Fantasy and Reality Collide in ‘The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons’ [REVIEW]

The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons

A boy’s father dies in a freak accident. Or did he? When Ian learns the truth about his dad’s demise, he is forced to confront the unexpected truth in Dan Elish’s The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons. (Illustration by Sam Shearon)

Having tutored fifth grade students in the past, I am always on the lookout for stories which will captivate the imaginations of young readers. When Dan Elish’s The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons crossed my desk, I knew this would be a great title to add to my arsenal of middle grade fiction as soon as I started to read it. 


Vesuvian Books

Ike Rupert Hollingsberry is a typical boy. He just wants to make it through school without incident, loves spending time with his friends, and avoids the geeky girl in class like the plague. But there’s a dark cloud which follows him, one which he can’t escape.

His dad was famous. Imagine if your dad was Mr. Spock, only he got killed on the set of Star Trek. You’ll get an idea of what Ike is dealing with. Only Ike’s dad died on the set of The Fighting Dragons, another cult favorite. Groupies, superfans, and seemingly insane bloggers are constantly pestering Ike, sending him texts and emails with their weird ideas about what really happened to his father.

But suddenly their fantastical ideas don’t seem so outlandish when Ike is attacked by a large locust, which is how his father met his end on set. Now one of Ike’s classmates, nerdy Elmira Hand, is there to help him defeat the giant bug just before he is stolen away from New York and taken to a secret compound in Florida to assume his rightful place in the Royal Order of Fighting Dragons. There he discovers that his father wasn’t just a TV star and The Fighting Dragons wasn’t just a show, but a complicated cover up that now involves Ike himself.

This story works on many levels. First of all, it never takes itself too seriously, even as it handles topics like bullying, grief, fear, and betrayal. Instead, Elish delivers a book that is devilishly funny, has a hero we can champion and a surprising fantasy adventure that is reminiscent of aspects of Starship Troopers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and all those ABC Afterschool Specials we used to watch as kids.

Just like J.K. Rowling, R.J. Palacio and James Patterson have done before him, Dan Elish’s book is sure to captivate audiences regardless of the novel’s target demographic. It speaks to the child in all of us, sparking our imaginations and inspiring us to ask, “what if?” Therefore it becomes a great read for parents to share with their children because both will enjoy it in equal measure.

Finally, it isn’t a far stretch to imagine that this is one novel which could become a film in the near future. The story is already written cinematically, has a great cast of quirky characters we can adore, is filled with script worthy dialogue, and is beautifully illustrated by Sam Shearon whose work should easily inspire those CGI artists in Hollywood.

Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or someone who simply loves to mentor young people and get them reading, this is a book even the most ardent gamer could be persuaded to devour. It’s everything great middle grade fiction should be, and best of all it is simply good fun.


Dan Elish is the award-winning author of Born Too Short (International Reading Association Students’ Choice Award Recipient) and other novels for young adults, including The School for the Insanely GiftedThe Attack of the Frozen Woodchucks13The Worldwide Dessert ContestJason and the Baseball Bear, and The Great Squirrel Uprising

In his career, Dan has also written for TV (notably PBS’s Cyberchase), music and lyrics for six musicals, funny corporate videos, and played piano for various off-Broadway productions. He has received fellowships and scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and is a member of the Dramatist Guild.

Dan lives in New York City with his wife, daughter, and son. Visit his home on the Web at or visit the book’s website at

By Dan Elish
336 pgs. Vesuvian Books. $13.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound and Powell’s.

The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Fantasy and Reality Collide in ‘The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons’ [REVIEW]

  1. Pingback: Dan Elish, author of The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons, on tour August/September 2018 | TLC Book Tours

  2. Thanks for being on the tour!

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