The Treasure of the Last Dragon is the latest book by the UK-based scribe and indie-scene publisher Tim Taylor. It was released as part of middle-school-oriented “Repository of the Imagination” imprint (rated for kids age 11-16). The book features four thought-provoking shorts that fit under the genre of speculative fiction, employing a clever blend of science fiction and fantasy.
For Treasure of the Last Dragon, Taylor takes on the role of the extraterrestrial narrator, Crustias Scattermush, an alien repositorian (think: librarian) who follows up each story with some deeper thoughts and a touch of dry humor. Think Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone series.
The four stories themselves explore a vast range of creative concepts from a planet of intelligent crab-people to a Dickensian orphanage in a world of magic.
Within this diverse framework however, there are certain themes that Taylor / Scattermush returns to. These themes include parents separated from children, messiness (including a wizard of snot, and race of people who live in the dirt), and psychic empathy. Two of the stories (the story of people who live in the dirt called “Dig” and another tale which is a remix of the Emperor’s New Clothes) deal with issues of ethnic cleansing which makes me wonder whether Tim Taylor had the events of the wars in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in mind.
Even though some the stories delve into “mature themes”, Taylor keeps the narrative on the lighter side. Major characters don’t die, and no children are harmed. The stories are distinctly for children. In most of them, the main characters are kids (whether humanoid or juvenile crab-people) and children take center role in the action. All the stories carry a sense of wonder and fantasy with them.
The writing and style are strong, and my favorite story is “The Snot Wizard”, the rollicking tale of Quintus Repper,a young psychic on the trail of the mystery of some vanishing orphans who is threatened by an unscrupulous librarian and some seriously mean goblins with glowing butts.
Personally, I recommend the stories for slightly older kids and their accompanying adults. As an added bonus, the collection is available for 99 cents.