May 8, 2024

REVIEW Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier

Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: April 9, 2024
Format: Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: Clarion Books 

Makiia Lucier’s newest young adult fantasy novel, Dragonfruit, is one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long time. Inspired by Pacific Islander folktales and mythology, the author weaves together an engaging storyline and well developed characters to make an entertaining read. 

Hanalei of Tamarind has spent most of her life away from her homeland, after her father made a decision to steal a priceless treasure from the crown in the name of saving her life (and died shortly after). She originally had no intentions to ever return home (feeling she would not be welcomed), but fate had other plans when it offered a chance to make things right and all but dropped her into the arms of her childhood best friend, Prince Samahtitamahenele (or ‘Sam’). When they reunite, Hanalei reveals the chance to save the Princess (Sam’s mother) and right the wrong that happened so many years ago in the form of a pregnant dragon bearing ‘dragonfruit’. However, they are not the only ones looking for it, and using dragonfruit may come with more of a cost then they realize…

The worldbuilding in this book is awesome. I really liked getting to visit the different islands, and learn about the sea dragons and the pantheon that rules over the Nomi Nomi sea. I also really loved the bits of magic included; for example, many of the noble residents of Tamarind have magical companions that can reside in the form of tattoos, or come off of their skin to help serve a purpose (i.e. carry messages, defend others). The characters were a highlight too. I loved getting to see Sam and Hanalei’s growth over the course of the book. I also loved the scenes with Sam’s grandmother, the Queen. She struck me as a very fair and balanced ruler who considers the whole of a situation rather than ruling on emotion; she is also not afraid to get down and dirty if it means saving her people, and she’s totally a badass grandma in my opinion. While those characters are the main players in the story, there are a lot of other characters in the cast. I appreciate how easy the author made it to remember everyone, and how every character served a purpose (and wasn’t thrown in ‘just because’). 

Overall, I’m really impressed by this book. The narrator Mapuana Makia did a great job bringing the story to life with her performance in the audiobook. It seems like it was designed to be standalone, but I would love to see more in this world and get to explore Hanalei and Sam’s budding romance a bit more. If you love books with dragons and diverse mythology, this would be a great choice. 

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