Dancing with Dragons

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Pub Date Jul 16 2024 | Archive Date Aug 15 2024


From Jenni Ogden, author of multiple-award-winning 'A Drop in the Ocean', comes another evocative story of friendship, coral reefs, and marine conservation for book-club readers.

It is the late 1970s and teenagers Gaia and her brother Bron live with their parents on their isolated property on Western Australia’s Coral Coast. Intensively trained for a career as a professional ballet dancer by her mother, once a Principal Dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, Gaia also loves snorkeling over the coral reef that borders their small market garden. Then comes a day that changes her life forever: she discovers a rare pair of dramatically colored seadragons, their courtship dance over the coral spellbinding, and that night she loses her entire family and her dancing dream. Two years later she returns to the abandoned property, determined to live off the land. For years her only friends are the wild animals of the bush and reef, and Mary and Eddie, an Aboriginal couple who work for the racist farmer on the neighboring property — until one morning Jarrah, Mary’s 11-year-old orphaned nephew, is entranced when he sees Gaia dancing on the beach. As an unlikely friendship between these two lonely and scarred people deepens, they discover that when you lose everything the only way to survive is to open your heart.

[Scroll to the end of this book page for a link to a short Youtube video of weedy seadragons dancing!]

Advance Praise:

'Dancing with Dragons' reminds us of the power of friendship and the healing potential the natural world offers us. Jenni Ogden takes us to the beaches and coral reefs of Australia to tell this life-affirming story that calls us to open our hearts, even—or especially—when it’s hardest to do.”     Ann Hood, New York Times best-selling author of 'The Book that Matters Most' and 'The Stolen Child '

Escape into Gaia’s luminous world in this beautifully told story, where you’ll root for her through tragedy and danger, smile at the warmth and love of friends who become family, and be renewed by the healing magic of Gaia's unique home that connects her and us to her namesake, Mother Earth.Sally Cole-Misch, author of 'The Best Part of Us',  2021 Canadian Book Club Award for Best Fiction of the Year, 15th Annual National Indies Excellence Juror's Choice Award  

'Dancing with Dragons' has some of the most gorgeous and vivid nature writing I’ve ever read. Ogden brings the coral reefs and coastal beauty of Australia to vivid life in this emotionally resonant and heartwarming story of her courageous young heroine Gaia as she strives to make a life and find her purpose after great loss. Themes of love and belonging, healing through nature, the threat of ecological destruction, and racism in the treatment of Aboriginal people are all handled with great delicacy. Readers will return to this novel over and over again to be immersed in and reminded of the peace and wonder to be found in the natural world. – Céline Keating, award-winning author of 'The Stark Beauty of Last Things''

'Dancing with Dragons' is a compelling story — both unique and universal, exotic yet grounded in the environment we all share. From the joyful beauty of dance to the brutality of human behavior, to the glory of underwater life, this page-turner of a novel embraces love, among people and all living creatures. The reader will learn new things and remember old truths within this finely crafted tale. —Romalyn Tilghman, author of 'To the Stars with Difficulty, 2018 Kansas Notable Book of the Year. 

From Jenni Ogden, author of multiple-award-winning 'A Drop in the Ocean', comes another evocative story of friendship, coral reefs, and marine conservation for book-club readers.

It is the late...

A Note From the Publisher

-Fans of 'Where the Crawdads Sing'
-For readers who loved Ogden's previous novels, especially 'A Drop in the Ocean'
-For readers who love dancing or wildlife, are animal lovers or are concerned about the marine environment and conservation.

-Jenni Ogden's 'A Drop in the Ocean' won multiple awards including the 1916 Gold Nautilus for Fiction, Large Publisher, the Gold Sarton Womens' Book Award for Contemporary Fiction, The Gold IPPY for Best Fiction Australia and NZ, and has sold over 85,000 copies. 'Dancing with Dragons' is the novel closest in tone and theme to this and is also set on a coral sea.

Would be a good summer read (set on a coral coast and at its core is a gentle story),

AVAILABLE FORMATS (distributed internationally by Amazon, Draft2Digital and Ingram) on 16th July 2024
e-Book ISBN: 978-1-0670026-2-6
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-0670026-0-2
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-0670026-1-9

Pre-order and launch sale on e-book ($3.99 on preorder and launch, increased to $6.99 four weeks after pub date)

-Fans of 'Where the Crawdads Sing'
-For readers who loved Ogden's previous novels, especially 'A Drop in the Ocean'
-For readers who love dancing or...

Advance Praise

Praise for Jenni Ogden's previous novels:


“Reading A Drop in the Ocean was everything a reading experience should be, endearing and enduring, time spent with characters who seem to be people I already knew .”—Jacquelyn Mitchard, #1 New York Times best-selling author of 'The Deep End Of The Ocean'

“...poignant and heartfelt.”—Ann Hood, New York Times best-selling author of 'The Knitting Circle' & 'The Book That Matters Most'

“Readers will enjoy this novel of second chances, not only at love but at life, reminiscent of Terry McMillan’s 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back'—Booklist

“A complicated, deep and passionate love affair that transcends stereotypes. . . . Ogden brought the island to life with her words. . . But the book’s real treasure is how island life changes Anna. . . .”—Story Circle Book Reviews


"Jenni Ogden is a beautiful writer. In this tale of domestic suspense, she tells the story of a neurosurgeon bedeviled by her own sophisticated brain and the memories of a long-ago tragedy that still has the power to destroy her and her family. Pick up 'The Moon is Missing'. You won’t put it down."— Jacquelyn Mitchard, #1 New York Times best- selling author of The Deep End of the Ocean 

"With gripping scenes set during Hurricane Katrina and on a remote New Zealand island, this tightly-woven family drama —fueled by long-buried secrets and a daughter’s desperate need to answer the question, ‘Who am I?’ —is ripe for book club discussion."—Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of 'A Perfect Son' 


"An emotionally piercing and absorbing account of turbulent female friendship over time, 'Call My Name' is also a keen meditation on the powerful pull of connection and belonging—the places and people that shape and change us, forever calling us home."—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of 'The Paris Wife' and 'When the Stars Go Dark'

"'Call My Name' reminds us that love calls us to be generous rather than possessive and that we can go on, even when terrible things happen, because we’re profoundly connected. Layered, sometimes shocking, yet shining with goodness and hope, it’s exactly the kind of story we need right now.”—Barbara Linn Probst, Award-winning author of 'The Sound Between the Notes' and 'The Color of Ice'

“This is a love story...of couples, of friends, of families. It doesn't shy away from the messiness of love, the inevitable complications of long-lasting love...Most contemporary in its inclusion of topics such as adoption, abortion, and surrogacy, it also looks back on the atrocities of war. A page-turning saga that is fresh in its story, yet provides the warmth of an old-fashioned classic.—Romalyn Tilghman, Award-winning author of 'To the Stars with Difficulties', 2018 Kansas Notable Book of the Year.

Praise for Jenni Ogden's previous novels:


“Reading A Drop in the Ocean was everything a reading experience should be, endearing and enduring, time spent with characters who seem to...

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ISBN 9781067002626
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Featured Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Sea Dragon Press for providing this book, with my honest review below.

Dancing with Dragons was a beautiful story, exploring many themes from young tragedy to the challenging plights of those who look different or grew up differently from the ‘majority’ of society. Heartbreaking at times and absolutely beautifully written, I encourage anyone wanting a more meaningful read to pick this up - it will take focus but be well worth it.

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From the author Jenni Ogden, “Dancing With Dragons” is another wonderful read from her.
This story is about a teen girl, Gaia, raised off grid in Australia. Learning to dance classic ballet with her older brother from her mother who was once an American ballet dancer. Her father, an Australian farmer, taught her the love of the land and reef. This story is about her most memorable day spent snorkeling on the reef watching the courtship of seadragons only to have it become the most tragic day filled with pain and deep loss that sets the course for the rest of her future.
If you want a good read with commentaries about racism, friendship, resolution, forgiveness, and taking a stand when something matters this would be the book to read.
*** I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I found Dancing with Dragons filled with both hope and tragedy. It's an exploration of resilience and an enjoyable book. Well done.

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This book takes place in 1970, in the western Australian Coral coast. It is mostly about a teen girl Gaia who was taught ballet, by her mom, a professional ballet dancer. Her dad, a farmer, taught her to love the land and sea and respect for the environment. Gaia, loves snorkeling and one day she sees the dance of a pair of delicate sea dragons. She loves them. The same day a tragedy strikes and her life which changes everything.

She leaves and returns 2 years later to live off the land. She forms a friend ship with the aboriginal couple who are caretakers of the farmer next door who is a racist. She is dancing on the beach and meets their nephew Jarrah who is 11 yrs and disabled. They are two lonely people who form a lifetime bond.

The book has many issues including, forgiveness, friendship, tragedy, and love. But, the challenge is to face the world when you look and are brought up different than those who are deemed , normal.

I totally enjoyed this book it is written so well and easy to follow right thru to the end. Give it a read!

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Another sweeping southern hemisphere tale from Jenni Ogden. Spanning years in the life of Gaia who along with her brother Bron lives on the Coral Coast of Australia. where their mother a former principal in the American Ballet theatre schools them intensively in the art of the dance. One fateful night, their lives forever change which sets Gaia on an entirely different and difficult path.

Alone on her isolated property for some years her only friends are Mary and Eddie, an Aboriginal couple who work on the neighboring property and the beautifully coloured Seadragons she befriends while snorkeling.

One fateful day, Jarrah, Mary’s 11-year-old orphaned nephew sees Gaia dancing on the beach is both captivated and enchanted. A friendship between two lonely souls blossoms.

A story of dance, struggle and ultimately survival.

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This was a very interesting book to read and I'm grateful for the opportunity to read it through NetGalley. I have read one of Jenni's books before and really enjoyed it.
I enjoyed the story of. Gaia and her family, although the circumstances were quite harrowing at times. Gaia was such a strong resilient girl with lots going for her, not to mention her dancing prowess, and the loss of her family at such a tender age was very sad. She does well to return to her home, despite most it being burnt to the ground. Her subsequent relationship with neighbours Eddie and Mary and their nephew Jarrah was lovely to follow as was her love affair with Seamus. I could imagine the setting very well and the coral and fish sightings were a delight.
A gentle story in lots of ways but also a hard one at times, as Gaia had to overcome so much, so early on. I did find the ending a surprise!

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I was drawn to this initially by the cover, it's so eye-catching! And then was sold by the comparison to Crawdad's. I'm sometimes dubious of comparisons to popular books but it felt warranted here as the scenes of nature did not disappoint. I really felt like I was there, the author did a fantastic job at transporting the reader to Australia and exploring ocean life. That was definitely the best part of the book for me.

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This is the story of Gaia and her brother Bron who have been brought up in a small farm by the sea in Western Australia. Their mother is a former ballet dancer and she teaches her children to dance from a young age.
Gaia loves nature and sea creatures and is enthralled one day when she sees a pair of sea dragons performing their matting dance.
I really enjoyed this book it has many interesting characters and charming descriptions of the wildlife in this area.
Thank you to NetGalley and Sea Dragon Press for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Dancing with Dragons by Jenni Ogden captures the magic of the coral reefs of Australia and the emotional journey of a young woman overcoming a trauma. Gaia undergoes years of recovery and uses her training as a ballet dancer as therapy. She is able to persevere with the help of neighbors, an unlikely friendship with a young boy, and Rita Roo, a baby kangaroo.

I recommend this novel for readers who loved Where the Crawdads Sing. Gaia is alone in the world, secluded along the Australian coast, and overcomes loneliness, trauma, and many obstacles along her journey to finding who she is. It’s a beautiful novel about friendship, love, and courage.

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

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I really enjoyed reading this book, it had a great concept and I was hooked with the compelling story. The characters were everything that I was hoping for and glad I got to read this. Jenni Ogden has a great writing style and left me wanting more from them.

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I loved Dancing with Dragons. This was the first book I've read by Jenni Ogden, and I will be reading more of her books. From the title I thought the book would be about fantasy and dragons, but when I saw the sea dragon on the cover I was all in. I have always had an affinity for seahorses and sea dragons. I scuba dive and snorkel and have observed many Caribbean seahorses, but never an Australian sea dragon. The descriptive prose made the shore and the sea dragons come to life for me. I loved the intersecting themes of conservation, family, personal loss, and romance. I thought the character development, especially of Gaia and Jarrah, was well done. I feel that any romance was incidental and was not a main theme. I loved the book and give it 5 stars.

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What a beautiful story! I love both dance and marine life being part of this story as these are two things I really enjoy in my own life. I really enjoyed the characters and the friendship in this story. So beautifully written!

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“She could never quite decide which she loved best; swimming over the reef flats in the late afternoon light or in that perfect hour after dawn.”

Dancing with Dragons is a well written, beautiful story! The story starts off with Gaia and her family living in Australia on a farm by the sea. Gaia’s mother, a professional ballet dancer, teaches Gaia ballet. A tragic event uproots Gaia’s life.
The imagery in this book describing the ocean life was amazing. I felt like I was right there snorkeling with Gaia. A story about tragedy, friendship, and forgiveness. I highly recommend putting this book on your TBR list!
Thank you to NetGalley and Sea Dragon Press for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

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'𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙧𝙖𝙜𝙤𝙣 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙞𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙢𝙖𝙡, 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙩𝙝, 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙝𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨''

For the first, approximately, 40% of this book I thought this was just a book with a sad start but just a nice story. Nothing special just a nice story, but, I am very pleased to say, how wrong I was.
Gaia was in a house fire when she was fourteen, which killed her parents, herself and brother, Bron, we're able to escape but Gaia suffered horrific burns. She moves back to the family land and builds a life for herself.
She befriends the Aboriginal neighbours eleven year old nephew and teaches him how to dance and snorkel to see the beautiful reef and all the sea life, including the seadragons who dance before mating.
The story covers some hard topics such as disability, racism and abandonment but is done in a beautiful way.
I will definitely be thinking about this story for a while and definitely recommend.

Thank you NetGalley and Sea Dragon Press for the ARC of this book

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Gorgeous cover and a beautiful story. This relatively short book packs a lot of weight. It covers bigotry, violence, family drama, and disability…all wrapped up in a setting you can practically see, hear, smell and taste. Without becoming wordy or slowing the plot, the author has made the reef setting so vivid and lush that it becomes another main character. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, this is a lovely story of hope and joy.

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An emotional roller coaster of a ride through mystic oceans deep. We follow our heroine as she navigates life, tragedy, deceit, hope, and adventure. I loved the unique setting and descriptions of the story. The main character is sympathetic and endearing, and her story draws you in from the first word on the page.

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Dancing with Dragons by Jenni Ogden tells the story of Gaia, a young girl growing up on a remote farm in Western Australia in the late 1970’s. Gaia is learning ballet along with her older brother, Bron, taught by their mother who was once a principal ballerina in New York. A tragic accident leaves Gaia living on the farm alone and isolated. But Gaia finds solace in nature and the ocean and ends up fighting to keep her land out of the clutches of developers. Jenni Ogden once again weaves an incredible story of triumph through tribulation with a complicated, independent, fierce heroine. I so enjoyed getting to know and rooting for Gaia.

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A very enjoyable book that i won’t hesitate to recommend to others. Thanks for the opportunity to read & review it.

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I recently read Dancing with Dragons by Jenni Ogden and it is one I would definitely recommend!

Set in the 1970s in rural Western Australia, this coming of age story juxtaposes the mesmerizing beauty of ballet with the ethereal beauty of the sea dragons who live in the coral reef. The story begins with Gaia and her brother Bron, who are homeschooled and study the art of ballet under the tutelage of their mother, a former professional dancer, followed by experiential learning about their environment by snorkeling in the reef. Everything changes with a catastrophic fire leaves Gaia with serious burns covering much of her body, no home and an orphan. Gaia is determined to get back to her land as soon as she has recovered and is old enough to return on her own. Despite being self-conscious about her scars, Gaia eventually begins to dance again and her love of the land she grew up in continues to grow as she tries to make it on her own.

I loved watching this story unfold, and learning more about Australian culture and natural physical beauty, especially the wildlife. As a former dancer myself, I of course enjoyed the dance elements of the story, and seeing it from this particular time and place in history. I also really appreciated the way that the author slowly unpacked some of the more mysterious or unexpected background information, as it felt realistic that as Gaia grew up more pieces of the story would become known to her. As a reader you are learning along with Gaia about the secrets of the past. The author started with a disclaimer about the Indigenous peoples of Australia and their connection to the land, and I thought that was so important and relevant, but I also loved that the author included some of the negative stereotypes and racism that these Indigenous people faced and still face today.

There were many moments throughout the story that reminded me of Where the Crawdads Sing, so if you liked that one, I would definitely recommend checking this one out. Dancing with Dragons is being published in July so add this one to your TBR! Thanks to @netgalley and the author for giving me the chance to read and review this breathtaking story!

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I truly appreciate when I come across a story that is just a simple, yet deep, story of life. Oh, I love me some thrillers or stories with heartbreaking angst. However, when I just need to recharge, I need a story like this one about people just trying to make it through life, honoring their true selves, while trying to inflict as little damage on the world and others as they do. This was truly beautiful. And I learned about Seadragons and reef life which is not usually something I would be drawn to. I'd say this one is a resounding success all around.

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Thank you to Sea Dragon Press, Jenni Ogden and Netgalley for sharing a advance copy of this beautiful book.

4/5 ✨

I enjoyed reading this book (with probably one of the best covers ever), although it took me a while to complete it because of the way it starts. Gaia's resilience in the story after enduring so many struggles makes me think about the wonderful sea dragons she loves, those delicate and fragile creatures surviving and thriving in hostile environment for all these years. I also love the friendship she shares with people like Jarrah, Eddie, Mary and Seamus. Initially, I was little turned off with Jarrah's fascination of Gaia from a distance at the beginning, but the love they both have for each other is truly one of a kind. This book also explores topics like racism, family drama, disability. Even though the prose isn't spectacular by any means, I really loved reading the parts where Gaia and her friends were exploring the coral reefs. It felt like I was right there, next to Gaia and Jarrah, snorkeling, getting captivated by the sight of those beautiful sea dragons and other sea life. This book also reminded me of "When the Crawdads Sing", which is one of my favorite reads. I can't wait to check out the author's other works. I also noticed a historical inaccuracy with the release of the certain movie in this book which I'm not sure whether it's there because it's an ARC.

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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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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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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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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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