Dragonfly Song


I've always been intrigued by the mysterious Minoan civilisation, centred on bull worship and ritual 'dancing', the origin of the legend of the Minotaur, so I thoroughly enjoyed Wendy Orr's award-winning middle-grade novel, Dragonfly Song, set in Bronze Age Crete.

Told partly in prose and partly in verse, Aissa's story begins on a small Mediterranean island, ruled by the snake priestess. Aissa is the priestess's daughter, cast out at birth for a small imperfection; adopted into a peasant family, but cast out again as a cursed child when brutal raiders visit the island. But mute Aissa is destined for a bigger fate than slavery -- to become a bull dancer, sent in tribute to Knossos.

I was slightly bemused by the parts of the book that talk about 'servants' when Orr clearly means 'slaves', and I wondered if the publishers felt this was too touchy a subject, even for a historical narrative; but then there are other sections when 'slaves' are openly discussed, so that can't be right. I wasn't entirely comfortable with this apparent eliding of the two. But that's a very minor quibble in a lively, fascinating story, which will surely spark further investigation for young readers. 

There is a sequel of sorts called Swallow's Dance, which I will also keep an eye out for.

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