Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Stealing the Dark Moon by S.E. Page is volume one of the Dragon's Den Orphanage series. Foxkit dreams of a perfect life with parents and bravery, but his reality is much worse. The Fairchilds are the awful couple in charge of the Silver Penny orphanage. When they offer him and the other orphans cake, Foxkit quickly learns this is a ploy to sell them. To save the orphans, he leads them deep into a dangerous forest where they find refuge in a cave and stumble upon the sleeping dragon, Aerohim. He persuades the dragon to allow them to stay the night, but doesn't expect for Aerohim to whisk them back to his mountain den to become his official treasure indexers. When Foxkit meets the mysterious Sheen, he strikes a dangerous bargain that comes with a price Foxkit isn't sure he's willing to pay. If Foxkit steals the Dark Moon, a talon infused with the magic of a dragon ancestor, she'll not only save Aerohim's life, she'll also restore his magic. He has to decide which has the greatest risk: watching the dragon die or losing his trust.
The story revolves around a small group of orphans that aren't wanted in society, but have banded together as a family unit. Though they're thrown together by unfortunate circumstances, they're extremely loyal and will do whatever they can to protect each other. Each character is unique and layered, with a variety of situations they struggle with: Foxkit has a bad leg, Vi and Lil are survivors from the Noxfever that claimed their families, Charles has a reptilian heritage and constantly changes his name, Minnow has anger issues, and little Tad stands out with his albinism. The other characters include the mysterious Sheen, a deranged former unicorn, and a talking ship that was once imprisoned inside a bottle. They're quirky, but grounded characters that completely captivate you and bring this world to life. While searching for safety, the kids stumble into a fairy tale that's bigger than anything they could have dreamed. They encounter a dragon that, instead of eating them, gives them a home in his mountain den.
S.E. Page combines everything that's captivating about fairy tales with the need to belong - this is what drives the characters while power drives the villain that threatens to take their happiness away. As with most fairy tales, the characters are eccentric and living in a world that has a lot of darkness running through it. Most of the characters are holding onto painful pasts and are afraid to hope for anything better. Even Aerohim has his own painful past, but his attachment to the kids proves to be a second chance. The characters are endearing, amazingly written, and will completely melt your heart. Stealing the Dark Moon is a story of love and the search for home, a journey of second chances and bravery in a world of darkness, hope, magic, and adventure.