by Donita K. Paul
Published 2004, 2005
(Sorry; appear to be lacking a picture of Dragonquest.)
So, I don’t even remember why I picked up these books. I’m constantly coming across books on various blogs and Goodreads recommendations and randomly all over the place, and somewhere along the line I apparently heard about Paul’s Dragon books. There are five altogether, and so far they’ve been decent but not amazing reads. I’m actually in the midst of Book 3 right now, and, thankfully, they seem to be improving with each one.
The books are set in the fictional country of Amara, which is full of creatures completely unknown in our world (like dorkers, drummerbugs, and kindias), and is populated by fourteen different races: seven ‘high’ and seven ‘low,’ which brings us to our first problem: too many things. Paul’s writing style is far more in line with high fantasy than young adult, with a complicated world building and a story so full of bizarre creatures and words that I found myself constantly flipping back to the glossary (especially since most of the time Paul writes as though you already know what a kindia, or whatever, is). This wouldn’t be too bad if this was limited to the animals or plants that inhabit the world, but Paul has created lots of different races of people (for lack of better term), including o’rants, emerlindians, kimens, doneels, mariones, tumanhofers, and urohms (the seven high races) and bisonbecks, blimmets, druddums, grawligs, mordakleeps, quisses, ropmas, and schoergs (the seven low races, of which there appear to be eight). To top it off, there aren’t just dragons – there are fire dragons, greater dragons, major dragons, meech dragons, and minor dragons. All of this makes for extremely complicated reading, especially when Paul has the habit of referring to characters not only by name but also by race, e.g., something along the lines of “Kale smiled at her friend. The o’rant couldn’t believe how happy she was.” This leaves me trying to remember if Kale or her friend is the o’rant; it’s often frustrating to try and determine to whom I should apply a certain action, thought, or feeling, because I can’t remember which of this particular group happens to be a tumanhofer or a kimen.
I didn’t realize until after I started reading them that Paul has written these book with a sort of idea of relaying Christian principles through them. Wulder is the god of Amara’s world, and Paladin, a definite Messiah figure, is the ruler of Amara under Wulder. The first book was rather dreadful in that aspect – I really felt like Paul was just smacking me over the head with religious teaching – I could practically see the words between the lines saying, THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW JEHOVAH GOD EXPECTS YOU TO BEHAVE IN THE REAL WORLD DO YOU SEE THAT DO YOU SEE THE WAY THIS PERSON IS REACTING TO PALADIN THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD RESPOND TO JESUS DO YOU SEE HOW THIS CHARACTER IS LEARNING TO TRUST WULDER YOU NEED TO TRUST GOD DO YOU GET IT DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M VERY SUBTLY DOING HERE!??!?! Thankfully this got MUCH MUCH better in the second (and now the third) books. Wulder and Paladin became what they should be – a comfortable background into which the characters fit – a framework that helps to explain their actions and motivations, leaving me, as the reader, free to draw my own lines (if I so desire) between Amara’s religious teachings and the ones of my world.
The narrative flows decently through these books, although she does have a habit of forcing her main character into a life-threatening situation in the first chapter that is extremely annoying to me, especially in the first book. I’ve known Kale for about three pages and now her life is in danger?? I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this, because I know nothing about Kale as a person; I’ve had no time to get to know her or her motivations or why she’s in this situation to begin with, and it left me feeling very emotionally detached from the action. It’s been a little better in the next two books because I at least know who Paul is talking about before she throws them into perilous predicaments.
The second book was much better than the first, mostly because, I think, I already knew the characters. There was just SO MUCH to take in throughout the first book – by the second, things were starting to sort themselves out (and I was able to refer to glossary less), although I have to say that the meech dragons kind of give me the weirds – they’re almost like a human/dragon hybrid, and it was just really strange.
While the plot development is pretty good, I’ve found the endings to be rather abrupt and anticlimactic. In Dragonquest, we spent the entire book tracking down this evil wizard and then he was defeated in about a page with apparently minimal effort and oh well everyone went home good times good times. It was just a strange ending that technically resolved the problem by killing the wizard, but left a lot of things dangling.
Overall, I’d give Dragonspell and Dragonquest 3/5. They’re decent books, but nothing that makes me exciting. I’m finishing the series, but not with a lot of enthusiasm.