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Book #10 of 2016: The Dragon Round

The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from Simon and Schuster.



This could have been an amazing story. Set in a fantasy world, all business is handled through great sailing ships powered by nothing more than the wind and crews of rowers. Life might be good (unless you were a rower), except the world was also populated by dragons. Dragons that tended to attack the ships and sink them/eat everyone on them.

The story opens on one of those ships, where some random character who we learn little more about than his name is talking to another basically blank character about mutiny. Through the first couple chapters, we learn nothing about the characters other than their name and ship position/rank. Highly frustrating and made the story hard to follow... or care about.

The mutiny happens, and the crew puts the captain off the ship. For utterly unbelievable reasons, the healer decides to join him in his death sentence (to be put off the ship in a rowboat with no oars, food, or water). Through luck and a storm, the pair end up on a tropical paradise island. On that island, the two find a dragon egg and become the first people ever to tame and train a dragon.

Even with the big problem up until that point (so little characterization, even of the two main characters -- I could hardly name more than one single trait for each of them), I was enjoying the story. The dragon was interesting, even if all the human characters might as well have been cardboard cutouts.

Around the 60% point of the book, the story, writing, and plot went through the floor. Those characters from the first chapters became main POV characters, and they were no clearer or more detailed of characters than they had been in the beginning. I didn't know who they were or why they were doing what they did, and by this point I didn't care.

I skimmed the rest of the book, and was left scratching my head at the last of the plot. Spoilers: [Cut off here]One main character, the captain, was killed. The other main character (the healer) was captured in the most unbelievable way ever and was about to be tortured for information as the book closed... setting up a second book.

In addition to all of those problems, there were a number more:

* The editor wrote a forward for the book. In it she said her friends were now able to quote the book themselves, because she loved the writing so much that she quotes it endlessly at them. This is the sample section she gave:

The galley slashes through the dragon's shadow, and the foredeck slides under its belly like an assassin's blade. Solet cries, "Fire!" the crossbowmen don't even have to aim. It's tough to miss the sky.

I know tastes vary, but... that doesn't seem like overly good writing to me. Not bad, but not good enough that I'd quote to friends and family. Plus, by gushing about how amazingly wonderful the writing was, she set my expectations higher... which in this case only hurt the book.

* The author often used wording that knocked me out of the story. On this fantasy, non-Earth world, calling human meat "long pig" just didn't seem right.

* This last part bothered me the most. From the book: A scrawny old cabbage dealer with a green headwrap and a thin gray beard peers at them from behind a wagonload of crop. Ject snaps his fingers. Ravis knocks a wave of cabbages over him. The man ducks, crying, "My cabbages!"

Do I even need to add an image here? He's describing the cabbage man from Avatar the Last Airbender, right down to his "My cabbages!" cry.
Tags: 2016 books, book review, book: the dragon round
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