and confront some things from the past.

Like characters on a d&d quest, Vern and his LARPing friends undertake their heroic journey. They escape from giant spiders, tunnel through a labyrinth Mountain, and confront rotten/corrupt dragon leaders.  Each of them is wounded and pounded, but they battle on, using their unique powers.   Ultimately Vern finds corruption and disappointment in his homeland.  His elders now demand glory without acknowledging the responsibility that comes with being God’s greatest creation.  Vern must decide whether to fight with or against his kin.  He decides to fight against them in a seemingly hopeless battle against a foe much stronger, more powerful and majestic than himself.

The final chapters follow Vern and his twin sister as they outwit the spider Queen and confront the elder dragons in an epic battle. Battered and bruised they win – working together Vern, Father Rich and the gang defeat the elder dragons – for now.  By story’s end they have become heroes.  They have learnt lessons, faced foes, pulled together, remained loyal and steadfast, and won the battle.

But there are some very Catholic moments in the book.  Father Rich remains steadfast in his beliefs and willingly endures great suffering for a greater good – he even convinces Fairy Queen Titania to go to confession – and she’s in the confessional for seven hours!  There is also a very clear message about humility and responsibility.  In the heat of battle, Vern reminds his elder dragons that they were made to reflect God’s glory, not to BE glorious in their own right.

Older teens who love fantasy novels will enjoy the characters and humour in this series of books.  It’s unlike regular teen books in as much as the characters are not teens, they are adults in all stages of life. It’s a little bit scary, immersed in magic and dark forces, and ultimately a funny and entertaining story.  I recommend this series!

 

Homeschool and Teacher Ideas.

  • Older teens, create your own d&d adventure using the characters in the book. Or create your own characters – ask students to put themselves in the quest – what would they wish for, what would their character be on ‘the other side’ – a fairy, a dwarf, a musician in the fairy queen’s court?  Why?  How can you make this story ‘Catholic?’
  • Artistic people can design costumes.  Draw up maps to scale (by hand or using computers) and put in as much detail as you can – where does the quest begin and end – put in the natural features of water, mountains, forests.  Don’t forget orientation, key and scale on your map.

“For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory now and forever”

  • The elder dragons were glorious creatures fictitiously created on the eighth day of creation.  Read page 341 of If Wishes Were Dragons.

Then para 282 – 294 from the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is about Creation.

How did Vern and Father Rich know that the elder dragon was corrupt? Write your thoughts on the topic of “Glory versus repsonsibility”.

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