Book Review: Dragon Champion

I came across a nice read at the library the other week: Dragon Champion by E E Knight. The characters and the plot were uniquely written, and the pacing fast and exciting, though it started a bit slow earlier on. I enjoyed the read, and may continue to the sequel.

Premise

The plot follows the life of a young dragon—named Auron—from birth, through war, dragon romance, and fellowship. The first half of the book was lacking in its plot depth, as it was Auron traveling the world. Granted, the first few chapters were better about it. The dragon protagonist explores new lands and encounters friends and foes in odd places. Many of the descriptions were splendid, and the fantasy immersion excellent.

Length & Readability

Close to 350 pages, Dragon Champion delivers a rich story in a reasonably-sized volume. The scenes and chapters read well, though some of the paragraphs were harder to read than others. Rewording various sections would have improved readability.

Characters

The characters are a mixture of humans, elves, dwarves, and dragons. The interesting part was the perspective of Auron and his draconic views coloring the story. As most stories follow the path of humans or hominids, I enjoyed the change.

Magic System

The magic felt underdeveloped in Dragon Champion. There were mentionings from chapter to chapter, but little of it was shown. As with my previous book review, the story could have done without it. Although it did help fill in for fantasy ambiance and worldbuilding, so I wasn’t overly concerned.

Conflict

The tension and pacing were excellent. It drove the plot from chapter to chapter and gripped me better than most books. Developing challenges for a dragon provided an atypical approach to tension. I appreciated how creative the author was in this regard.

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The Good

Dragon Champion had wonderful tension, action, and a slew of colorful dragon characters that interested me. The lore and story were rich and enrapturing.

The Bad

The first half of the book—sans the intro—was sluggish and the plot on the weaker side. Some of the chapters were harder to read than others, and I found myself backtracking to understand it all. Other characters—mainly the hominids—felt lackluster, boring, or undeveloped.

The Ugly

I don’t have anything to add here. Dragon Champion was a solid book, with its share of strengths and flaws.

Auron’s story was a worthwhile read, and I am considering the sequel. Its fine dragon characters, unique PoV, action, and worldbuilding made up for its rough start and average readability. If you’re a lover dragons, be sure to check out E E Knight’s work. You won’t regret it.


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—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Farseeker

Farseeker, by Joanna Starr, presented a story I’ve rarely read elsewhere. Filled with new age concepts, classic fantasy tropes, and more—the story was worth the read. Let’s dig into this review, shall we?

Premise

Farseeker is a science fantasy, with a blend of sci-fi and classic fantasy tropes. The story begins as a straight fantasy, but quickly transitions. Everything from dragons, unicorns, to extraterrestrials are present. There are a few Doctor-Who like themes such as time travel. With so much going on, the plethora of themes is a double-edged sword for the story.

Length

The book is long, at around 500 pages. Scenes organized chapters well, but sometimes chapters carried on longer than they should have. There were also some—in my opinion—unnecessary scenes that didn’t add much to the plot or characters.

Characters

Thaya, the main protagonist, is the sole PoV of the story. Her scenes were good, but lacked sufficient depth for me to connect with her character. Granted, a few scenes were excellent and marked the zenith of her arc. Overall, she was a balanced heroine with cool abilities, high amounts of action, and mediocre exposition.

The side characters were interesting, but some vanished from the plot, only to reappear much later. This made it difficult for the protagonist to bond or relate to them. Other characters like talking unicorns were amusing to read about.

Magic System

A soft magic system rules the universe of Farseeker, magic of a whimsical and unexplained nature. Thaya gains new abilities as she progresses through the story, some abilities with humorous outcomes like nauseous spatial travel. There’s also technology, with adds a nice twist to the whole fantasy-magic trope.

Conflict

The tension flowed great between chapters. The monsters and enemies were mysterious, unpredictable, and frightening. This made for a dynamic story and challenged Thaya from start to finish. There was some romance introduced late in the story, but it was underdeveloped and not particularly interesting. This may be a device for book two, however.

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The Good

Farseeker has an excellent blend of fantasy and sci-fi themes. The high tension kept me turning the pages, and offered plenty of excitement. Magic battles were flashy, satisfying, and helped with the story’s immense worldbuilding.

The Bad

Thaya came off as an protagonist who could have been excellent, but fell short. The lack of internal exposition and emotional depth—while not bad—felt mediocre. Side characters were there, and then they weren’t. This added a chaotic and disorganized feel to the plot flow.

The Ugly

There was a rape scene I didn’t care for, although it added an interesting detail to Thaya’s arc. Much of prose was somewhat unpolished and could have been condensed better.

Despite its excellent worldbuilding and level of tension, the chaotic plot felt rattling and confusing at times. The characters could have been fleshed out better, the prose polished, and unnecessary scenes deleted. Still, the story had some fascinating information in it and unique blend of themes, which bumps my overall rating to four stars. The new age concepts presented in the plot made me smile, and I love it when I find these types of Easter eggs within fiction.

For the curious and patient lovers of science fantasy—or new age fans like myself—, this is a perfect read. For those who prefer simple plots and deeper characters, you may want to look elsewhere.


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Book Review: Stormbringer

I finished a fantasy novel not a few days ago—and as I promised, here’s the review. Stormbringer, by Isabel Cooper, was an enjoyable read for me. I intend to read further installations when the books are available.

Premise

Stormbringer is a fantasy novel, fast-paced with lots of action. The story follows a classic mythological sequence, full of monsters, magic, and rich world-building. The occasional romance scenes add flavor and diversity to the story, especially an erotic scene towards the end between the protagonists. The final showdown with the villain is exhilarating, engaging, and left me intrigued.

Length

Chapters are fairly short, broken down into smaller scenes that alternate between the two protagonists. I found this convenient, as it was easy to park my bookmark if needed. The book, overall, isn’t long, clocking in at around 340 pages. I was able to finish it within two weeks.

Characters

Two protagonists tell the story from their PoVs. One protagonist, Amris, is a war hero, emerging from a 100-year magical slumber. He’s courageous and steadfast, having seen his share of monsters and magic. I enjoyed Amris’ scenes, particularly the bravery he employed towards the end of book.

The other protagonist, Darya, is a young woman, gifted with magical boons and keen with a bow. Her personality is rough around the edges, but enjoyable. The romance scenes felt a tad rushed and underdeveloped, particularly on Darya’s end. I’m hoping to see more depth in her character in the sequels.

Magic System

Magic in Stormbringer was generic and not explained too well. It came off as a soft magic system, whimsical and spontaneous. This was another spot that could have used more depth, perhaps a steeper cost or limitation to using said magic.

Conflict

Tension was strong from chapter to chapter, whether it was a battle against monsters, or a heart-racing romance scene. I didn’t mind the constant action, and it kept me reading. Other readers may exhaust at the fast pacing and high degree of conflict, however.

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The Good

Stormbringer has good pacing, intriguing world-building, and a story that feels organized and easy to get into. Anyone with an interest in fantasy-romance will find this a worthwhile read.

The Bad

Darya came off as underdeveloped with her romance scenes and inner struggles. Despite the world-building in lore, monsters, and gods, the magic system felt shallow to me. Granted, this was the first book; I am willing to overlook these, as sequels may build upon any shortcomings.

The Ugly

Some nitpicks from yours truly. The erotic scene towards the end of the book felt rushed a bit gaudy. I didn’t see the characters bonding, except through sex and as comrades in battle. The last chapter also ended on a flat tone in regards to the two characters’ relationship, but did well in spelling out fantasy ideas for book two.

Despite its flaws in character development and magical systems, Stormbringer presented an enjoyable fantasy world. The lore of the gods was fascinating, and the two protagonists did their jobs in telling the story from alternating perspectives. The showdown with the villain was also exciting and promising.


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Book Review: Stalking the Wild Asparagus—and Herbology in Ethereal Seals

A week ago I finished a nonfiction book on foraging. It was a very enjoyable read, as it played into one of my biggest hobbies. It also had me thinking about the herbology in my fantasy novel, Blade of Dragons. I’ll provide a rundown of Stalking the Wild Asparagus, then tie in concepts to my own world building.

Premise

The book is organized like a reference manual. Each chapter describes a specific herb or plant, the lore behind it, how to harvest and process it, and so on. There were several foods, like cattails, which I never realized could be ground for flour.

The author also takes time to describe personal stories associated with each herb and how he went about acquiring it. I found it entertaining and educational.

Prose

The chapters are fairly short and straightforward. The author does a good job conveying information, but some of the terms are outdated. The book was published sixty years ago, so it’s not too surprising. A new reader might get initially confused at this.

Information

As mentioned above, there are useful bits of information in the book. Each chapter has its own lesson: “do’s” and “don’t’s” when handling wild plants. It still fascinates me that one can walk along a trail and gather a whole bag-full of edible greens and herbs.

The author covered everything from wild crab apples, to purslane, watercress, even fishing bluegill from local ponds. Free food, many of which are taken for granted.

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The Good

Stalking the Wild Asparagus is a handy field guide for foragers and the curious. Considering the times we are in, having access to one of these books may not be a bad idea.

The Bad

Some of the terms and methods explained in the book are outdated and may not apply to the modern reader.

The Ugly

The author is slightly condescending towards races of color and labels he gives. This may create uncomfortable moments for the reader.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus is an effective tool for foragers, preppers, and wild foodists. The outdated jargon aside, a reader will get a lot of use out of this book.

After finishing Stalking the Wild Asparagus, it had me thinking about my fantasy novel and the herbs that Atlas uses. Who says nonfiction can’t influence a creative writer? Exploring culinary and medicinal foods in one’s setting is a fun way to world build too!

Atlasian Herbs

  • Berryshroom: A sweet tasting fungus that enhances the immune system; it is a common side dish in Atläsian cuisine. Berryshroom is often found in dark places, like caverns and bogs.
  • Bitterwort: A vinegary herb used in many medicinal tinctures. When over boiled, it becomes hallucinogenic. Bitterwort is the staple for many medicines across Atlas, although it must be handled carefully with its caustic nature.
  • Frostleaf: A minty and soothing herb with a mildly sweet taste; it is often used for sweetening drinks. This herb grows in very cold regions and is a delightful sight for any adventurer braving the cold.
  • Grassfoot: An herb with a mildly sweet taste; used for garnishes and sweetening tinctures. Unlike its cousin, frostleaf, the grassfoot variety grows on lush meadows
  • Gospelberry: An herb with a potent and sweet aroma; it is unsuitable for eating, but excellent for perfumes. However, if overboiled, gospelberry can make a fine tea. Interestingly, gospelberry often grows near holy sights on Atlas. This earn the berry its name.
  • Ravenberry: A berry with a pungent and sour taste; when fermented, it turns sweet and sour, ideal for alcohol cocktails. Ravenberry’s black hue and indelible dye are its signature features.
  • Savormoss: An edible lichen prized for its nutrition and delicious, pungent flavor—if you can stand the sour aroma. Savormoss grows everywhere and its prized for its abundance.

Preparation in Ethereal Seals

I drew from alchemical methods in Earth’s history when devising herbal preparations. Many Atlasian herbalists use cooking or fermentation to process these herbs. Teas, tinctures, and broths are all common. Some herbs, like gospelberry and bitterwort, can take longer to process. Others, like savormoss, can be eaten raw.

That said, the above list of Atlasian herbs will likely expand into the second and third book. It has certainly added depth to the story, and it plays a little into the protagonist’s arc. I have books like Stalking the Wild Asparagus to thank for my inspiration.


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