Cover Image: Dancing with Dragons

Dancing with Dragons

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Member Reviews

Beautifully written , this is the kind of story that stays with you long after you have finished. Some tough topics handled but with underlying hope and courage. There is something magical about the back drop of Australia’s coral reef and the amazing creatures that inhabit it. This has been captured by the Author, particularly well. First time I have read this Author, but will definitely put more of her novels on my reading list.

Thank you to the Author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read, review and give my honest opinion of an ARC.

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This is a beautiful story of a Brother and Sister living on the Australian coast. Gaia and her Brother hold onto their dream of being dancers as they were taught by their talented Mother a dancer. After a terrible family tragedy Gaia returns to the family land to live in the barn off grid and start her life anew. The author has written a well crafted story of a independent girl who is a survivor and holds onto her dreams. You will love the ocean conservation theme and the beautiful way the author incorporates the characters love of the ocean and sea creatures.

I was mesmerized by this book and read it cover to cover. Its a lovely story of courage, starting over and love for the ocean. I call this book "the perfect summer read.." The setting of the Australian coast is atmospheric and perfectly done by the author. The reader is captivated by the writing and you can picture the coastal setting as you read. I highly recommend this book for your reading enjoyment.

Thank you to Net Galley, the publisher and to the author for the opportunity for review. My review opinions are my own.

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This was a very strong book from a debut author that drew me from the first page with intriguing title and an original concept. With a distinct allegorical presence, I was drawn into Gaia's story and felt both the wonder of her life with her family and then the pain and isolation of her time growing up as she reconnected with the land and the original people who lived on jt. With a strong inclusion of the Aboriginal world view and experience through Jurrah and his extended family, this made me ask different questions then i had expected while further developing the story's scope. If you want to read a story that will have you wondering how much one lone girl can experience, and delight in the power of her will to live and rejoice in nature while fighting to protect herself and that world, then this is a book you do not want to miss. This is a story of resilience, love, acceptance of self and others, and the intense identification of Place that grows from tryly being one with Nature. This was different then what I had expected, but it was a strong Coming of Age Story that will speak to readers who enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing. One of the strengths of this story is that is will speak to both male and female readers of any age and it will highlight the wonderfully rich interconnectedness of everyone not just with those people them but with nature and the Spirit of the Earth itself.

Thank you New Galley and Sea Dragon Press for the Advance Copy I Read

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What a beautiful story! Margot was a well known ballet dancer, and she trained her 2 children to be ballet dancers- Gaia and her older brother Bron short for Oberon. They love to watch the dance of the Seadragons around mating time. Sadly, there's a tragic fire that take the lives of their parents, and Bron with some scars on his legs. But the fire causes Gaia deep third degree burns and disfiguring scars. This story is about how Gaia learns to deal with her problems and ordeals, makes new friends, and perhaps even finds love. Will Gaia ever get to be the Ballerina that her mother was? It's a touching tale and highly recommend it, with memorable characters, and a wonderful.story.

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I read an eARC of this book so thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley.

This was a beautiful book, a story of survival, of finding your passion and building connections with people around you and nature.

This books follows Gaia as she returns to her family home that has been destroyed in a fire. She lost both her parents and suffered severe burns herself leaving her with serious scarring. She moves into the barn and sells fruit to survive, practicing ballet on the beach and snorkelling with the super rare sea dragons that live only in Australia. Gaia hides from people as much as she can due to their horrified reactions to her scarring, her main company coming from her aboriginal neighbours. Her life is changed when their eleven year old nephew comes to visit and they become friends.

Gaia rebuilds her life, forming new friendships but deals with the prejudice and violence of others. She is forced to take action when the greed of others threatens the survival of the endangered sea dragons. Leading her on a mission to protect the reef. I love a conservation/environmental story so this was an instant win. I enjoyed seeing Gaia work with her new found family to battle against the callousness and greed of people who would destroy the land, ocean and its inhabitants.

I had some issues with some of the dialogue. There were a few points that I found a little uncomfortable or clunky. However this didn’t detract too much from what was a wonderful story. I would also check trigger warnings for this one as there is abusive behaviour in a number of ways.

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Reading this book transporte you to an Australian beach and brings back all memories of wonderful snorkeling experiences. This book is a perfect read for a sea vacation or to get back to those memories after such vacation. Will be enjoyed by all sea creatures' lovers!!

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The imagery in this book while describing ocean life was breathtaking. It made me feel like I was there, experiencing the wonders of the ocean with the characters. The beautifully drawn-out descriptions of wildlife and ocean life were my favorite parts. However, I felt that the character development was lacking. Some aspects of the relationships felt rushed, and the sentence structure was sometimes choppy.

The book had a slower beginning pace but picked up just before the halfway mark. The theme of ocean and reef conservation was consistent, though it sometimes got lost in a convoluted story.
The plot followed a strange trajectory, with events falling too smoothly into place, reducing conflict and tension. Conflicts were resolved too quickly and easily, leading to less emotional engagement.

Overall, I really liked the setting, the beautiful imagery, and the plot, but I wish more time had been spent on character relationships and development. Therefore, I give this book 3 stars.

Thank you Sea Dragon Press and Netgalley for an advanced reader copy. All opinions are my own.

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Wow … such a beautiful book in so many ways, especially when describing the sea dragons. I knew so little about them previously and now i’m so interested in learning even more. So much happens in this book and it is such an adventure to read, tugging at heart strings on multiple levels. The book touches on so many issues including death, ballet, helping disadvantaged children, conservation and so much more … and is told in such a captivating way that the story of Gaia and her friends and family will stay with me for a long time. Some sections did remind me a little of When the Crawdads sing but it is so nice having this book set in Australia.

Today I went swimming in my local pool and as I looked out my goggles at the bottom of the pool, I wished that I could be at Gaia’s beach seeing instead the turtles, fish and amazing sea dragons.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me read an advanced review copy. On storygraph my rating is 4.5/5 - I wish we had more flexibility across platforms to give more accurate reviews.

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I am going to be honest. I love the early parts of the book - Gaia's blissful days, the fire, the aftermath and her recovery from her injuries, and her decision to return to the abandoned place she once called home - and I almost cried in public multiple times.

And then it sort of go downhill from there, and the more I read, the less I like this book.

My issue is that the plot of this book follows a really strange trajectory, in my opinion. I'll call it the 'domino effect plot', because it seems to me that all Gaia needed to do is to make the first move and everything falls into place.

Now there's no way to explain what I dislike about this book without going in-depth into the plot, so spoilers alert. I'll have a concluding remark at the end for those who wish to skip the spoilers.

I hate to use the word 'bland', but that's really the best word to describe this book. There's very little conflict or tension (except for Mason... we'll talk about Mason in a bit). When Gaia decided to live by herself, she almost immediately succeed in it. Like, she has a garden and she could survive with the help of her neighbours, Eddie and Mary, and she even have cute wildlife pets, Disney princess style. Oh, she has a bit of money from her parents, so there's really very little danger of her dying. I wished we had seen more details about her struggle in trying to live off the land alone, which is tough on everyone.

[spoiler section]
This lack of tension continues when she became friends with an 11-year-old boy called Jarrah. Jarrah saw Gaia dancing on the beach and was immediately spellbound because Gaia is just that beautiful and amazing. Her scars? He doesn't see them AT ALL. Their friendship develops in a wholesome, almost saccharine way.

Then this guy Seamus appeared, and right away you can tell this is the LOVE INTEREST CHARACTER. At this point I was like, sigh. Of course he's good-looking. Bonus points for him not seeing Gaia's scars at all (or rather, he was shocked for like 2 minutes and then he doesn't see them afterwards). And he's Irish, so he can dance really well, which allows him to have amazing dancing moments with Gaia. Genuine question: is every Irish person great at dancing, or is that a stereotype?

Anyway, tension arose when Jarrah saw Seamus and Gaia kiss. But no worries, as with every conflict in this book, it is resolved easily: Jarrah gets a heart-to-heart talk, and they all returned to being friends. To be fair, I did like the talk Seamus gave Jarrah, but that's beside the point: everything is resolved way too easily and quickly, and as a result there is very little emotional engagement from my part.

Later on, things started to pick up. Some developer showed up with a plan to turn the area into a vacation spot, which would mean damage to the reef and wildlife. Gaia decided to try and save her home... and once she made that decision everything falls into place again. Oh, she needed a lawyer? Guess what, her lawyer turned out to be an environmentalist at heart, and was willing to help her pro bono. He also conveniently knows that a university might be willing to purchase the land for research and conservation purposes.

At this juncture the book became really tedious and frustrating to read. The domino effect thing became really prominent when Gaia decided to take up formal ballet lessons again. She went to a plastic surgeon, whose daughter *just happen* to be in this ballet school, and the school *just happen* to have this instructor who's so nice she decided to give Gaia a 50% discount. Then when Gaia put up a dance performance to raise funds for a school, she was apparently so amazing that she wowed the Artistic Director of the West Australia Ballet (who's also conveniently the ballet instructor's husband).

Oh, did I mention that her performance also led to the publication of an article that subsequently helped her save her home and brought her brother back to her?


Let's talk about Mason. Most of the characters in this book is just unbelievably helpful, friendly, selfless, and wholesome. When I mentioned that there's very little tension, that's what I mean: Gaia was never shown to have any serious disagreement with any of her friends. They were never angry with each other, or have to come to a compromise of sorts or reach an understanding despite differing opinions. They just... fall in line.

Now, Mason. Mason as a character does a lot of heavy lifting in this book. He's drunk, racist, has a temper, tried to rape Gaia, and even had an affair with her mother. At this point I just think that there are no nuances to any of the characters in this book: they are either perfectly wholesome and amazing, or they are... Mason. This further hurts the story because there was a part where the story sort of wanted to comment about the racism issue in Australia, where the Aboriginal people might suffer unjust persecution from the police. But no, we don't really see that (other than a minor scene and Gaia telling us that they are racist), and most of the 'on-screen' racism came from Mason.

Speaking of Mason, towards the end he resurfaced after conveniently being out of the picture for half the book. This was the part where I got really annoyed with Gaia because her brilliant idea was to confront an angry, armed Mason despite advice against it? Like, girl, what did you think was going to happen? Also throughout the book Gaia has been advised to install a telephone in her home, but for whatever stupid reason she refused to?

Heavy sigh.

[end of spoilers]

I wanted to like this book. I truly do. I started this book with the expectation that we'll see Gaia's growth and determination. Unfortunately, because every other character is just perfectly wonderful and helpful and kind, she never has to learn or grow. Thing happened in ways that aligned with her wishes somehow and hence she didn't even have to work very hard to achieve whatever it is that she wanted. Oh, I almost laughed at how despite years of self-studying and recovering from grievous injuries, apparently she was so well-trained as a child that her ballet techniques were still perfection itself. Also she was self-conscious of her scars but since everyone is 100% accepting (except for Mason, because he's just the worst in every single way), she has no issues with them after all. There were just way too many conveniences that what you get is a really tepid story that doesn't actually do much for Gaia as a character.

But I guess seadragons and whale sharks are cool.

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This book normally wouldn’t be my thing but as someone who loves the ocean, I decided to give it a try. It really surprised me. From tragedy comes hope as we follow Gaia through her life. The themes of loss and loneliness, connection and courage are felt throughout. Where this book shines is its vivid ocean imagery. I look forward to reading more by Jenni Odgen!

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Such a unique story. I gave it 4 stars and I loved it so much. I recommend everyone to read this book asap If you can. So so good.

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I really wanted to enjoy this book, but found it disappointing..

Sadly, I felt that the relationships weren't well developed, the characters and the storyline were unconvincing. Maybe other people will enjoy it, but it wasn't for me.

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This is an amazing read set in Australia. You can almost feel the heat of the place. Gaia spends her life next to the ocean, she is a ballet dancer but due to a fire that killed her parents she is scarred for life. Jarrah is a young aboriginal boy who loves to watch her dance every day, and the two become friends. Gaia swims every day and is fascinated by dragon fish. Mason is a drunken neighbour who wants to sell the bay to create a holiday park. Gaia finally has to take action for the first time in her life and contacts a lawyer to make sure the bay can be protected from development Mason has to be dealt with as he becomes violent and deranged.
This novel covers environmental concerns as well as the renewal of life for both the landscape and Gaia herself. The story is beautifully told and well worth reading.

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Emotional and lyrical. Read quite young to me, at least in the beginning. Dialogue sometimes fell flat as did the ballet aspects (coming from a former ballerina). Overall enjoyable but not spectacularly memorable.

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DNF @ 40-some%

I genuinely forgot I was reading this book...

The descriptions of the snorkeling excursions were nice... I guess.

Listen, I'm trying to throw the author a bone here. There is nothing wrong with this story, structurally. Prosaically, it's not for me.


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Dancing with Dragons is set in Australia, opening with a sister and brother who live off-grid with their parents in a lush, beautiful , untouched oceanside setting called Goshawk Gardens. The two teens, Gaia and Bron, aspire to perform in a ballet company someday, and practice daily under the supervision of their mother. Each day after practice, they scramble for the beach where they snorkel in the shallow waters, marveling at the warm warm, the coral reefs, colorful fish, and especially a pair of sea dragons, whose mating ritual is beautiful to watch.
The entire family is respectful of their environment and protective of all the creatures with whom they co-exist.

A fire of suspicious cause destroys their home, and almost, their family. As Gaia recovers, she returns to Goshawk Gardens and lives in the barn alone, assisted by the Aboriginal caretakers of a nearby property, Mary and Eddie. Their nephew, Jarrah, who visits from an orphanage, watches Gaia dance alone on the beach, and wishes for that freedom of expression, since his activity is limited by a club foot. Gaia teaches Jarrah to snorkel and marvel at underwater life, and teaches him to dance, and teaches dancing to the children at his orphanage as well.

Gaia’s idyllic, but lonely life, is disrupted by a series of distractions - a handsome Irishman, Seamus, who also dances, a drunken neighbor, Dave, who threatens Gaia’s safety, and developers who want to buy Gaia’s land and build a vacation settlement that Gaia knows will threaten the ecosystem.

The author beautifully described the southern Australian coastline, and the reader can visualize the peaceful blue waves lapping the shore, and the carefree teens snorkeling and marveling at the colorful underwater life. The reader also senses the need to preserve such natural beauty. The character development is done well; as a reader, I could visualize the delicate beauty, but also the inner strength of Gaia, and the persistence of the Aboriginal boy, Jarrah, as he broke through racial and personal barriers by becoming Gaia’s friend. Dave Mason, the alcoholic neighbor, sweet Mary and Eddie trying to make a life despite racial discrimination, and carefree Seamus, were all descriptively brought to life.

Of course from the title, the sea dragons, and saving them, and their environment is the key point of the book. We only have one world. It’s full of natural beauty - delicate creatures, beautiful plants, oceans, forests, and all of us are interdependent species. Destroying one thing destroys so much more. The author did a beautiful job of pointing out the need to protect our oceans, and forests and wildlife in order to save us all. And she did so by telling a very readable story of joy, loss, fear, determination, acceptance, and love.

As disclosure, I was sent an ARC of Jenni Ogden’s Dancing with Dragons by Netgalley. . I enjoyed the read. It made me think more seriously about preserving the environment. The opinions and review are my unbiased thoughts. I would definitely recommend this book.

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A well written story telling of one girls journey, after a family tragedy, how she became whole again, with the help of her local environment, nature and it's all encompassing healing benefits. Wonderful descriptive writing, about weedy sea dragons, as well as beautiful description of coral reefs, and all it holds, on the coast of WA. How one persons perseverance can preserve, what would have been lost, to all. How our indigenous know the land, sea and all those who live, work. A great story, well worth reading. Especially as one can imagine being in the water, or on the sand. Loved it makes me want to go there and experience the serenity, and nature at its best, especially whale sharks .

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I could see what the author was trying to do with this book, but it felt as a reader that I was either innundated with stress and trauma events that were happening or just waiting for the story to move beyond descriptions of Gaia's home and days on the farm.

While the theme of ocean and reef conversation carried throughout it was frequently lost in a convoluted story.

Despite the sometimes long-winded (half page sentences) descriptions of nature, the story itself kept me interested in the characters and what was going to happen.

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The premise for this book was intriguing, and the ocean and wilderness imagery described is breathtaking. It’s very descriptive and the author did a beautiful job with it.

However, the story itself was disappointing. The writing was clunky; a lot of the main storyline happened in the first part of the book, and the pace slowed down a lot after that. I found that we didn’t get to see a lot of depth in the characters, so as a result I struggled to connect with them.

I thought that I would love this one, but was unfortunately left wanting a lot more.

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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I want a sequel. I fell in love with Gaia and Jarrah, and I need to know the rest of their story.

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