Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dragons of the Valley

Title: Dragons of the Valley

Series: Sequel to The Vanishing Sculptor

Author: Donita K. Paul

Genre: Tween (10-14 yr) fantasy

Excerpt from “Theft,” Chapter 1 of Dragons of the Valley:

Bealomondore stood in the doorway of the darkened hall. Shadows hid the statue he’d been ordered to steal.

His heart told him to retreat. His feet wouldn’t move. But the kimen, whose wildest flying lock of hair reached only to the tumanhofer’s knee, insisted that the statue be stolen.

The artist cast the kimen a menacing look. The rude little man had startled him out of a sound sleep and proposed this ridiculous escapade. Bealomondore only wanted to go back to his chamber. In the middle of the night, the proper place for an aristocratic tumanhofer was his bed.

He had not had time to dress properly. He looked disheveled. He straightened his tie, but he couldn’t do anything about his wrinkled shirt. He closed his fine dinner coat and fastened two ornate buttons.

Bealomondore resented the fact that the small creature had managed to get him out of his bed, dressed, and actually contemplating the theft. An apprentice stealing the work of his esteemed master? Ludicrous!

A painter turns into a reluctant swordsman when war threatens his homeland.

Craft: Yet another splendid novel from Ms. Paul!

Whimsical and charming, Dragons of the Valley is not a novel for those looking for a hard-edged realism. But if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief a little farther, this story will delight and entertain with its colorful cast of characters. I personally enjoyed the addition of minor dragon Rayn and kimen Hollee while my funny bone continues to be tickled by Fenworth and Lady Peg.

Unfortunately, the climax still lacks that last little zing to make this a truly fantastic book. While there’s sufficient tension and danger leading into the climax, the climax itself seems to fizzle. Somehow it fails to bring to a head everything that has gone before and then to trigger a logical and emotionally satisfying release. Maybe the problem seems to be solved too easily?

Nonetheless, this is one small problem that will probably be easily overlooked by many readers and will not mar too greatly the joy of this story.

Content: As diverse as the characters themselves, themes abound within the pages of Dragons of the Valley. Some of the ones that stick out to me include finding joy in God’s creation, learning to follow wherever God leads (even—or especially—when it’s not what you’d choose), and God’s equipping you with enough for whatever tasks you face.

Concerning other issues, there’s some minor fantasy violence (such as decapitating snakes) portrayed in a non-violent way, a light romantic thread presented quite chastely, and borderline magical elements (for further explanation on the magic from Ms. Paul herself, check out an earlier interview I did with her here.)

Summary: Though not perfect and not for everyone, Dragons of the Valley is a colorful, humorous, and whimsical tale that will capture the imagination of many.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—4, Overall—3.9 out of 5 stars

Check out my reviews of Ms. Paul's other books starting with DragonSpell or The Vanishing Scupltor, or order any or all the books here.

Disclaimer: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Another fine review, Chawna. Fred used a term to describe Donita's writing that I think is fitting. He called her work "cozy fantasy."


Donita K. Paul said...

Thank you for the review, Chawna. When people tell me I am a fantastic author, I always think about my endings. Thankfully, I have more stories to tell, thus more opportunities to improve.

Unknown said...

Good review, Chawna. I'd agree the story's a little more "simple" than other books of its genre, but then again, "Dragons of the Valley" is supposed to be understandable (and enjoyed) by all ages. And I think it gets the job done just fine.

Chawna Schroeder said...

Thanks, Becky, for the compliment on my review.

And thank you for stopping by, Ms. Paul. I have a great respect for your writing, and it has been a joy for me to watch how each book improves--and I look forward to seeing them improve even more in the future.

Avid, I'm not sure I would call Ms. Paul's books simple. They have a complexity all their own, one that looks deceptively simple. Rather, they have a gentle edge and view life not the cynicism of adulthood but the whismy of childhood. But however you term, I definately agree her stories will appeal to readers of many ages.

Unknown said...

Well, I mean "simple" compared to the adult fantasy genre--which is very, very large. For example, the Forgotten Realms series. They have so many plots and subplots going, it's difficult to keep track if you put down the book for more than 5 minutes. Mrs. Paul's books are well-plotted, yet remain easy to "grasp" and can be delved back into within moments.

Chawna Schroeder said...

Ah, I think I understand now, Avid. Yeah, Ms. Paul's book are pretty straight-forward. But it's a nice change from those more complex books, and those complex books are nice change from the straight-forward. :o) Isn't variety a wonderful thing?