Inga Ingvarsdóttir's Reviews > Heart of the Dragon

Heart of the Dragon by Keith R.A. DeCandido
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Mar 17, 2010

it was ok
Read in March, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** This book opens with a chapter set in 1859 Japan and tells of the origin of the Heart of the Dragon. This opening is, in many ways, well-written but it's pretty dense and not likely to hook readers who aren't super-keen on reading the book and/or are pretty knowledgeable about the Tokugawa period in Japan. Which I am so I knew what a daimyo is and so on. Being somewhat knowledgeable about Japan also has me griping about the Japanese. There isn't much Japanese but since the Heart of the Dragon is Japanese, the Japanese name is used. Well, almost 'cause it's grammatically wrong. In the book it's Doragon Kokoro. It should be Doragon no Kokoro and since the Heart of the Dragon receives his moniker before the reopening of Japan so the likelihood of a word of English origin being used is doubtful. So something like Ryu no Kokoro would be better. This would be trivial if this wouldn't relate directly to the title of the novel.

There is actually a lot of good things about this book. The non TV-canon characters are pretty vivid and well-fleshed out and the pacing of the plot and the different points of views keep things interesting. I really liked seeing the Campells in actions. Mary is written totally kick-ass but also a very believable 15 year old girl. John Winchester isn't as compelling but then again John Winchester on a solo hunt, has to be pretty single-minded and driven. Not much room for great character insights there.

I would have preferred if the story had been clearer on how the Heart of the Dragon was this great demon weapon. We only ever got to see how the spirit was controlled by Albert Chao and how it served his petty revenges and so on. There's this bizarre epilogue where it's obvious that the Heart of the Dragon was a threat to the angels.

For the most part Sam and Dean are pretty consistent with the TV-canon (and let's not get into how that itself can be inconsistent) but there are couple of exceptions.

Let me quote from p. 223:

He [Sam:] was tempted to suggest the Starbucks--thanks to Dean's poker winnings, they could actually afford it--but decided not to open that particular can of worms. They'd been back hunting for a while now, and things were going well.

But the wounds were still relatively fresh. It was not so much that Sam had started the Apocalypse.

No, Sam thought to himself, that sucks, but what really hurt Dean was that I trusted Ruby more than I did him. I lied to him, and I betrayed him.

He should have known better.

If there's one thing we've got to remember, it's that we are better together than we are apart.

So he decided he didn't need to go to Starbucks.

This isn't so much characterization inconsistency rather than a sheer WTF thing. What has Starbucks to do with anything? Did I miss the bit where Frappuccinos are really demon blood or did Dean say to Sam that he couldn't get a latte venti until he properly atoned for betraying him?

If the author (and I suspect he is) is trying to convey that the bond between Sam and Dean is still fragile, then he did a very poor job of it.

Another thing that really bothered me is that while Dean is one man pop-culture reference machine, the author kind of makes him go overboard with it when he's addressing the Asian-Americans he's dealing with (calls them Jackie Chan and Charlie Chan and thinks of one woman as a Lucy Liu lookalike) so it gets almost an ethnic slur slant to it. I don't know, Supernatural the show doesn't have the best track record when it comes to these things but the main characters have never been blatantly racist. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. However I cheered when Dean called the samurai spirit (the Heart of the Dragon) Yojimbo (in my mind Dean loves Toshiro Mifune as much as I do).

In short, in many ways this is a pretty good tie-in novel which delivers a great background story on the Campells, has intriguing non TV-canon characters and is exciting. Still there are few things that really didn't work and unfortunately it took a bit from the enjoyment of the novel.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by I. (new) - rated it 3 stars

I. S. So glad to see I wasn't the only one mentally renaming the character every time I saw 'Doragon Kokoro'!

Megan Peters I'm sure it's just a typo, but it would be "ryu no kokoro." ^_^

Inga Ingvarsdóttir Megan wrote: "I'm sure it's just a typo, but it would be "ryu no kokoro." ^_^"

Thank you. I appreciate you pointing it out.

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