An average gradeschooler is literally sucked out of his house into a magical kingdom where he becomes an honored guest – and their only hope for reversing a centuries-old curse. Adventures and gimmicks ensue.
After chapter 2, this kid fantasy picks up, making it enjoyable, if not extraordinary.
UPDATE: I understand from the author that a revised edition of this book has been published.
I didn’t really find Blast of the Dragon’s Fury: A Hilarious Dragon Epic Fantasy Book with Dragons funny; perhaps if I thought farting was amusing…
I had just finished a YA school story when I picked up Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, so I was not impressed with the first chapter. Poor, average Andy Smithson goes through his highly average day at a yawningly average school. Andy’s 11-year-old troubles are told in brief, undefined strokes. Teachers and classes are named for the sake of being named, or for the sake of sending Andy to the office. His home life is presented in a judgment, not in nuanced character interaction. Finally, Andy himself gave no indication of being more than a stultifyingly everyman gradeschooler.
Nevertheless, my obsessive compulsiveness got the better of me, and I kept reading. Despite the “negative empathy” between me and the book, the later chapters started to be more interesting. Andy made friends and was placed in situations where he could actually act, rather than go through motions intended to make him “relatable” to the standard kid.
The exploration of his character made him more interesting, and his developing friendship with someone his own age deepened the emotional significance of the adventure. When they finally set out on their quest, I was much more invested.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but think Blast comes short of the legacy left by C. S. Lewis, for instance. First, Andy is “the chosen one”, but who or what chose him is less profound than in Narnia. Also, why he was chosen is very etherial. Granted, the Pevensies weren’t necessarily extraordinary in their own right – but Aslan the Lion, the Son of the Emperor Over the Sea, the High King over all High Kings, was doing most of the heavy work anyway. As long as Peter, Lucy, and the others leaned on the strength He gave, they could do the impossible because there was something more than them at work. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was admittedly an allegory, but even parts of Blast make it feel like it wants to be an allegory, but the author’s worldview is too undefined to make a profound statement. She includes the classic “lessons” that young protagonists must learn, but her morality is rooted in nothing deeper than “having patience is better” – as opposed to Lewis, whose deep Christian faith informed the why of his fantasy’s morality (again, as a very deliberate allegory).
There are also a great many trappings of the classic fantasy that felt like deliberately aiming at a younger audience than I. The land’s king, who befriends Andy, has ways of magically spying on our world, and eagerly observes our technological advances to find a cure for the mysterious (and undefined) Curse. The king recalls commissioning artwork from Da Vinci, dresses like Steve Jobs (hoping some of the creativity will transfer), and eats cold cereal, toast, and chocolate chip cookies. The whole world of Oomaldee feels like a commercialized parade of things designed to evoke the “FANTASY” genre – a boy with green hair, a magic sword with a mind of its own, “gold spinners” (I’m not sure what purpose they served at all–perhaps foreshadowing a further book), even “medieval rock bands” performing at the national fair. Lots of modern references that connected the book to our own culture, but didn’t really make the world within it more unique.
In mentioning the sword, I touch another issue: the piling up of gadgets. Especially in the first half of the book, magic trinkets and oh-so-cool prophesies were gifted to Andy, so that I was again reminded the target audience is about ten years younger than I. I could deal with one or two coincidences that name Andy as The Chosen One to free Oomaldee from the Curse (again, no in-depth explanation). Add in a glowey sword, magical voices, cryptic messages (from the enigmatic powers that seem to be pulling the strings and stunts) – and I feel overwhelmed with the lack of subtlety and deftness. Brevity is the soul of wit (regardless of my garrulous posts), and as someone else has elegantly described, I feel Blast suffers from a case of too-much-shiny.
All this might suggest that I didn’t enjoy the book. To the contrary, despite my ill-humored reticence, Andy’s developing heroism and his strengthening bond with his friends drew me in. Once we left behind the copy-cat king, the world felt more fresh, and the mounting of genuine obstacles to Andy’s quest carried me along through his trek across the fantastic countryside, until he ended in semi-victory. Then, at the moment when precious backstory was finally unwinding, and the next step in breaking the curse was at hand (getting answers about backstory, obviously), the book ended.
I felt a twinge akin to when the protagonist (Gordon Freeman) of Half-life 2 Episode 2 is listening to his friend Dr. Vance, gleaning precious tidbits about their so-called “mutual friend” (who Gordon presumably knows, but the player still doesn’t) and suddenly Alyx comes back into the room. Dr. Vance says, “We’ll talk later.” No! This is why I’m invested in the characters! This is the answer to what’s going on, why these things are happening, who that creepy “friend” is! Nevermind. Cutscene over – go fight more aliens now.
Book over. Go buy the next one. (Mwahaha – you know you want to!)
Actually, I probably won’t. Not just because I have piles of free ebooks still waiting to be read, but because I don’t trust this author enough. My lingering distaste from that first chapter of generalities plagues me yet. I don’t mind slow beginnings – when they’re called for and expected. However, given the emphatic, over-the-top title, I was expecting something more substantial than an over-hyped juvenal jaunt through a land part original, part borrowed.
I probably had skewed expectations. But if I were advising this author, I’d suggest feeding more of the backstory into the first chapter, and putting more work to showing Andy as a unique prototype that could be molded into a hero, rather than every other preteen kid who thinks they’re misunderstood. Then, even people without a review-hungry blog to fill with material would read past the sections of “telling” (vs. “showing”) to where it gets good.
UPDATE: I understand from the author that a revised edition of this book is in the works. Use your own judgement in evaluating these complaints, as they might no longer apply.
Blast of the Dragon’s Fury is available for FREE on Amazon (here). I was not required to write a review for my copy, positive, lukewarm, heated, or otherwise.
L. R. W. Lee’s website is lrwlee.com (here).
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