Tag Archives: dragons

Book Review – The Book of Deacon

bookofdeaconThe Book of Deacon

Author: Joseph R. Lallo

Series: The Book of Deacon #1

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2010

Review Copy: Free promotional eBook

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Myranda is a young woman more interested in staying alive than being a hero. Orphaned by a continent-spanning war that has gone on for decades too long and shunned for failing to support it, she has been on the move since she was only a child. One can hardly blame her when she thinks that the chance discovery of a fallen soldier’s priceless cargo is the moment that will change her life. No one could predict just how great that change would be. It will lead her through an adventure of rebels and generals, of wizards and warriors, and of beasts both noble and monstrous. Each step of the way will take her closer to the truth of her potential, of the war, and of the fate of her world.

Review

The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. Lallo is the first book in a classic fantasy series of the same name. It’s a book that has its issues with pacing, lack of contractions in dialogue, and some not entirely well-developed characters, but I did enjoy it.

In the beginning, we have Myranda, a young woman who’s been orphaned and is wandering around the land without much of a direction when she gets mixed up with a sword, a malthrope, and the entire military wanting her. There’s a lot more to the girl than is directly told to us in the book, but it isn’t very subtle foreshadowing. As she gets caught up in all this unwanted attention, her life takes a surprising turn, joining a couple different groups, becoming a student twice, and a cliffhanger?

First of all, Myranda is our heroine. She’s been wandering for a long time, on the move because she’s a pacifist, and people who are against the war are not tolerated. She’s fiery, distrustful, and quick to argue. And she has a talent for magic. Leo, who is a fox-man malthrope, is like night and day. I cannot figure out his character at all, because he isn’t what he seems to be. I still don’t know what’s going on with him. Deacon, the title character, turns out to be a kind of grey magic enthusiast who is your typical intelligent character who isn’t completely accepted. And there’s Myn, a baby dragon who is mischievous, but grows a lot. There’s also a host of masters of their brands of magic who have their own personalities that don’t show much depth that I won’t get into. And then we have the main antagonist, Trigorah, who is an elf with a connection to Myranda. While she’s the antagonist, we see very little conflict, and she doesn’t seem entirely bad.

The story itself has some odd pacing. It’s kind of like it’s being done in three acts. The first act is slow-paced, wandering in a cold winter land, trying to survive. The second act sees a lot more action. The final part is slow-paced again, with a lack of real conflict involving any kind of real danger. The first part didn’t hook me. The second part looked far more promising. The third part slowed down a lot, but I enjoyed it. It was far more lighthearted, though there was still a dark side. It didn’t feel complete, though. But it is a series, and the second book is a continuation.

The world that Lallo has developed is an interesting one. Several kingdoms merged into one and has been waging an ongoing war with the southern countries for decades. Neither side seems interested in ending the war. War is life, and if you don’t like it, you’re an outcast. I personally can’t see how a war that reaches decades can be sustained, though. The demographics of the lands would result in large population decreases and a lack of children. But that doesn’t seem to happen.

The writing style isn’t very polished, as I think it’s Lallo’s first book, but it is perfectly readable. The thing that really stood out for me was the dialogue. It didn’t seem very natural. It lacked contractions, for one thing. As the story progressed, I felt that it got better, but the beginning was a bit rough in that area.

Overall, I give this book three stars. It has a slow start, but picks up the pace later on, and settles into a state of comfort towards the end. I actually enjoyed reading about Myranda learning magic. It felt like there should’ve been more conflict, though. But I guess that’ll happen in the next book, which I have an interest in reading. If you enjoy classic fantasy with a bit of a slower pace, then I recommend this book to you.

Dragons in Fantasy

Dragons are a big part of fantasy novels. They’re also a big part of mythology from several cultures, especially Chinese. There’s even the real life komodo dragon. But what are some of the best novels and novel series that feature dragons?

I’ve read quite a few. One that’s quite prominent is the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. However, I classify that as science fiction, not fantasy. There’s also Temeraire by Naomi Novik. And who can forget Smaug from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit? And then we have the dragons of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Although I haven’t read them, we can’t forget the Dragonlance novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

What are some of your favourite fantasy series with dragons?

Flash Fiction #9 – The Dragons of Mount Fuji (Flash! Friday)

It’s time for Flashversary at Flash! Friday, and that means that there are actual prizes for winning.  Their theme was quite open, so any genre was fine.  However, it had to be based on the picture shown, which involved fire.  Dragons are optional.  I decided to include dragons.  Usually their limit is 140-160 words.  This time, they wanted exactly 150 words.  So, here is my entry:

The Dragons of Mount Fuji

They said there were no dragons. I now know this is not true.

I’m safe in my steel and concrete apartment building. Smoke is rising from the mountain. The smouldering city around me is covered in a grey ash. But it wasn’t like this yesterday.

It started with a rumble. The dragons awoke with a roar and burst from the mountain surrounded by smoke from their fire. Lightning electrified the smoke. I didn’t know dragons could do that.

The announcements over loudspeakers, TV warnings, and our cell phones told us to close all windows and doors and stay inside. I stayed inside for hours watching the news. That’s all there was on TV. Fires ravaged the city. Ash obscured the view. The dragons were magnificent.

I couldn’t wait any longer. I opened the storm shutter. It was so grey! But there it was. I knew then that dragons were real.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Book Review – Throne of Jade

throneofjadeThrone of Jade is the second book of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.  It continues the adventures of Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.

Starting off quickly, this book begins with a big problem, one that must be solved by the end of the story.  Much of it is a big journey, both a journey halfway around the world and a journey of personal discovery.

Basically, Captain Laurence has a problem.  China wants Temeraire back, and England is willing to send him back in exchange for preventing China from choosing sides in the war in favour of the French.  Of course, Laurence vehemently protests and wants to keep Temeraire.  The Chinese agree to allow Laurence accompany Temeraire to China on a long journey.  Along the way, they encounter several problems which they must overcome, and once they reach China, they have to figure out how to convince the Chinese to allow Temeraire to return to England.

Joining Laurence for the journey is Lieutenant Granby, his very loyal second in command.  Young Emily Roland comes along and provides some youthfulness to the crew.  Temeraire’s doctor, Dr. Keynes also comes along, and he’s quite the character.  He doesn’t take crap from anyone.  They, along with the rest of the crew, travel to China on the Allegiance, which is captained by Captain Riley, Laurence’s old subordinate.  Now at an equal rank as Laurence, we get to see that although they were good shipmates before, there is a cause for some tension between them.  The government ministry deputized Arthur Hammond to be their representative on the trip.  He tended to aggravate Laurence a lot, and did provide for some good tension.  The Chinese delegation consisted of the very serious and frequently irritatingly antagonistic Prince Yongxing, the quiet but very interesting Sun Kai, and the jovial Liu Bao.  Sun Kai proved to be quite mysterious, but very engaging.  There were also many other characters, but these were the ones who shined.

The story itself was one of obstacle after obstacle.  They had to overcome all of these, and there was rarely a moment when they could relax.  The voyage to China took up most of the novel, and I wondered if it was going to be slow and tedious, but it wasn’t.  It was broken up into several difficult ordeals with uncertain outcomes.  People were killed, including some who appeared to be regular characters in the book.  The time in China wasn’t very easy, either.  It continued just the same with plenty of action and big problems.  The ending was a bit of a twist that I didn’t expect, though.  That was refreshing.

The setting was mainly on the Allegiance.  It also spent some time in England at the beginning, a little in South Africa, and plenty of time in China.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the streets of Peking.  Novik does well with evoking a good image in my mind.

What continued in this volume was the very polite language used by the characters, though some stronger wording was used here.  There was even a swear!  Novik’s writing style seems to be very polite.  The narrative was much like the dialogue, and it made me wonder if she was thinking about the dialogue so much that the narrative followed the same style of language.  It sometimes made the tense parts of the book feel less dire and more uplifting.  I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it seemed to make it a lighter book to read.  That is until the latter half.  It seemed to get darker towards the end.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than the first book.  For historic fiction fans and fans of dragons, this is a must.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – His Majesty’s Dragon

hismajestysdragonHis Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is the first book in an eventual 9 volume series called Temeraire. This historical fantasy adds dragons to the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.  I long had an interest to read this series, and now I’ve finally begun it.  So, what did I think?

The story, which starts out with Captain Will Laurence on the HMS Reliant capturing a French ship and a dragon egg.  From this moment on, we get to read how he and the dragon, Temeraire, become close and join the Aerial Corps.  Britain is at war with the French, lead by Napoleon Bonaparte.  Dragons are an interesting addition to the war.  I imagined that I’d be reading a lot of battles, but that wasn’t the case.  Much of the book was quite relaxed, involving Laurence’s developing relationship with Temeraire.  In fact, it seems downright slow to begin with.  But it improved a lot toward the end with actual battles and conflict.  The first half was almost devoid of major conflict, just some minor disagreements.  Excitement didn’t happen until the latter half of the book.  I felt that the action was decent, and it was described sufficiently.  But I felt like the plot wasn’t the focus of the book.

The focus was the characters.  Laurence is a very likeable character, as is Temeraire.  However, Laurence seems to be a bit naive when he joins the Aerial Corps.  His interactions with other characters seemed rather awkward.  But he has a good heart.  Lieutenant Granby was a good character that I liked quite a bit.  He was developed pretty well.  Emily Roland looks to be an important character in future books, though I have no idea what will happen.  Although not developed as well as I’d like, Captain Catherine Harcourt on Lily is a character I want to find out more about.  I hope to learn more in future books.  Also, Maximus and Captain Matthew Berkley didn’t strike me as very strong characters.  There are a lot more characters, but these are the main ones.  This book’s strength is the characters.  They are very well done, and I enjoyed them immensely.  I want to see what happens to them in the future.

Most of the story takes place in Scotland and England, with some time out at sea.  It was described well, and I could imagine being there.  I quite enjoyed the flight into the mountains of Madeira.  I had a little trouble imagining the battle harnesses and how the people stayed on the dragons above and below.  But my mind tried to make its own image.

One thing that struck me about this book is how everyone speaks very cordially and formally.  I’m not used to that kind of speech, so it seemed too polite at times.  I don’t know if that’s how people spoke 200 years ago, but it’s possible.

So, what did I think overall?  I enjoyed this book.  It was actually a quick book to read, and I had no difficulty finishing it in a short time.  After reading a lot of heavy, violent, extremely serious novels, this was a nice break.  I’m looking forward to the next book.

I’d give this 3.5 stars out of 5.  It’s very enjoyable, and dragon fans will be delighted.  It’s a light read that gets better the more you read it.  Definitely recommended.

Book Review – Guards! Guards!

guardsguardsTerry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! is the eighth book in the Discworld series. Pratchett is a master at satirical humour in a fantasy setting, and his books are always great light reading.  Guards! Guards! is one of the better ones.

This book centres around the Night Watch of the City Watch in the city of Ankh-Morpork, the greatest city on the disc.  Carrot is a new recruit from the dwarf mines, while his colleagues are Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, and Corporal Nobbs.  Carrot is a young, eager man, ready to please anyone.  He is quite naive, but has great knowledge of the law.  Captain Vimes is the often drunk leader of the group. Sergeant Colon doesn’t like to see much action, and is usually in the office.  Nobby is one strange guy who seems to never play things by the book.  All four of these main characters are delightfully developed, and they go through quite a bit during the course of this book.  Vimes develops into a wonderful character, and has some hilarious drunken thoughts.  Carrot shows amazing initiative in a law enforcement group that basically has no power.  The Librarian, an orangutan at the Unseen University, joins the group.  He is one of my favourite Discworld characters.  Nice to see him here.  Lady Ramkin is another colourful character who breeds swamp dragons.  She is quite funny, and a great addition.  Lord Vetinari also plays a part in this book.  And you can’t forget the dragon.  The ensemble cast was very entertaining.

The story was Pratchett’s usual witty plot, poking fun at various subjects, such as police novels and “hero defeats the dragon and turns out to be the last king’s heir” kind of story.  Unexpected incidents is what I expect with Discworld novels, and this one did a very good job at that.  I expected Keystone Cops kind of buffoonery, but got an actual good story, albeit a silly one.  But it worked remarkably well.  I find that Pratchett has a good comic sense most of the time, though sometimes it isn’t as funny as I’d hoped.  However, Guards! Guards! was very funny.  There was more than one occasion when I laughed (thankfully, no one looked at me on the train when I did that).

Most of Pratchett’s books involve more than one setting location, but Guards! Guards! took place about 99% of the time in Ankh-Morpork.  I got to know the city better through this book, and sometimes revisited locations I’d seen in previous novels.  It’s a very interesting city in many ways, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  It’s a city that works with Guilds for thieves and assassins, who legally do their illegal work.  The city has a lot of unusual characters, shady neighbourhoods, and a dangerous, yet popular bar.

I think you should visit Ankh-Morpork through Guards! Guards! and take a tour with the Night Watch.  It’ll be worth your time.  So far, this may be the best Discworld novel I’ve read.  Highly recommended!

So, I will give this a full 5 stars.