15 year-old Helen Connor doesn’t lead the most exciting life. Her parents work all the time, her boyfriend prefers LARPing to spending time with her, the best experience she can expect from her classmates is being ignored, and she’s stuck in the tiny town of Hollingsworth.
She thinks everything will change when she becomes a Glorious Dragonfighter for Erwingdon, a magical land from a book series most people think is simply make believe.
Then she finds herself partnered up with two jackass jocks and a bitter slacker from her real-world life. There’s trouble brewing — in Erwingdon and the halls of Hollingsworth’s high school — and Helen must quickly decide whom she can trust to have her back, and whom she can’t.
A rocky start
This was almost a DNF.
I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy and played enough World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons to know that some of the jokes are played out. In particular this one, which occurs in chapter five:
‘Roseyne,’ Helen gasps, ‘what the hell am I wearing?’
‘The standard female warrior outfit,’ Roseyne replies. ‘I thought you were familiar with it. It is mentioned several times in the Glorious Dragonfighter books.’
‘I am familiar with it. But I didn’t realize it would be so…so nonexistent in real life.’ She looks down again and winces. ‘Dude, I can’t wear a furry bikini with thigh-high leather boots! The guys get tunics and pants. Can’t I at least wear the green dress?’
This is a tired-out joke, and it rubbed me the wrong way; if this was a taste of how the entire book was going to go, I wasn’t interested. I set the book down and left it alone for about a week.
But Choose Your Weapon was a gift from a friend who knows the author, and who got her to sign it for me. I knew I had to give it the old college try, if only for my friend’s sake.
And I’m glad I did.
An all-around success
Fortunately the “teeny-tiny clothes for females” trope was the only one in the book, and once I muscled past it I found Choose Your Weapon highly readable and entertaining.
Author Sarah Rodriguez Pratt makes Helen real and relatable, and gives her genuine challenges and worries instead of the pseudo-dramatic “problems” experienced by many female characters in the YA (and even adult) genres. Pratt has also given Helen genuine shortcomings, then puts her in situations where she must overcome them in order to succeed and grow. It’s awesome!
Choose Your Weapon is the first in a trilogy, and it necessarily focuses a lot on character development and the interpersonal relationships of the teen characters. After all, if they’re going to pass Chemistry or kill a dragon, they’ll need to do it as a team.
The next book in the trilogy, Plan Your Attack, is scheduled for release sometime this fall. I’ll be in line for my copy.