Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Book review- Dragons of the Valley

Haven't posted a book review in a long time, huh? (Poor books have been on the backburner for a few months...) Anyway, this is a book I received from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program a while ago. The book I received was Dragons of the Valley by Donita K. Paul.

Here's the summary of this book from the Wiki page for this author and her books:
With an invasion of her country imminent, Tipper Schope is drawn into a mission to keep three important statues from falling into the enemy’s clutches. Her friend, the artist Bealomondore, helps her execute the plan, and along the way he learns to brandish a sword rather than a paintbrush. To restore their country, Tipper, Bealomondore, and their party must hide the statues in the Valley of the Dragons and find a way to defeat the invading army.

Now, onto the review:
I wanted to post this review ages ago (I think it was part of the August batch of books), but just couldn't get through the book fast enough to give it a timely review. You'd think a fantasy story with dragons would be enough to pull me in so I'd finish it quickly, but no such luck. The book had so much potential for me to like it- lots of fantasy races, lots of characters, a good plot (sculptures that could control the fate of the country and its people? As an artist, I liked that!), but somehow... it just didn't come together for me. I didn't exactly dislike the book, but it's not one of my favorites, either. As much as I wanted to like it, I had a few problems with it.

One of the problems I had with this book was the lack of description of the races. After I received this book I realized it wasn't the first in a series, which was actually okay; I felt that I could follow along okay with the plot without having read anything else by this author. I'm wondering, though, if in the previous books, the author gives more information about the races. There was an index of characters and races and items and the like, but even that wasn't particularly helpful. If there's going to be a spot in the book for descriptions, then by all means, please make the most of it and go for long descriptions. I ended up having to think to myself "okay, these are kind of like elves, these are kind of like halflings, those are dwarves...", but I would have loved more description of what the races looked like.

Sort of on this subject, I want to comment on that fact that most of the characters have extremely long names. I didn't have a problem with that (I'm used to fantasy- and nothing is as confusing as the names in The Silmarillion), but I did find it kind of strange that the one character with the shortest and easiest name always got called by his first and surname, but the other characters generally didn't. Not a problem, just something I thought was kind of amusing.

And the characters themselves... I didn't like the females at all, which was a real drawback for me. The one was flighty, childish (okay, she was a halfling sort of race, so no wonder) and kind of dumb, one was smarter but often useless (yes, a princess, but she could have done a bit more, I think), and the third was even dumber than that first one (the princess' mom. I really disliked this character). A lack of strong female characters is definitely a turn off for me. Then again, it read like most of the characters in this book were kind of typecast parodies, so the men were much the same way (one-dimensional, I guess? Honestly, the only really rounded character was the fighter/artist male- the other males were in much the same boat as the females), so I guess I shouldn't have a problem with the females. Characters are what make a story for me, so I really wish they'd had a bit more depth to them.

The main problem I had, though, was the heavy Christian allegory. Normally this doesn't bother me (I love Narnia), but it was extremely obvious in this book and I found myself skimming the sections where the characters were talking about religion and Wulder. (I mean, I regularly write about fantasy priests and the subject of their deity doesn't come up half as often as it did with the regular laical characters in this book...) I know, I know, this is Christian fantasy, but I'd have preferred it if the allegory and religious ponderings weren't so... well, much. It felt as though this just got in the way of the plot- I wanted to know what was going to happen, not how the characters felt connected to their god and the like. I think this is the main reason I got so bogged down with this book and why it took me so long to finish it.

Still, despite these problems I had with the book, I didn't actually dislike it- I'm more on the fence than anything else. I think I'll give the author another chance because the plot was pretty good and maybe reading the book before this one will give me more insight about the characters. I hate writing such a negative review, so I'm hoping I'll like the other books in the series better. :) I'll give this 3 stars out of 5.

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