On the back of my ARC it reads: "It's Graceling meets Eon in this action-packed fantasy adventure by debut author Actual rating is around 1.5 stars
On the back of my ARC it reads: "It's Graceling meets Eon in this action-packed fantasy adventure by debut author Ellen Oh." In all honesty, I think that statement does a huge disservice to all three novels. And because of that one little sentence, I went into Prophecy expecting something epic with rich descriptions, epic fight scenes and a main character worth rooting for. Unfortunately, I found none of that. I tried to love Prophecy. Truly, I did, but it just never worked out and I'm really sad it didn't because I love Ellen to bits.
Prophecy and I had a very rocky time together that could mirror a relationship from a Taylor Swift song. The saddest part of it all is that I know I could have enjoyed this novel a lot more if it weren't for three very important factors.
Cookie cut-out, cardboard characters. That's the best way to describe every last character in Prophecy. Sure, the bare bones was there. We have Kira, the main character, who is a strong, warrior girl. Her sworn duty is to protect her younger cousin and Crowned Prince, Taejo, from any and all harm. She is also hated by everyone in the land, despite the fact that her job is also to protect those very people from demon attacks. In fact, the people call her The Demon Slayer, which is kind of funny considering we are told the people are kept in ignorance of the existence of demons. So why do the people call her that? No clue. It really never made much sense, and really, that's the least of Prophecy's problems. All of this is TOLD to the reader in the first two chapters. What does Kira like to do? Fight demons. Does she have any long-term aspirations? Protect the Prince forever and ever. Is that nobel? Sure. But how is it really any different from Bella's obsession with Edward? I'm not sure it is.
The other characters are no better. We are given a brief introduction to Kira's mom and we are TOLD how kind she is. We are TOLD her dad is a great general. And Taejo. Taejo is the most infuriating character out of the bunch and only serves as a damsel in distress to give Kira something to do since her life long goal only includes taking a bullet for him. In the beginning, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but as the novel wore on, I began to wonder if he possessed any sort of training at all or courage or bravery or balls. Apparently, none of those things. And don't get me wrong. I love a strong female character that saves herself and friends, but not at the expense of the others looking useless or helpless.
The rest of the characters did show promise, but they were never fleshed out and served more as sidekicks than anything else. For example, the love interest, Jaewon, I did like. He seemed to have a good story behind him. Troubled past filled with pain and a chance for redemption. Unfortunately, it was never really tapped into. Though, perhaps Oh is saving that for the subsequent novels along with the romance that was never fully formed, but instead thrown in at a blasé sort of way. Because of that, I felt the little line where he says he'd "always do whatever she asked" was a little much. Why would he? What sort of connection did he develop with Kira with their brief interactions in between fight scenes? However, I will say that I did appreciate the romance not being in the forefront.
Show. Don't Tell:
Immediately, from the first chapter I had a sneaky suspicion that this would be an issue. Readers are told entirely too much about the characters instead of getting to know them for themselves. With every character we are introduced to, the reader is told what kind of person he or she is. There is no surprise with thinking one character is good, but later turning to the dark side. It made Prophecy incredibly predictable and with flat characters, the element of surprise could have saved this novel. I'm supposed to like Taejo because he is young and the prince and is good. But I don't. I'm supposed to like their uncle, King of the neighboring Kingdom of Guru. Then Kira decides she doesn't trust him because slight ruthless nature, but it doesn't matter because I never liked him anyway. I'm supposed to like Kira because she is the main character who has poor self-esteem and must find her way in a kingdom that doesn't appreciate her. But I don't. See the problem here? I'm not shown enough about the characters to actually develop any feelings toward them one way or another.
Also, because there was mostly telling the fight scenes were shorter and less descriptive than what I would have liked, making them just as eventful as if they were all frolicking through a meadow. This caused the pacing to feel very off at times. One paragraph they are fighting, then the next it's suddenly over and they're walking to an inn.
And even with the other negatives, I could have enjoyed it more if the writing style meshed better with me. This is the biggest problem with it being compared to Eon and Graceling. It's like a little kid trying to put daddy's pants on. He looks awfully cute in it, but just isn't ready to wear those digs. This is where I really think Prophecy would have been better marketed to the Middle Grade audience instead. There is just way too much hand-holding and explaining terms that are better left inferred to my liking. Prophecy does a lot of what Stormdancer did, where it used foreign terms (in this case Korean) that readers my not be familiar with. If there was more showing, the reader could have easily used context clues to guess the meaning. It just felt like there was a lot of "talking down" to the reader and it completely turned me off to the story. This lead to a very basic plot with predictable twists, causing the heroine to appear very slow on the uptake. And that in turn caused me moments of great frustration similar to when Eona couldn't figure out how to call her dragon for majority of a 531 page novel. *headdesk* (Oh, hey, look! There's the comparison.) Sad to say, veteran high fantasy and critical readers will not be impressed by this.
Still, while Prophecy did hold significant faults for me, I do appreciate the amount of research Oh obviously invested into the novel. She had a clear outline of her world building and it showed. And there were a few lines that made me chuckle. I just wish there had been a little more time to develop everything. Truthfully, Prophecy isn't a bad novel and if my daughter was around age 10, it'd be a book I would buy her. For anyone else, I highly recommend anyone considering it to seek out a sample chapter first. But as for me? It's not really my thing. Maybe the series will get better in the next book. Maybe all my concerns are cleared up. But Prophecy and I are like a pair of incompatible, bickering lovers. Fine on our own, just not so great together. And we're probably "never ever, ever getting back together."
An ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review.
I usually don't pick up many high fantasy novels. For example, I hate Lord of the Ri Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Oh yes, Rachel Hartman. YES!
I usually don't pick up many high fantasy novels. For example, I hate Lord of the Rings. Don't flame me! It's just that it's not usually a genre I mesh well with. In fact, I think aside from Seraphina I have read a grand total of two high fantasy books this year: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and Eona: The Last Dragoneye. Coincidentally, all three have dragons in them. Hmm...perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something there.
Dragons?! Yes, dragons. I know what you're probably thinking. So, let me help you.
Who's a good boy, Toothless? I could watch him chase that little light all day. But, no, not those kinds of dragons.
Burn, baby, burn. Now, that's more like it.
Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh lives in a world where dragons have the ability to transform their bodies into humans and walk amongst mankind. Previously, dragons and humans have warred against one another, but for forty years there has been strained peace thanks to a treaty. The time arrives for the peace treaty to once again be signed and a member of the royal family has been found murdered. What's even more interesting is that it appears to be the work of a dragon. With Treaty Day swiftly approaching, Seraphina finds herself in the midst of the investigation, assisting Prince Lucian Kiggs in discovering the murderer, all the while trying desperately to hide her own secret: being half dragon.
A few things I LOVED about Seraphina:
The World Building:
I really have to commend Hartman because this is a brilliant debut and I feel very fortunate to have read it months before the release. She has created a very believable society and I can just imagine all the research she put into this crafting the religion, clothing, races, philosophers, customs, ect. Initially, when I first started I felt a bit overwhelmed because of the names and culture. It's just that rich. But once I got into the story, I was just amazed at how well constructed the world building was.
I have to say, I was not once irritated at the main character, Seraphina (BTW: awesome name!). She is very headstrong and determined. When she first discovers a plot to disrupt the peace, she does not hesitate to get to the bottom of things even if that means doing things herself. This, of course, is her strength and her weakness. Having to hide her secret her whole life has left her unable to trust easily. This directly impacts her relationship with her partner in the investigation, Prince Lucian Kiggs. But as the novel wears on, we see a growth in Seraphina and her ability to trust and rely on her friends.
My favorite character has to be a toss-up between Princess Glisselda and Orma. For secondary characters, I felt they were very well developed throughout the novel. It's kind of ironic that they would come to be my favorites since in the beginning I didn't really care for either one. They possessed qualities (or at least I thought they did) that I found ugly (rudeness, apathetic, tactless, and uncaring). I suppose this is just another cool point for Hartman's writing style and character development for changing my mind completely before the novel's end.
The Plot and The Pacing:
Simply brilliant. The best way I can describe it would be to say it's like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and dragon lore fantasy. I found the novel's length to be perfect for the pacing, giving just the right amount of time for relationships to develop, the mystery to be solved, and ending realistically.
Very well done! I never saw the ending coming and was left completely satisfied with it. There are some series where the installments feel more like a part one or part two of a story, but then there are others like Seraphina that could stand alone just fine. While I know Seraphina's journey is not yet over, the immediate threat in the novel is resolved. I really appreciated that. This novel speaks for itself and doesn't need to rely on a cliffhanger to keep a reader interested in a sequel.
Seraphina is definitely a book you should look out for in 2012. I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel!
Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes and while Rachel Hartman is a GoodReads friend of mine, these are my honest thoughts on the book.
Power. Glory. Honor. Reliability. Trust. Strength. Are these traits simply attributed to our gender? Does our gender determine who we are as people or Power. Glory. Honor. Reliability. Trust. Strength. Are these traits simply attributed to our gender? Does our gender determine who we are as people or who we can become as a person? For centuries women have struggled to pry themselves from underneath man's suppressive boot to claim their equality. For centuries being a woman was thought to mean you were weak, unable to defend yourself, better off in the kitchens.
This is the world 16 year-old Eon(a) lives in. She lives in an Asian culture were women can never hope to strive for the same position as a man: Dragoneye. Yet, that is exactly what she does. On the outside she is a 12 year-old boy named Eon, masquerading in a world she barely understands. not only is she working against her sexuality, but she also has a lame leg, a symbol of bad luck.
When I first started the novel, it started off slow for me. However, the world building was excellent. I can not help but to sit back and admire the amount of research Alison Goodman had done to describe Eona's world. From the descriptions of the clothing, buildings, and mannerisms, I could completely visualize everything. After I got to know Eona more, I started having a better appreciation for the book.
I really loved Eona and her determination to become a Dragoneye despite her limitations her culture had bestowed upon her. She believes that her femininity hinders her. As a result, she does her best to suppress it at every given opportunity by taking drugs to stop her menstrual cycle. She finds that she has been thrust into a world of politics with people depending heavily on her power. A power she has no idea how to manifest.
And that my GoodReader friends brings us to the bad parts. Oh, c'mon. You knew it was coming.
Eona, Eona, Eona...Why are you so slow? Why must you frustrate me so?
I had long figured out the secret behind how to call your dragon. Yet you were up the creek without a paddle or just a lost little kitten.
Find your brain while you're at it, m'kay?
However, all was not lost with Eona's slow uptake. Once people started finding out her secret, the book moved along way faster. And by the end of the novel, I felt myself very excited for the sequel.
Eona had tremendous growth in this book. She went from suppressing her womanhood to embracing it. This book had the feminist in me crying out and squealing like a wittle fan girl. It was awesome.
And for some strange reason Annie Oakley and Frank Butler sang to me the entire time I read this book.
Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything Better than you.
No, you can't. Yes, I can. No, you can't. Yes, I can. No, you can't. Yes, I can, Yes, I can!
I can't wait to see what Eona CAN do in the next book!