Dragons in the Waters

by Madeleine L'Engle

Paperback, 2011



Local notes

PB Len




Square Fish (2011), 320 pages


A thirteen-year-old boy's trip to Venezuela with his cousin culminates in murder and the discovery of an unexpected bond with an Indian tribe, dating from the days of Simón Bolívar.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 5.56 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member kfeete
I quite enjoyed this book, which was very L'Engle. Great characters, intriguing little mystery, you don't quite notice that the plot's rambling until midway through the book when it stops rambling and starts happening. The ending lost me, but, well, those type of endings often do. I just cannot
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seem to get into the mystical mood; once things get transcendent I am left standing on the dock waving rather sadly at all the people getting carried off by into ethereal heights. Nevertheless, a pleasant read.
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LibraryThing member delphica
Poly (she still spells it with one "L" in this book) and Charles O'Keefe travel via freighter ship to South America with their father, who is on his way to investigate the effects of oil drilling on a Venezuelan lake. One of their traveling companions is Simon Renier, a young boy whose distant
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ancestor helped free Venezuela from colonial rule. The three children get to know the ship's crew as well as their fellow passengers, and the trip progresses, we learn that just about everyone has secrets to hide. The voyage is disrupted by a murder, and the investigation continues upon their arrival at port. As a counterpoint to this drama, another story unfolds about Simon's ancestors and a curse passed down through the generations.

The mystery story is solid and moves along quite nicely. That said, this book is more enjoyable for people who are already strongly attached to Murray/O'Keefe family and L'Engle's roving characters like Canon Tallis and Mr. Theo. When I first read this as a younger person (probably in the neighborhood of 13 or so), many of the references to the adults and their adult secrets were so subtle that they left me in the dark (most laughably, I was perpetually confused by comments about the ancestor's "seed" -- was he a farmer?) As usual, Poly, Charles and Simon are far too insightful, thoughtful, and perpetually gracious to seem like real live children, but this always strikes me as an easy premise to buy into in L'Engle's work -- she was always so perpetually gracious herself it's understandable she assumes everyone else is that way as well.
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LibraryThing member readinggeek451
Mystery-adventure, very mildly fantasy--Charles dreams true, and the Quiztanas have healing powers. This was one of my favorites as a teen; it doesn't hold up quite as well as some of the others, I think because the cultural appropriation now rubs me the wrong way a little. Despite the title, no
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actual dragons.

This ties in to the Time Quartet in that Poly and Charles are Meg and Calvin's children (the oldest of seven). The connection is not made explicit here; they were introduced in The Arm of the Starfish.

The endpoint is set in South America (Venezuela).

The South Carolina background connects to one of her adult novels, The Other Side of the Sun.

Two secondary characters (and a third mentioned but offstage) are repeated from The Young Unicorns.
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LibraryThing member bookczuk
I spent most of the time reading this trying to remember how the characters in this book related to those in A Wrinkle in Time and where the heck Simon's plantation in Charleston actually was. Madeleine L'Engle had quite a brain, didn't she? Nice adventure yarn, with a bit of the othernatural a la
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L'Engle and a small science course as well. And dragons, of sorts, even if only in hearts.
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LibraryThing member charlie68
One of my favourites by this author.
LibraryThing member christine3236
Dr. O'Keefe's lab has moved, but he is still doing super-secret research. In addition, his assistance has been requested in the analysis of pollution in a South American bay, and he takes two of his children on the boat trip there: Poly and Charles. For the second volume, our narrator is yet
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another young man, this one an American southern boy haunted by his family's past. Simon was raised by his grandmother on a pitiful remnant of their family's once fine Southern home, and I was drawn by the detailed description of her gardens and their poor but cozy life. In fact, I was delighted to find that the Southern grandmother has a prominent role in the story, even showing up in South America.
Fantastical elements here are Charles' usual abilities, along with the ability of a native tribe to "see" events in the past, present and future and to heal others (recalling Dr. O'Keefe's regeneration projects from the last book, although the two do not appear to be linked).
And here's a wonderful detail for you on this novel: its genre utterly defies classification. There are elements of Southern Gothic, Fantasy, Science Fiction...but in truth, the overarching plot of this novel is a good, old-fashioned murder mystery that the kids help solve. That's right, Scooby gang!
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LibraryThing member AprilBrown
What ages would I recommend it too? – Eight and up.

Length? – A couple of evening's read.

Characters? – Memorable, several characters.

Setting? – Contemporary with a touch of fantasy.

Written approximately? – 1976.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? – Ready to read more.

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issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? No.

Short storyline: Simon meets Poly and Charles on a boat to deliver a painting to a foreign country. He doesn't know the danger he is caught up in. In the end, he makes serious decisions about his future.

Notes for the reader: Is a bit repetitive in places. Could likely cut a few thousand words and not lose any of the story.
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LibraryThing member Jean_Sexton
Dragons in the Waters doesn't fit neatly in any one genre. However, if you like mysteries with a touch of fantasy, you, too, will like this book. I watched Simon grow up and learn from his mistakes. Madeleine L'Engle poses interesting questions to ponder: does a hero need to be perfect? What
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happens when we find feet of clay? What *should* happen?

My favorite quotation: "We believe ... that everything is dependent on everything else, that the Power behind the stars has not made anything to be separate from anything else." It is that sense of inter-connectedness that permeates Dragons in the Waters.
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LibraryThing member SueinCyprus
This is an exciting thriller, with no actual dragons or fantasy. Poly O'Keefe is fourteen; she and her brother Charles are on a ship on its way to Venezuela with their father. But the main protagonist is thirteen-year-old Simon, travelling with a previously unknown cousin, and a valuable piece of
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There's danger, intrigue, a shocking incident mid-way through the book and a great deal of suspicion. It's partly character-based, and there's a lot of interesting interaction between these people and other passengers and staff on the ship. There's quite a complex backstory and motive for what happens, and although some of that went a tad over my head, I enjoyed the book and found it hard to put down.

Probably best read after 'The Arm of the Starfish', which is first in the O'Keefe series.
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
A thoughtful murder mystery combined with coming-of-age story about one's ancestral heritage. While the Poly/Polly O'Keefe mysteries aren't nearly as engaging as the Time saga, L'Engle's insight and humor emerge, as well as her precocious adolescent characters.
LibraryThing member JRobinW
This is an exciting little book. Well written mystery but not too gory for kids.




½ (180 ratings; 3.7)
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