A Dragonbird in the Fern / Laura Rueckert / Book Review

A Dragonbird in the Fern


Princess Scilla is dead--murdered--and nobody knows who did it. Scilla can't find peace, can't move on, until there is justice, and her vengeful ghost grows stronger by the day. Princess Jiara wants to set her sister free--and protect her family from the deadly attention of the spirit--and she will do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe and happy. Even if that means marrying her sister's betrothed. Her family needs the strong alliance--and all evidence points to the assassin being part of this foreign court. But Jiara doesn't know the language. Her dyslexia makes it difficult to read in her native tongue, let alone a foreign one, and the customs are strange and foreign to her so far from her family. Worse, her sister's ghost has followed her to her new home, growing more violent by the day--and less able to be reasoned with. And with her sister's killer still out there, nobody is safe--least of all Jiara herself. 


  • Dyslexic Protagonist: It's hard enough to find fiction featuring a dyslexic character. It is even more difficult to find a dyslexic protagonist, let alone one in a fantasy world. Jiara's dyslexia is important both character-wise and plot-wise. It's not just thrown in for kicks, or "diversity," or something like that. This is a great bit of representation, and it is especially great to see not just how dyslexia affects Jiara but how she learns to both use and overcome what she has to work with. 
  • Paranormal Activity: There is, generally, an unspoken distinction between fantasy ghosts and "paranormal" ghosts. Fantasy ghosts are more ethereal, much looser in definition than are their paranormal counterparts. Paranormal ghosts are more likely to be associated with gory slashing and poltergeist-style haunting. They're just different. But here, that distinction isn't made. This work of fantasy features a slash-in-the-night ghost, violent and bloody in her spectral presence, and that adds a unique and interesting touch to this world of fantasy. 
  • Culture Abounds: I haven't read a fantasy so steeped in cultural worldbuilding in a long time. Though the cultural aspects are not always well-woven into the story itself, it is clear that Laura Rueckert loves the world she's built. From wedding ceremonies to gods, supernatural phenomena to fauna and flora, all parts of the cultures presented on the page are given the utmost care and respect. 


  • Overly Descriptive: There are two common problems I find when it comes to fantasy descriptions. The first is long-winded passages that describe without any real point--going on and on and on. The second is an overload of adjectives and descriptors in regards a single word, phrase, or sentence. Though the passages aren't long, the descriptors are still too heavy. This book unfortunately suffers from the latter. The text is burdened with sprinkled descriptions. While these descriptions are often vivid and imaginative, they are also a bit overloaded. Laura Rueckert definitely gives a full picture, but from a reader's point-of-view, things get bogged down. Having so many descriptors for a single object, person, or place can make it difficult to picture that object, person, or place at all. 
  • Too Much, Not Enough: There are far too many name-drops at the beginning of this book without enough worldbuilding to back them up. It's fine to have a lot of countries in a fantasy world. It is fine to have a complex political situation both internally and externally, but to start off with all of this information dumped on the reader is a bit much. It was hard to distinguish between allies, potential allies, and enemies. There is too much information given at once--and also not enough, because I didn't have enough information to set the countries, people, places apart in my mind. It was overwhelmingly too much information and not enough information. I sorted it all out eventually, but it nonetheless made for a rough start. 
  • Lost Focus: It peeves me to no end when romance creeps in and overloads the plot, especially in a book (like this one) where the author so obviously cared about fleshing out the world, cultures, and characters. She took the time to highlight characters struggling and growing, especially Jiara in her transition to an entirely new culture and language, and all of this gets swallowed but bouts of longing, lusty romance. This book might have done better as an adult book in that regard. Because of the young ages of the main couple, there's an element of "we-have-to-wait" which leads to lots of longing looks. If they had been older--without the need to wait--like the couple would be in an adult novel, this lusting would have progressed to something concrete quicker than it did. And with that bit out of the way, we could have gotten back to the plot again. Alas, they needed to wait--and as a reader, I needed to wait out the romance, too. 



Fans of Tricia Levenseller's Blade of Secrets will love this new down-to-earth protagonist with real life struggles. Those who loved the lush worldbuilding of Elizabeth Lim's Six Crimson Cranes should immerse themselves in this new fantasy world as well. 


Publisher: Flux
Date: August 3, 2021
Series: N/A

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. It's great to have some representation in fantasy!

  2. It irritates me when there are too names to remember to begin fantasy


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