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The Good and the (Mostly) Bad
on February 18, 2007
I found "Dragonspell" in an interesting way. My mom and I were in the bookstore, and she found it in the Christian Fiction section. Now, I'm no expert, but usually one doesn't find a book with both the words "Dragon" and "Spell" in the Christian section. So I bought it, out of interest.
There really is too much to say about this book, good and bad. So I'll start with the good.
First, Kale was a good -- if a little uninteresting -- character, at least in the fact that she didn't preach as much as some other characters did. Paladin was excellent, and while I have a feeling the author felt that in order for Dragonspell to be Christian fiction she HAD to have an allegory for God and Jesus, I do think she did Paladin well. I DON'T feel the same for Wulder (the God-allegory) probably because of His name. Wulder is just a strange name for God. Ms. Paul should have stuck with one of God's real names or a variant of it (if Wulder really IS one of God's names that I don't know about, I'll swallow my words, prickly as they may be). Patrick Carman, despite the fact that I feel his trilogy spirals downhill with each book, did this very well with the God-allegory of Elyon, which comes from El Elyon, another name of God.
Anyhow. My favorite character was Wizard Fenworth, who was bar-none the best of all. His random quirkiness was a breath of fresh air with all the other stuffy characters, and the fact that Donita K. Paul dared to have a good wizard in her Christian fantasy book marks her up in my esteem, since most self-righteous critics have usually forgotten that Lewis and Tolkien did the same.
Now for the bad. First, the plot itself: at times it was good, but mostly it moved around oddly and I would forget what I'd read because none of it made sense. Never was this so apparent than in the "climax", which consists of the Fellowship of the Ring-esque party of questers standing still while Wizard Risto invades their minds and all they have to do is think "I stand under Wulder's authority" over...and over...and over. There is no fighting. The heinous Risto would never actually think of KILLING one of Paladin's servants while they called upon His authority. Perhaps that's how it works in real life and perhaps not, but that is NOT how it works in fantasy, and that's certain.
Now for the characters. Ms. Paul needs to learn something very important about writing: whether or not your characters are Christians (or, in this case, servants of Paladin) THEY ARE NEVER PERFECT. It doesn't work and it annoys readers. When Leetu was kidnapped, I swear all I could think of was, "Hooray!" I hated that girl. She was so arrogant and stuffy and preachy, and looked down on Kale so much, and yet called herself a servant of Paladin and was considered as such! I wouldn't mind if this was meant to represent the legalistic Christians of the world, but Kale and everyone else actually look up to Leetu!
And Dar. Dar, while in the beginning a good character, was just too preachy. His constant reminders of how servants of Paladin were to act were just ANNOYING. Every one of the "good" characters in Dragonspell were not only good, they were perfect, and this drives me crazy. The only one who needed instruction was Kale, and this was because she was new. I desperately hope that there will be some moral dilemma in a future book, something that makes Kale think and actually QUESTION what is right when it's ambiguous. Probably not, though. Moral ambiguity is too scary for most authors to attempt, particularly Christian authors, who seem to feel that if their characters do wrong or have doubts about what's right, they are encouraging their readers to do wrong and have doubts. But this is what real life is like, and if you don't believe that, you're just lying to yourself.
I'll be reading Dragonquest, but unless it's significantly better I doubt I'll bother with the third book.
2 1/2 stars.