Saturday, November 24, 2012

Draykon (e-book) by Charlotte E. English

Draykon is a fantasy novel, the first in a series. I got it for free via Smashwords. On my Nook, it was 276 pages, not counting the glossary and excerpt for the next book in the series.

Synopsis:

Llandry, a young, painfully shy jeweler, becomes an overnight sensation after selling a few pieces of her "istore" jewelry. "Istore" is what Llandry called the strange jewels she found in a little cave, and now everyone wants some of it.

Apparently, someone is even willing to kill for istore. Llandry's customers start turning up dead, mauled by vicious whurthags, their istore jewelry stolen from them. One of the murdered people was a friend of Eva, a powerful summoner. While Llandry tries to keep her very last piece of istore safe, Eva works with a sorcerer to find and stop the murderer.

Review:

What initially attracted me to this book was its absolutely gorgeous cover, reasonably interesting-sounding description, and decent reviews. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me, and I ended up spending maybe two months slogging through it.

I wasn't a huge fan of English's writing. It was a little too flowery for my tastes and featured a massive overuse of adverbs. I became very tired of the words “rather” and “quite.” It felt like one or the other of them was used on every single page.

I also became very tired of all the fantasy names – this, from someone who cut her teeth on fantasy. There were weird, almost Lewis Carroll-like names for everything, and I wasn't always sure they were necessary. I didn't need constant reminders that Draykon was set in a fantasy world. “Nivvens” could easily have been called “horses.” The same goes for many of the other things that had real-world equivalents. In some cases, the fantasy names were a little confusing. I couldn't read “whurthag” without imagining a warthog, although I'm pretty sure whurthags had more in common with big cats or other large predators.

I could have put up with English's writing, however, if either the story or characters had grabbed me. That didn't happen. I liked Eva well enough, but I actively disliked Llandry. Whereas Eva was older (maybe in her forties?), competent, and usually had a good head on her shoulders (except for a few blips involving Tren), Llandry was young (20) and appeared to suffer from To Stupid To Live Syndrome. Yes, I know, she had crippling social anxiety and parents that were maybe  a little too overprotective. Even so, I didn't think that completely excused her behavior. Even after she found out people were being killed for having istore, she kept a little piece of it around. She followed after Devary like a puppy, despite the fact that any idiot could see she'd only slow him down. I couldn't understand why he wasn't more angry with her when he learned she'd been following him. I mean, he was on a secret mission to deliver the last known piece of istore to someone who might be able to find out more about it. Llandry was well-known as the discoverer of istore. Having Llandry around was practically like having a giant neon sign saying “you'll probably find some istore here!”

I couldn't decide whether English was trying to set up a future romantic subplot between Llandry and Devary or not. On the one hand, Llandry seemed to have a crush on Devary, even though I don't think she realized it. On the other hand, Devary's behavior towards Llandry felt more like that of an indulgent family member than a potential love interest – not surprising, since he was an old friend of Llandry's mother. At any rate, there was absolutely zero chemistry between Devary and Llandry, and I do hope that was intentional.

Draykon's story didn't grab me any more than its characters did. I think it could have, if maybe 100 pages had been edited out. The occasional interesting event would happen, and then there'd be pages and pages that didn't seem to accomplish much of anything. It felt like most of the book happened in the last 60 or so pages.

The story became a little more interesting to me near the end, and part of me wants to know what happens next in the series. However, I'm not nearly hooked enough to buy and slog through the next book, if it's as much of a drag to get through as this one was.

Extras:

The book includes a color map of the seven realms and a glossary.

Read-alikes:
  • Sebastian (book) by Anne Bishop - Aspects of Draykon's world reminded me a bit of this fantasy book, which is also the beginning of a series. Just be warned, this book is a bit darker and sexual (?) than Draykon.
  • Jhereg (book) by Steven Brust - Those who'd like another fantasy with a strong mystery feel might want to give this a try. This is also part of a series.
  • Sea of Shadow (book) by Fuyumi Ono - This is part of a series, sadly one that has so far not been completely translated into English. There's also an anime version, but it doesn't cover all the events of the series. Even incomplete, it's still interesting. If you'd like another fantasy set in a strange world, featuring characters who can summon and control strange creatures, you might want to give this a try. The series takes a bit to get going - I remember liking the second book better than the first. I've written about the anime and the second and third books in the series.

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