Estara's Reviews > Heart of the Dragon's Realm

Heart of the Dragon's Realm by Karalynn Lee
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's review
Nov 01, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: ebook, read-in-2012
Recommended to Estara by: Mely
Read from November 01 to 02, 2012 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** The tendency of this book is to be a coming-of-age fantasy for Kimri as she finds a place for herself in the complex relationships between three different kingdoms in a fantasy world. Two of these kingdoms in the lower lands have been at war with each other for years, mostly realised as raiding each other.

Kimri is the younger sister of the King of Helsmont, who has indulged her as a child, so she has grown up mostly unrestrained in her role as a princess (going so far as joining a raid once in disguise, but she couldn't go through with it when she realised how brutal it would be). Now she's suddenly sent as a bride to the remote mountain-kingdom of Helsmont, which isn't involved in any wars - most likely because its fighters are known to be extremely well-trained and fierce and the swords that are made there are the best available.

Kimri thinks her brother has sold her for a bride price of 100 Helsmont swords and while she can understand the temptation to get such a bounty, she feels betrayed.

The whole first half of the book shows Kimri trying to keep an open mind about Helsmont, especially when she is informed that she will have a full year to decide on whether to marry King Tathan or not. He's a very busy man, always working to the good of his people, who don't live the high life as much as in the lowlands because the land is beautiful but hard to survive off of.

I really enjoyed this part - the author does well in showing that Kimri may be spoilt in some ways, but her unconventional outlook on life also makes her easy to like new people and get to know and appreciate new things. She is aware of the freedom and trust put into her in her new country and blossoms a lot, even going so far as to try and ameliorate the ransom hostage situation of the prince of the opposing kingdom who tried to capture her before she reached Helsmont.

Her courting is slowly developed and has lovely quiet scenes of being together with her intended and learning about him. He's a very taciturn man (and fantasy aficionados will easily know what is up with him, but that doesn't take away from the scenes). I particularly liked the sword dance learning scenes, although Kimri is much too good too soon, for such a complex martial art.

None of the factions in this book are without blame (I thought that was well developed), not even the mountain kingdom, which keeps to itself and doesn't mind selling its steel outside its borders.

But I guess the author couldn't have sold a slice-of-life story about a princess finding her place - so around the half-point an action plot takes over. And that is when a lot of necessary development and causal connection gets sketched in only.

King Derweth, Kimri's brother is suddenly a ransom hostage of the opposing king's. Kimri goes on a ride with her favourite horse which she brought from Anagard and a sudden, unexplained (if it had been sabotage from a disgruntled Helsmonter or whatever, but they all accepted her and welcomed her right away) rockfall kills the horse, so when she gets to the castle already distraught and hears about the situation, she demands for Tathan to pay the ransom for her brother - a ransom which would ruin the kingdom and more importantly put an overwhelming number of weapons into enemy hands.

Now, I could have seen - with the characterisation I was given - that Kimri then says to herself: "okay, you're the king and decide for Helsmont, but I can decide for myself and I'll marry an enemy prince if they let my brother go - then we can hopefully have peace that way, even though I love you, Tathan". But she doesn't only take what is hers, she takes the well-respected (better-respected as a hostage than at home, as the author makes clear) prince of the enemy kingdom along and flees Helsmont.

This decision is something she comes to rue most fiercly. The author had set up the king of the opposing kingdom as fairly ruthless and it certainly looks that way, and the length of the book makes it impossible to develop a detailed understanding why this king would treat his olders son so shabby, allow his younger sun to put Kimri into an oubliette to force her to marry his brother and THEN be so ashamed about that, he basically sets her free and when she calls him out about his treatment of his oldest son and his youngest son's values he also decides to set her brother free!!!!!

Makes no sense.

However the lovely bit of challenge dance at the river and dragon fight was lovely. I just wish she had taken another 150 pages to make this a book to reread with solid reasons and developments overall and not just in some places.

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Reading Progress

50.0% "This is really mostly a fantasy coming-of-age so far and I like the slow development, but now at the half point the action plot takes over. Not sure about it. Some things are telegraphed for well-versed fantasy readers but the way the story flows has always been more important to me than the goal (otherwise I would never read any romance :P)"

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Mely Agreed about the genre and the change when the action plot takes over. I feel a lot of the character interaction could have used more elaboration, though -- a lot of the developing relationships could have used more time. This might have benefited from being extended to a full-length novel.

message 2: by Li (new) - rated it 3 stars

Li I'm intrigued by your review (even with the caveats and spoilers!) and liked the excerpt on the author's website - off to try it...

Estara I was quite happy in the first 75 pages and even afterwards there were scenes of brilliance, I just wished it was a stronger coherence and I think, like Mely, it should have been 100.000 words.

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