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Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay {4 Stars}

Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay is an intriguing reverse-portal fantasy that ponders the question what would happen if a prince from a fantasy world stumbled into our world? There is of course also a fun mystery and shenanigans in Villain Keeper, but I was continuously enthralled by the realistic way that McKay imagined how people would really react to a young boy claiming he’s a prince from a magical land. Also there are dragons and really beautiful chapter headers, so how can you go wrong ;-).

Note: I received a copy of Villain Keeper from the author. 

Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay {4 Stars}

Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay (The Last Dragon Charmer #1)
Published by HarperCollins on Feb. 3rd, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 352 pages
How I got my copy: Author
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The first book in an epic new series for fans of The School for Good and Evil and The Land of Stories.

All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of slaying a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Great Winterlands of Razzon and finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina—a land with no magic and no dragons.

Or so he thinks. The longer Caden spends in Asheville, the more he comes to realize that there is unexpected and dangerous magic in this strange land. There just may be dragons here, too. But what if Caden's destiny isn't to slay a dragon, after all?

4 Stars


  • Without meaning to, I seem not to read that many portal fantasies. I guess I tend to be more interested in characters from fantasy worlds than from our world? Therefore, I definitely haven’t read many reverse-portal fantasies where a character from a fantasy world comes to ours! If they are all like Villain Keeper, though, I think I might have to remedy this ;-). I loved the realistic portrayal Villain Keeper used to examine how a boy without any parents in our world and claiming to be a prince would be treated. I’m a bit of a stickler for convenient plot developments in middle grade, so it was great to see Caden dealing with all the frustrations of the system we have in this world for children without guardians.
  • Villain Keeper has a mystery that catches you right from the beginning: why did Caden get teleported to our world and what the heck is going on at this school??? I was trying to guess the answer from the beginning of course and was delighted to not be able to put the pieces together correctly until right at the end ;-).
  • I mentioned above that Caden has to deal with “the system” and this is something I really want to highlight in Villain Keeper. I can’t think of another book I’ve read that looks at the foster care system and simply has it as a fact of life as our hero deals with other issues. It was great to see this very real part of our world put center-stage.
  • The fantasy world that Caden is from looks awesome! I’m really hoping that we get to see more of it, but the bits that we do hit all the right notes for my curiosity. There are elder beings that have fallen into myth but might actually be around still, dragons caused by magic being used during high-emotional mindsets, and several kingdoms vying for power. Give me more!
  • I really love fantasy art, all right? Therefore the chapter headers get their own moment to shine because they are so pretty! They are quite detailed sketches and really just add to the atmosphere of the story.


  • This is probably a random thing for some of you, but Caden notices his friend Brynne’s beauty waaaaaaaay too often for my taste. Why can’t kids just be friends? Or at least why do I have to hear about and speculate on a young man’s brewing crush when I was to just go off on an adventure?
  • All of Villain Keeper takes place in our world except for a tiny bit at the beginning, therefore I was left wishing for much more about the Greater Realm, ie where Caden is from. Caden reveals a fair amount as he deals with our world, but I want to actually see his home for myself and get some answers about what is going on back there. Hopefully before the series is done!


Villain Keeper is a great start to a new middle grade fantasy that goes in completely unexpected directions. It is great to see the hero of the tale dealing with the foster care system and I can’t wait to find out more about the Greater Realm and what is going on there. I suspect many of you haven’t heard of Villain Keeper, but I hope that you’ll seek out this series now!

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay

© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I stumbled across this book somewhere (90% sure it was on another post here), and it didn’t really pique my interest. Hearing that it actually deals with and integrates the foster care system is an interesting wrinkle. That’s the kind of thing that fantasy authors (myself included) are liable to brush aside in favor of getting to the fun parts. Still not sure if I’ll pick it up, but I’m impressed with that, if nothing else.

    Also, I’m more likely to pick it up, haha :D
    Stephen W. Gee recently posted…Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentalsMy Profile

    • Agreed! I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read about a character in the foster care system in a fantasy before.

  2. “but Caden notices his friend Brynne’s beauty waaaaaaaay too often for my taste.”

    And this is why I can hardly stand male-centered novels. THis sounds cute enough but…I’m getting so picky about my novels. I might pick this up, if I see a chance.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Blog Tour: The 3rd WomanMy Profile

    • Right?? It’s like, do you have to write male-gaze into the character, really??? I’ll let you know how the sequel is and maybe that’ll decide it ;-)

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