on July 27, 2011 :
I was really excited to read this story. It should have been right up my alley. I mean, it had Manga-style illustrations and was a fantasy adventure story. Like I said, it should have been right up my alley, but it wasn't. That's not to say that the novel was terrible; it was not. In fact, Wright has created an interesting new world for the reader and populated it with diverse creatures, and the plot of the story itself was enough to keep me reading. I commend him for his creativity. Now here's the hard part, explaining what I didn't like about this novel.
To begin, the novel is told from the third person omniscient point of view. Not that it is a bad thing, but that point of view, being told from the viewpoints of multiple characters, can be very difficult to pull off correctly. Although it can provide the reader with a broader view of the plot or even the world created within the book, in this case, it caused a lot of confusion. It was, at times, dizzying to say the least, when the point of view quickly shifted from one character to the next, to the next, to the next, within the very same scene.
Now let's talk about characters. The story opens with Ben's adventure with his mates, having just alleviated a convenience store of its cigarette packs. After a short police chase on foot, Ben disappears and reappears on what he will find out is Draconica. He meets two characters of this world, two of four sisters endowed with special powers and who are called Dragonkin. I liked where this was going, as dragons and dragon lore are an obsession of mine. There are many more characters we meet along this journey, including a friendly and cowardly tiger with a lisp, macho warrior Kalak from a neighboring state, the other two Dragonkin, and of course, the enemy who is trying to take over the world and take custody of Ben, the child from another world.
What bothers me most about these characters is that they seem rather flat. Ben, who you would assume is the protagonist as the novel begins and ends with him in his native London, is the least complete character of all. He begins as a teen who gets caught up in the wrong type of crowd, he's somewhat whiny, uses way too much modern lingo and references to popular culture, is always in need of being rescued by someone, and by the end of the book does not go through enough of a transformation of a character to be believable. In essence, I feel that Ben was returned home almost exactly the same as when he left. So what was the point of his story then?
The other characters are equally flat. Like Edward and Bella of notable fictional romance fame, Daniar and Kalak, are drawn inexplicably to each other. He is an empty, blood thirsty warrior. She is a kind, warrior Dragonkin. That's it. There's not much more to them. He's a jerk, and she likes him. They're not very deep. In fact, the character who seems the most fleshed out, is surprisingly, Zarracka, the black sheep Dragonkin. I will get to her later. But first, let's talk about the length of the story and subplots.
For a first novel, this one is incredibly long. There are too many unnecessary interludes, exchanges, subplots, etc. that do nothing to drive the plot and could be cut out. One, for example (spoiler alert), is when the tiger finally is reunited with his mother, and then she dies. This was completely unnecessary, both for the tiger to be reunited with his mother, as well as the fact that she dies. The outcome of this is that the tiger becomes frustrated with his companion, Kalak, for being a jerk, which we all already knew anyway.
The final issue I would like to point out here, is both a strength and a weakness. Through Wright's collaboration with artist Alexis M. Centeno, he has created a unique look to his book. The Manga-style illustrations are frequently placed throughout the book, and Centeno has created some fantastic illustrations that truly bring the story to life. Its weakness, however, is that when limited to the formatting of an ebook such as the one I perused, the illustrations become tiny renditions, and therefore are an injustice to the artwork. I am sure that in printed form the illustrations can be viewed in all of their beauty, but for an ebook format, the author may want to look into correcting this issue. I would love to see them in their full size.
Let's get back to Zarracka, the black sheep Dragonkin. Like I stated previously, she was the most fleshed out character of the story and she wasn't even a main character! Her personality bled through the pages, her motives were clear, and her interactions with her sisters as well as her cohorts were well written. Coincidentally, the strongest part of this novel is an emotional exchange between Zarracka and her goody-two-shoes sister, Daniar, where we learn what made Zarracka who she is. I commend the author on this exchange, as it is such a strong moment for this character.
If I were the author, at this point, I'd feel that the reviewer is picking on me and my book. I hope that the author realizes that I say these things in a hope to help him continue to improve his work. I feel that it is a good story at its bare bones, but needs a lot of help to be a complete novel. His strength in the treatment of the exchange between Daniar and Zarracka is to be commended, but I only wish that the rest of the characters and exchanges were treated in much the same way, with the same thought and effort put into them. I recommend that the author continue to rework this novel, and always remember that our projects are a continually evolving labor of love.
(reviewed 23 days after purchase)
on May 15, 2011 :
It’s unlikely that you would call Ben a hero type. As the central character in "Trapped on Draconica" his first appearance is not exactly glorious. Within a page or two he is being chased by a policeman after an unsuccessful attempt to rob a news agent. One minute the policeman is breathing, albeit in his familiar streets of Canterbury and then in the next - he's in a world that is not at all familiar and then things start to get heavy.
This is the start of a strange and terrifying journey. Events take a turn that makes being chased by a policeman seem something to wish for! He meets new and very strange people and is forced to go on a quest to save Draconica because that is the only possibility - slight though it may be – of saving himself and of getting off this strange planet.
What they find out at the end of the journey changes Ben - it changes them all. With one exception. That person is the same at the end as they are at the start. I'll let you discover who that is for yourselves.
As usual in fiction nothing is always what it seems. People do strange things for even stranger reasons. We can turn T.S. Eliots famous phrase "to do the right thing for the wrong reason" around and say that some of the characters are doing the "wrong thing for the right reason". But there is friendship and love that enable the central group to continue on their journey.
However, we don't need to go too deep into the psychology of the characters. First and foremost this is a cracking good yarn that will keep you going to the end of the book. We mustn't forget the pictures that accompany the story. They are small works of art in their own right and perfectly complement the style and substance of the story.
All in all a book worth a few Quid - Dollars - Euros of your money.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on May 14, 2011 :
I firstly want to start this review by stating that the author of this book has stated that he will donate a portion of the proceeds made from this book to the Red Cross to help with the recent crisis in Japan. I think that deserves particular mention from me as I myself do my bit to help charities and I think it's a great thing when authors like Mr Wright agree to do things like this. It's partially what inspired me to buy a copy of this after reading the sample chapters.
Thats not to say that's the only reason why I brought this book. It's a very good story with colourful characters and exceedingly good artwork. The world of Draconica is something that no doubt you have seen in other such works like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and numerous other fantasy works, but it works well and at least feels real.
There's a good mix of action, comedy and drama and it works for the most part. Sometimes the action scenes feel a little over the top and there are some completely implusable sections (it is possible for fire and ice to explode on contact, I don't think so). However, most fiction today hinges on the over the top so I don't think I can be too critical.
Nonetheless, Dan Wright clearly has a strong imagination and a love for storytelling and this is where it shows. I'll be interested in seeing how this author goes from here. Certainly one I'll be keeping my eye on.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on May 14, 2011 :
Being a fan of fantasy, I must admit that I find a lot of them take themselves too seriously - when fantasy by it's nature is quite riduculous and over the top. Thankfully, this book isn't afraid to have a little fun with itself. There's a good mix of comedy and drama that make the story fun to read.
The story is pretty standard and anyone who's read Alice and Wonderland and Wizard of Oz will instantly know what to expect. However, their is no long winded introduction to the world of Draconica and it throws you into the action almost straight away. The pace is almost perfect and at no point does it feel dragged out or any of the scenes feel like filler. Overall, the writing is very basic, but readable and flows well.
The characters are very well detailed and, for a fantasy story, quite complex. Whilst they do fall into a lot of fantasy archtypes, they have enough personally to make them stand out - I actually could believe these people could be real.
The book is filled with manga style artwork and, whilst they perfectly compliment the tone and feel of the story, I couldn't help but feel that there was too much of them. Personally, books should allow you to use your imagination and let you make your own mind up how the characters look. By having these pictures in, it takes that away.
Aside from this, it's a very good read, the story is tight with only a few plot holes and the characters really bring the story to life. Worth your money? I'd say so.
(reviewed the day of purchase)