Tag Archives: dragons

Book Reviews: Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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I received this book free for review from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell on this book is that it’s a fairly standard one of the genre in which a young person finds that they are somehow special or exceptional and must overcome some set of trials in order to achieve an elevated status in the world. Just think Harry Potter and the like.

This is a YA novel so I consider three simple questions when evaluating it. The first is to ask if I there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my kids to read it. I have a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to sex and drugs and this one is clean as a whistle in that respect. Kids won’t pick up any negative lessons and they certainly won’t learn any “new” words. For those that are of a deeply religious bent, do know there is magic and the like.

One small word of caution, however, that requires a non-specific spoiler. Our hero goes about his journey and comes to a conclusion that from the perspective of those not in the know, looks exactly like getting burned alive. I would not want readers to somehow get the impression that the best way to escape a troubling family situation has any resemblance whatsoever to actual death. I think the risk is fairly small but it is something to note.

The second question is to ask if there’s any reason I would want my kids to read it. I love when a book teaches a lesson and this one does a fair job of demonstrating the virtues of loyalty and dedication to a goal. While I don’t think these themes are necessarily front and center to the narrative they are present and certainly not overly intrusive to the story.

The last question is to ponder whether kids will actually want to read it. In this case, I think the story is a rich one and it gives the reader plenty to enjoy and look forward to on each succeeding page. My only reservation is that kids might get a tad confused because the book seems to lack continuity in places. I won’t go into specifics but it feels like the book has been cut down from a longer version and sometimes references to previous events creep in that were edited out. I can’t validate this, of course, but a few times I asked myself, “When did THAT happen?”

In summary, reading this as an adult I found it pretty entertaining and it is a solid entrant in the YA market. The aspect that stands out for me most is the ending. The author closed this story in a way that balanced closure and uncertainty brilliantly. I’d be intensely interested in reading a sequel; this could bloom into a wonderful series of books akin to Pern.

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Children’s Book: Princess Annalise and The Fat Dragon – (2/5)

As usual I didn’t pay for this book but instead received it free in exchange for a review, this time from LibraryThing. Also as usual I leave my scrupulously honest opinions below.

So, I’ll take a chance and just go all-out spoilers on this one because if you’re reading this review you’re probably not in a whole lot of suspense anyway. Long story short, princess finds a dragon who’s fat and can’t breath fire so he’s an outcast. So the nice princess puts the dragon on a work-out routine to shed all that unwanted “blubber” and get into shape so that the other dragons will like him.

I really appreciate what the author is trying to get at here, but the moral of this story really comes across to me as: “Change who you are so that people will like you.” That is really not the message that you want to send to children who might be a bit on the heavy side (or any other side for that matter). Beyond that, the text is rather disjointed and the art work is OK but suffers from poor layout on the Kindle.

In summary, I’m not letting any child of mine read this. Yikes.

— UPDATE —

I received a request from the author via email:

Thanks for reviewing my book: Princess Annalise and The Fat Dragon. I am sorry if you are thinking the moral of the story is: “Change who you are so that people will like you.” When I wrote the book I never thought comparing the fat dragon with the fat kid. I just thought the fat dragon getting skinny is funny but I never ever thought about comparing to a fat kid. So I really appreciate if you would like to change your review about my book.

My response:

Hi Olivia,

Firstly, I understand your concern and I don’t think that it was your intent to compare the fat dragon with fat children. The problem is that it’s not really about your intent in this case so much as the message that other people will receive when reading your book. Kids at a young age don’t make that distinction between talking animals or dragons and themselves.

If you show this book to a child with a weight problem, they’re probably going to feel bad and think that in order to be liked by anyone else, they too have to lose the “blubber” as you put it in the book. Similarly, if you show it to a child without a weight problem, they’re going to see every overweight person as someone who needs to lose weight. I’m not debating obesity but I would not want such a message put in front of my child because it’s OK for people to be who they are and they don’t need to change themselves so they will be liked.

Other reviewers may disagree and I welcome the discussion but I’m not going to change my review because of what you intended to write. I can’t review your book based on your intent. I have to review it based on the words on the page and how I think they may strike a reader. In this case, I don’t think this is a positive message so I cannot give it a positive review as a book to be read to young children.

I’m sure that must be a disappointment but I have to be honest with the people who shop on Amazon and give my honest opinion.


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In The Kingdom Of Dragons: Dwarf And Dragon – Reminds me strongly of an episode of the Smurfs

As usual I received this book free in exchange for a review; this time via NetGalley. Also as usual I give my scrupulously honest opinions below anyway.

This story is written in the standard fantasy milieu featuring grumpy, irascible, greedy dwarves and large destructive dragons that ravage the countryside or protect it depending on your point of view. We also have dual narrative threads with one existing in the real world and one taking place in a sort of dragonish afterlife of sorts.

On the positive side, the story flows along well enough I suppose and at least threatens to be interesting at times. There’s a reasonable amount of action but nothing you can’t tear your eyes away from. The cast of characters is broad and interesting enough, I suppose.

The negative side of this book though really does a good job of overshadowing anything good about it. Firstly, it reminds me strongly of an episode of the Smurfs. For those that remember the Smurfs used the the word ‘Smurf’ to mean just about anything from expletives to Smurfberry wine. This book has the same premise except that their word is Dragon. They’ve got the Dragon guard that wears Dragon leather and they have Dragon shields and they all drink dragon blood, though it’s not clear if this is an every day thing or just an occasional thing. All this focus on dragons despite the fact that there only really seems to be one dragon in evidence early on and he’s certainly not big enough to be supplying all this leather and blood by himself. If I had a dollar for every time this book mentions drinking dragon blood I could go buy a better book… or ten.

Continuing on the negative side, while the cast of characters is broad, it’s not really clear to me as a reader who belongs to which race. Characters flit into the story with almost no introduction and then vanish for a hundred pages. Those characters that are left and consistently present seem to behave in ways that don’t make a lot of sense and generally the cause given for any erratic behavior is that someone at some point has gone and drunk dragon blood, or drank the blood of someone who drank dragon blood, or been around someone who drank dragon blood. You get the idea.

In summary, there’s the kernel of something good here but it seems to be just a kernel. The whole thing is so intent on talking about dragons and all the great drink recipes that exist for their life’s blood that we forgot to have a sensical plot. It’s possible that this book could be great but right now it’s just … not.


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Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3 by James Maxey

Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3 by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As is my usual preamble, I received this book as part of a GoodReads giveaway. In fact, I would like to thank the author once again because not only did he send me this book in specific, but also the two predecessors as well. Despite this very kind consideration, I give my honest feedback below.

So, you’ve no doubt noticed that in addition to this book I also made my way through the previous two books the author sent along. When I received the unexpectedly voluminous package in the mail I will admit that my first thought was, to put it succinctly, “I sure hope these don’t suck.” There’s nothing worse than 1100 pages that you feel mildly obligated to read. Luckily, those thousand plus pages were really quite engaging.

In previous reviews I’ve gone on and on about Maxey’s originality, his ability to stretch the typical “ogres and dwarves” platform to entertaining limits and his unique ability to mix sex, violence and fantasy in just the right ratios. In deference to those recent reviews I won’t prattle on further about those characteristics. However, a new thing that I realized about the series in this book specifically was that he has a very solid way of just letting things go once they’ve played out. In a lot of modern books characters and plotlines carry on far beyond their welcome. They’re like Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform. You can understand why someone might have thought it was a good idea but ultimately you just wonder if it would have been better had things just ended. Authors seem to get married to their characters and drag them on and on through book after book. In Maxey’s books when a character’s work is done they just die. You mourn for a moment and then, like life, Maxey comes along with something else to entertain you. He’s an author who’s in love with his world, but like any God he’s willing to just let bits and pieces go for the benefit of the whole. It’s surprisingly refreshing.

In summary, I will relate a brief illustrative story. My fiancée perused a few pages on the strength of my previous reviews and after a short read she handed it back to me and stated simply, “reads like Tolkien.” Early on I had the same thought but felt it rather cliché to put such a thing in a review but I think she’s right. There’s just something that rings true about Maxey’s work, a richness that’s missing in almost of all of his modern peers. It should be noted that my fiancée didn’t express any desire to read the rest; this is clearly ‘guy lit’ but that should not diminish the positivity with which it should be regarded.

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Hush (Dragon Apocalypse, #2)

Hush (Dragon Apocalypse, #2)Hush by James Maxey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a slight variation to a usual theme, I received this book as a result of a GoodReads giveaway but somewhat indirectly. I won the third book in the series but the author was exuberantly kind enough to send the entire series. Despite this wonderfully kind consideration, my candid opinions follow below.

Like Maxey’s immediately previous novel, Greatshadow, this book has a touch of everything. Sex, violence, and humor abound in optimal proportions. Hush picks up exactly where Greatshadow leaves off and continues the same basic plotline. While this is a continuation of previous work Maxey does a good job of helping the second novel stand on its own if you haven’t made time for the first.

Hush is a novel almost identical in tone to the first though at one point the story does become rather maudlin. Otherwise our author does very well at build a milieu for the reader that is not only entertaining but thought provoking. As usual Maxey proves himself a master of the fantasy genre.

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Greatshadow (Dragon Apocalypse, #1)

Greatshadow (Dragon Apocalypse, #1)Greatshadow by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a slight variation to a usual theme, I received this book as a result of a GoodReads giveaway but somewhat indirectly. I won the third book in the series but the author was exuberantly kind enough to send the entire series. Despite this wonderfully kind consideration, my candid opinions follow below.

It is difficult to begin without resorting to cliche, assuming that the opening about winning a book in a GoodReads giveaway is not already cliche. Maxey’s work, to sum it up, has a touch of everything. There’s a slight thread of testosterone. A twinge of adventure. A modicum of adventure. A dollop of humor (the long accepted standard unit of humor has long been acknowledged to be the dollop, I will point out). Unlike the vast majority of novels which try to walk such a wending and tormented path, Maxey’s work actually manages to make it all function together in a pleasing way. The humor isn’t tortured. The testosterone isn’t fetid. The adventure isn’t overwrought. It all balances well together and through the whole thing he manages to introduce fresh new ideas. He takes the standard orc/ogre/dwarf/elf milieu and stretches it into something that has the and pleasing aroma of originality.

To back up moderately, Maxey’s plotline is nothing fancy or innovative. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy-girl somewhat happy though ironically and comically star-crossed, boy-girl set out to slay terrible beast. There’s nothing shocking about any of that but the brush that Maxey paints with is one of almost dizzying originality.

Furthering the positive commentary, Maxey isn’t afraid to make a broader statement with his work. His villains aren’t mere pasteboard with no analogous relative in real life, no simple shadows upon a puppeteer’s screen. Like Tolkien before him he has a sociological statement to make and he’s not afraid to put it front and center.

In summary, and resorting completely to cliché, this book is one of the most entertaining things I’ve read in a long time. While it is fairly narrow in scope to the fantasy genre, among those players I think it ranks rather highly. Greatshadow is great “mind cake” with a thin thread of substance for those who wish to partake of it. To put it even more summarily, I’m impressed. I’ve read quite a lot of trite and worthless drivel and this quite nicely makes up for it. Highly recommended.

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