John Wrieden,
The Souls of the Fire Dragon
(New Generation, 2010)

This fantasy novel is set in a world where there are magicians, but technology dominates and magic is frowned upon. However, the universe in this book is made of 10 parallel realities, with some having lots of magic and little technology. Each person has a counterpart in each reality. That is, each person except a young man named Akea. All of Akea's counterparts were eliminated at birth, and Akea was supposed to be killed too, but was saved by Fate. That leaves all the magic of all the Akea counterparts residing in the sole surviving version. And he lives in the world where magic is frowned upon, in a country where it is forbidden. It is a country run by a magician who hides his magic and who wants no competition.

Akea has another problem, beside being a magician living where magic is forbidden: he does not know how to control his magic. The first time he really lets it loose, dozens are killed, the friend he is trying to protect is still killed by the enemy, and Akea is devastated. He and his friends escape to the headquarters of a rebellion against the government. Then, he goes into training to learn to control his magic. One of his main instructors is a beautiful female dragon who can shape-shift into human form.

As the team of friends grows closer, in several ways, they formulate a plan to overthrow the oppressive, anti-magic government. Will the plan work? Will Akea be able to control his magic enough? And what will be the fate of Akea and the dragon? Oh, and speaking of fate, there are also deities intervening: Fate, Chance, Life and Death. Whose side are they on?

The main strength of this book is the premise, which creatively combines several interesting facets: alternate realities, magic versus technology, overthrowing a corrupt government and the interactions between humans and dragons. It also has several interesting characters, namely Akea and the dragon. But, is that enough to make it good? Sadly, no.

What hurts the book? The pace is quite uneven, with episodes of rapid action, but far too many lulls laden with unnecessary details. It was hard to stay awake at times.

Certain phrases are repeated enough to make me want to groan. One character routinely called everyone "old bean." When you see that as many as five times on a page, that is too much. "Mountains like a smile of broken teeth" is also overused in one section of the book. It is good imagery, but nothing stays fresh when used repeatedly. There were also too many missing words. The omitted words were usually articles, like "a" or "the."

If you look at the above-listed weaknesses, I think an easy summary is to say this book needed an editor and/or one or more proofreaders. I know from experience that, even with spell-check, that I can write something, read it over carefully, and simply not see that I did not write what I thought I did.

I really wanted to like this book, because of the creative conglomerate of facets to its premise. Execution hurt this book badly. If you like the basic premise, go for Brandon Sanderson's amazing Mistborn books.

review by
Chris McCallister

3 July 2010

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