Tag Archives: dragons

Review: One Realm Beyond, by Donita K. Paul

One Realm Beyond, by Donita K. PaulOne Realm Beyond, by Donita K. Paul (Zondervan, 2014)

At 20 years old, Cantor is ready to step from apprenticeship into his role as a realm walker. His first solo assignment? Travel in another realm until he finds the mor dragon who will be his partner.

Cantor knows better than to accept the first dragon he meets, especially since the dragon manages to set himself on fire (while disguised as a haystack). But the dragon, Bridger, keeps following him.

Soon Cantor joins up with two other strangers to this realm and the three humans, plus the dragon and his cat, mount a daring attempt to rescue some imprisoned villagers.

Isn’t the cover art great?

Donita K. Paul’s worlds and cultures are always richly imagined and filled with lifelike details, and here she’s working with a number of different worlds—the different realms which the walkers access through portals.

One Realm Beyond is a good read for the YA market and for adults. The characters are engaging and they take on what looks like an impossible task in their desire to challenge the Realm Walkers Guild’s corruption. The book sets the scene for the series to follow. To me, it feels like two short episodes combined to reach novel length, and I found the transition between them a bit abrupt.

Within the story, the characters face issues and questions common to us here on earth: a ruling council corrupted by greed, places of worship with declining attendance, and the question of why a good deity would allow evil to flourish. For the characters, as for us, there are no easy answers, but Cantor and his friends will fight for justice and not accept the lie of “what can so few do against so many?”

Donita K. Paul is known for her young adult fantasy novels and the dragons she brings to life in them. I didn’t realize she’s also the author of a number of romances, under the names Kathleen Paul and Donita Kathleen Paul. Visit donitakpaul.com for more about the author, or click here to read a sample chapter of One Realm Beyond.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Review: Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina, by Rachel HartmanSeraphina, by Rachel Hartman (Doubleday, 2012)

What’s a young woman to do when she needs to be anonymous but has a musical gift that won’t stay hidden? Seraphina is an outsider. She doesn’t fit in, and she can’t risk letting anyone close enough to discover her secret. But her new job is to assist the court composer, direct the orchestra in his absence, and teach harpsichord to Princess Glisselda.

The story world has a mediaeval European or British feel, with kingdoms, castles and knights. And dragons who can look like humans. The dragon/human war ended in a truce almost 40 years ago, but there’s still deep distrust between the two sides. As the anniversary celebrations approach, hostilities are increasing.

Seraphina herself is a half-dragon, and that’s the source of her (and her father’s) shame. She looks human, except for a few scaly spots that she keeps hidden. She’s a biological impossibility, and an offense against both laws and morals. But the very things she thinks disqualify her from belonging may be the gifts she brings to keep the peace.

Because she understands both perspectives, she finds herself drawn into preventing a crisis that could plunge the world back into war. This means working closer than she’d like with Princess Glisselda and the handsome Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. The more Seraphina cares for them both, the harder it is to deceive them about her true nature.

Seraphina is one of those rare books that I wanted to read slowly to make the story last. The characters, setting and plot weave a rich and enjoyable tapestry. They feel real, despite being so clearly not of our world. This is a novel I will read again.

Rachel Hartman has done a beautiful job of letting the characters struggle with issues many of us know intimately: belonging and truth. There’s no sense of a forced agenda or message-driven plot. The characters, especially Seraphina and Kiggs, live their questions in front of us, and we can relate.

There’s much more to the novel than I can describe in a review. If you’re at all fond of fantasy or historical novels and you’re not threatened by a quirky fictional religion, give it a try. And prepare to lose yourself in the pages. It’s a young adult novel by nature of the characters’ ages, but it’s a satisfying read for adults as well, especially those who may struggle with belonging or who love music.

Seraphina is, unbelievably, a debut novel. I’m glad there’ll be a sequel. You can learn more about Rachel Hartman and about Seraphina on her website.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Kingdom, by Benjamin T. Collier

The Kingdom, by Benjamin T. Collier (Word Alive Press, 2011)

The Kingdom is a short novella, under 100 pages, but it pulls readers into an intriguing fantasy world of kingdoms, knights, princesses and mythical flying beasts.

The story draws on classic fantasy and fairy tale elements such as the princess enduring endless presentations from eligible-but-boring suitors, the corrupt steward ruling in the good king’s absence, the strong hero and his fantastic animal companion (in this case, a dragon-like creature called a wyvern).

One of the twists: the “strong hero” might be considered a villain. And Princess Nevaeh is no damsel in distress. She’s a strong young woman looking for a partner, not a rescuer.

Nevaeh and the villain/hero, Roy, are each looking for someone who’ll love them for who they are—and neither is looking for a person like the other. Behind the romance is another kind of love and trust as Nevaeh waits confidently for her father, the good king, to return as promised, when the rest of the kingdom considers him lost at sea.

Canadian author Benjamin T. Collier writes with vivid description and humour. In contrast with epic fantasy and its multiple plot threads, he keeps a tight focus on Nevaeh’s story. The world he’s envisioned could support a more complex weaving of plots, and if he decides to revisit it in the future there would be plenty to explore.

You can find Benjamin at his blog, and you might want to check out my interview with him.

Review: The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul

The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul

The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul (WaterBrook Press, 2009)

In the land of Chiril, a young woman named Tipper tries to keep the dwindling family estate together. Her father, famed sculptor Verrin Schope, disappeared a long time ago. Her mother claims he talks to her at night, but Lady Peg is scattered at best. Tipper is reduced to selling household furnishings and her father’s beloved statues to meet expenses. It doesn’t help that Lady Peg will buy back everything she sees in the market because it’s “just what I’ve always wanted.”

Verrin Schope reappears—out of thin air—with two companions who will bring smiles of recognition to readers of the author’s DragonKeeper series: wizard Fenworth and his librarian, Librettowit. Tipper, her trusted guardian Sir Beccaroon (a talking Great Parrot), a struggling artist and four minor dragons join them on a dangerous quest.

It seems three of the statues Tipper sold must be reunited… to save her father’s life and the land itself. The questing party is completed by a dragon keeper and four riding dragons.

The novel isn’t all swashbuckling adventure, although these moments do come in satisfying fashion. As with a true quest, it begins with preparation, travel and searching. In the process, it binds this group of diverse characters into a team.

The Vanishing Sculptor is described as “a fantastic journey of discovery for all ages.” It’s rich in language and setting, yet presented in a straightforward young adult style. Wizard Fenworth’s robes shed small creatures whenever he moves, and there are enough bugs to please the young and young at heart.

The tale is also woven with threads of spirituality, truth and character. It’s not a fast read, but very pleasing.

My 12-year-old son and I both enjoyed it. My only complaint is that I took a liking to Hue, the purple singing dragon. Dragons are never pets, but I’d very much like for him to come live with us. My son says this will not happen.

Perhaps I’ll see Hue in a sequel to The Vanishing Sculptor. Donita K. Paul’s first series, DragonKeeper, spanned five books. You can read the first chapter of The Vanishing Sculptor here.