Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Michael A. Heald; A Rumor of Dragons

Marc is a Prince of Cathgar, and he seems to have little control of his own life. He is beloved by his father, and closely watched over by a Wizard named Kili. Marc has been betrothed to a Princess in Farling, a small kingdom some ways away. His future bride Alisse does not know that Marc was born without hands; and Marc’s insecurities about this betrothal are only part of his worries. Cathgar is under siege, his family endangered, and his own life in peril. He must escape to safety into a world he has been sheltered from; and learn truths that his lifelong teachings conflict with.

These characters reside on the world of Ganus. This planet is stretched to its limits every few thousand years by the passing of another planetary object. This last passing has left it scarred; and with a permanent dayside and nightside. There is a new passing to occur soon, and the world, both magical and physical is in turmoil. There are hints that dragons may be returning; after an absence so long that they’ve become myth. They are somehow linked to this planetary event; whether as part of the cause or part of the cure remains to be seen.

A Rumor of Dragons is an interesting work. There is a gritty bleakness to this world; and the characters are not the glossy, superhuman heroes of traditional fantasy, but flawed and insecure souls, with all the issues and baggage we have and more. The reader is taken chapter to chapter, switching back and forth from various character stories, as they slowly wend their way towards one another. This story ingeniously blends the forces of physics with metaphysics; magic and sorcery to tell the tale of Ganus and its people. It was artfully done.

I have a few criticisms of this book. First, there are chapters that stand out as ‘rough’ against the others. This is generally a polished work, however every once in a while, I ran into a chapter that was overly simplistic; short sentences, limited description, undeveloped conversation and motivations, and it would then segue into a chapter that is the complete opposite. It was disconcerting; as if I were reading chapters done by different authors, or done years apart. The second criticism I have is the use of the much-abused and overused device of the ‘wait-and-see’ ending. It is obvious the author intends to have a chronicle of stories based on this world, however even with closure of the main story, I felt extremely unsatisfied after following two particular characters to find that I would not know what happens until the next book. There is also a bit of a predictable nature to some aspects of the story. As a final nitpicking, the cover is beautiful, but it reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I understand how it correlates with the story; however I am not sure how well it will work in attracting Fantasy Readers. I could be wrong, but nevertheless, I’m a reviewer, so I must say these things. In general, the editing for this book was very good; I found only a few mishaps here and there.

All in all, A Rumor of Dragons is the beginning of an excellent chronicle of the world Ganus. I really resonated to the whole idea of introducing this delicious blend of science and the supernatural; I thought it was one of the most compelling elements of the story. I also reveled in each character’s flaws, weaknesses and imperfections; I found them extremely realistic and believable. To me, that’s refreshing in a Fantasy novel.

I have a lot to say about this book, but I am really torn about the rating. Despite my going through a very stressful time, I managed to finish the book. I carried it with me on multiple flights to the east coast and back, and it is dog-eared and roughed up by constant interruptions. The fact that I wanted to finish it says something. Despite my large paragraph of criticisms, I still believe this is a notable book. I think this author can go nowhere else but up from here, and so I am giving this book the full five medallions for bringing such a gripping, and unique perspective to the Fantasy Genre.

Paperback: 396 pages
Publisher: (January 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1430325097