‘Hot Nights, Cool Dragons’ by Matt Zurbo is a young adult fantasy novel finalist for the 2004 Aurealis Award interwoven with music and poetry that shakes and soothes you to your core. It’s a story that starts with Sassy Piero and her brother Bobby being drawn out of their apartment one steamy, summer’s night by the smoky strains of Jazz band The Firebreakers: mythical descendents of Dragons led by the mysterious Mona, whom their father knows and blames for taking his wife away many years earlier.
Sassy longs for a life on stage singing whilst Bobby yearns to be in the band. Together they discover a world of hypnotic music, colourful nightlife, the mythical, magical dragons; a world away from the petty ordinariness of school life and immature teens; a place where they can lose themselves. Sassy disappears into this other realm as her Father, feeling the loss of his wife, struggles to hold onto his daughter and allow her the freedom to follow her dreams and passions. Bobby experiences similar struggles to reconnect and protect his sister as well as navigate his own way through this new dimension.
Matt’s beautiful prose draws you into this world by grabbing you by the throat with short, sharp, punchy paragraphs bursting with passionate personification; with sentences that crackle with electrical charge. This beautiful novel, which comes with an accompanying CD of Jazz and rock to really place you in the musical environment reads more like poetry. It clutches at your heart and never lets go…until the final page. Even then you’re left wanting more magic realism and poetic prose, dreams and yearning, love and passion, music and madness.