Welcome to Chiril, a fantasy land of dragons, parrots, seven low races, and seven high races. It's surprisingly complicated. And then the wizard and the librarian show up and everyone's off on a quest to recover missing statues. Don't worry if you're having a hard time following, you're not the only one.
Tipper Schope has gotten used to responsibility ever since her father, the famous artist and sculptor Verrin Schope, disappeared about ten years ago. Her mother, Lady Peg (who is technically a princess, but was banished by her parents), has just about lost her mind, so maintaining the estate is left to Tipper. Luckily, she has her father's dear friend Sir Beccaroon, a grand parrot of the Indigo Forest, to help. But that doesn't make anything easy, and Tipper has to start selling her father's old pieces of artwork.
Imagine her dismay when her father miraculously returns (sort of) with Wizard Fenworth and his librarian Librettowit all the way from Amara, a distant country. When she confesses to selling Verrin Schope's statues, she discovers things are worse than she thought. Apparently, there was this block, a kind of cornerstone of the world, that fell through a portal into Verrin Schope's studio. Naturally, he carved it into three statues. But when the statues were separated, the world began to unwind, and now Verrin Schope, Fenworth, Librettowit, Sir Beccaroon, and Tipper, along with the help of a pretentious artist named Bealomondore, must recover the statues before the world, and Verrin Schope, disintegrate!
But before they do that, Fenworth and Verrin Schope decide they need a better means of travel than a rickety old carriage (for one thing, it's not fast enough, and for another, it's uncomfortable), so they go hunting for the major dragons. But people don't ride dragons in Chiril, most people never even see the big ones (the minor dragons are more like pets or servants). But befriending the dragons may be harder than they think, especially since they're in the care of a mysterious Dragonkeeper...
The biggest problem with this book is that Donita K. Paul doesn't find it necessary to explain her world at all. You're reading along and the book casually mentions the dragons and a parrot and emerlindians and tumanhofers and never tells you what's going on. Her writing style also isn't the clearest, which only adds to the confusion.
And the worst of it is, it's actually a very simple plot with rather simple, 2D characters. The writing is just so elaborate that you don't always notice. You're too busy figuring out what a tumanhofer is to care about said tumanhofer.
If you can figure it all out, then it's actually a pretty good fantasy quest novel. It's more centered on the questing and adventuring than the characters, so their flat personalities can be excused. Wizard Fenworth is easily the best character, with lizards and bugs and leaves always falling out of his beard and robes (he's a bog wizard, after all).
Another thing that rather bothered me is Wulder. This is Christian fantasy, and in this world, Wulder is the equivalent of God. Except in Chiril, no one knows about Wulder. But Fenworth and Librettowit come from Amara, where he's well known. So amidst the questing, there's lots of talk about Wulder and how Wulder will help them and it will all turn out according to Wulder's plan, whatever it may be. Which is all fine, but the way they presented Wulder made me dislike him. A Christian book that makes me dislike the God figure isn't a good thing. Donita K. Paul does get better at this, though.
If you're wondering why the picture has "Dragons of Chiril" as its title, its simply one of those stupid deals when a book is published under two names (why why why do they do that?). I believe it was first published as The Vanishing Sculptor, and that's what my copy's called, but was later rereleased as Dragons of Chiril, probably to match the other titles in the Valley of Dragons series. And I don't even know why it's called that, because it's not really about the dragons.
Speaking of the series (which is a prequel series to Miss Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles), I'm currently reading the second book, Dragons of the Valley, and so far I'm enjoying it much more than the first book.
A few things you should know before starting The Vanishing Sculptor: there's an appendix in the back. There are seven high races and seven low races in the fantasy world, emerlindians and tumanhofers are both of the seven high races. Minor dragons, while not all over the place, are fairly common to the wealthy (though no one except the Schopes seem to have any). There are also grand parrots in the fantasy world (though we never see one besides Sir Beccaroon).
You might like this if you like: Christian fantasy; adventure/quest fantasy; the Dragons In Our Midst series by Bryan Davis; fantasy akin to The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by David Lee Stone; or if you have suspicions that the world is unraveling but you don't know why.