Friday, May 23, 2008

Oracles of Fire, Part 1: Eye of the Oracle

Title: Eye of the Oracle

Series: Oracles of Fire #1; also prequel to Dragons in Our Midst

Author: Bryan Davis

Genre: YA (10-14) Technological Fantasy

Excerpt from “The Seed of Eden,” Chapter 1 of Eye of the Oracle:

Angling into a plunging dive, the dragon blasted a fireball at Lilith and Naamah. The two women dropped to the ground just as the flaming sphere sizzled over their heads. Naamah swatted her hair, whipping away stinging sparks that rained down from the fireball’s tail.

With a flurry of wings and a gust of wind, the dragon swooped low. As razor sharp claws jabbed at the women, Naamah lunged to the side, and Lilith rolled through the grass. A single claw caught Lilith’s long black dress, ripping it as the dragon lifted toward the sky.

Naamah jumped to her feet and helped Lilith up. The dragon made a sharp turn in the air, and, with its jagged-toothed maw stretching open, charged back toward them.

Lilith pushed a trembling hand into the pocket of her dress. “Only one hope left,” she said, panting. Pulling out a handful of black powder, she tossed it over her head. “Give me darkness!” she cried.

An oracle of fire and a son of Shem join forces to thwart an ancient sorceress and save the dragon race.

The Writing: A massive six hundred pages, Eye of the Oracle can appear daunting. However, it reads fast, more like three books than one with its large jumps in time and numerous characters, and is necessary as this book attempts to cover (rightly or wrongly) the entire history of dragons from the days immediately proceeding the Flood through the contemporary days of Dragons in Our Midst.

The result is a fascinating and complex history that fills the gaps left in the previous series. However, at the same time, the plot can be confusing. A single chapter may cover events years apart, and many characters have more than one name, complicating an already vast and intricate network or relations. I personally would have appreciated a chart with the characters, their various aliases, and the relationships listed.

That aside, the characters themselves are varied and colorful, many of them providing bright spots of humor in a dark-edged story. But while the emotional connection to the characters is established quicker and better than in Dragons in Our Midst, much is left to be desired. Nor does it help that the long time span makes the character arcs (the growth that characters undergo in the course of a story) a bit choppy with no clear climatic moment in the plotting.

The Content: Faith. Sacrifice. Heroism. Many of the themes of Dragons in our Mist series also run throughout Eye of the Oracle. But whereas Dragons in Our Mist emphasizes faith in action, Eye of the Oracle focuses on faith in waiting: hope, patience, the holding fast to what you learned in the light when darkness overtakes you. In this the huge time jumps work for the story: we watch characters fight to hold on not for days, weeks or years, but for decades, centuries, and even millennia.

As for areas of concern, violence does frequently occur with resulting “deaths” occasionally. This includes everything from sword battles to electrical shocks to the mention of whippings and glimpses of two people being shoved into a magma-filled chasm. But as a whole, the descriptions are minimal, supplying enough information for the reader to conclude the outcome, such as a death of a character.

Eye of the Oracle contains more “magical” elements than the previous series. However, much is explained by a character’s (or an object’s) connection to the supernatural, and most of the characters wielding the magical powers are either clearly evil (e.g. Morgan) or classified as prophets of God (e.g. Merlin). The two major exceptions deal with characters who are not fully human (e.g. underborns) or take a non-human form (e.g. Gabriel).

Summary: Although very confusing at times, Eye of the Oracle has fun plotting, enchanting characters, and out-of-this-world (literally) premises, which will delight readers who enjoyed Dragons in Our Midst. However, I don’t recommend reading this before Dragons in Our Midst, even though this is technically a prequel to that series.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Make sure to check out book 2 (Enoch's Ghost) and 3 (Last of the Nephilim) as well as all of Dragons in Our Midst too!

Ready for the Oracles? Buy here.

1 comment:

Galadriel said...

This book is great for both newcomers and old fans. If DioM was a movie, Eye of the Oracle would be the behind-the-scenes documentary. It’s great for all those wishing to know more about such characters as Merlin, Morgan, King Arthur, Palin and all the dragons, as well as introducing wonderful new characters. You’ll get a whole new perspective on the original books.