Happy New Year, my foodies! A new year brings new hopes and plenty of fresh new recipes to sample here in the Starving Review kitchens. We’re going to try to start things off on a high note with a serving of high fantasy from a first-time chef. Will this Dragon’s Prophecy fortell fine dining or rifling through a restaurant dumpster?
Before we find out, let’s place our hands over our hearts to recite the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
I want to start our review of this repast by saying that I quite liked this one. The characters of the large troupe-style cast were endearing, the world imaginative, and the core plot intriguing. However, each core element also has a few stumbles, a few sour notes, so it would be remiss of me not to take each core element and give it the pros and the cons.
Like any good meal, the heart of Prophecy is its characters. Our cast of major protagonists is large, with what I could consider six vital ones, and the chef tries to make each one really spring from the page. Each of these six (and a few minor characters as well) have Point-of-View sections throughout the book and this is where things taste both sweet and sour, in turns. While I enjoyed each character’s perspective, there was far from an even balance of these, even among the four ‘key’ characters. While each felt unique, they were plumbed to different depths, meaning that some tasted spicy and delightful while others were a touch cardboard. I would have enjoyed a bit more balance in the perspectives we sampled, but this is a minor complaint, as the protagonists are strong enough to shine through when they do take center stage.
It is the antagonists that really get only a dash of seasoning in this meal. While a good few courses of the meal deal more with internal conflicts, we still have several major ‘take-over-the-world’ villains in the mix, yet we have little to no time or characterization spent on them. What time we do get focused on them is marred by at least one character’s very stereotypical modes of address (I never though I’d read the phrase ‘his/her evilness’ outside of a comedy or as a joke). Still, with the more character-driven conflicts taking center stage for most of the book, this remains a minor issue and one that could go away in later books of what looks to be the start of an extended series.
Setting and world-building, vital elements in a fantasy recipe, are treated with care by our chef. Prophecy’s world has hallmarks of classic fantasies, yet fears not to tread its own path. The exposition is handled well and never is overbearing, with it all blended smoothly into the batter of the main story. I never found myself confused or wanting for core information and that’s a good thing! The only problem I had with consistency of the fantasy elements is more of an issue with plot and continuity, but it’s quite Spoilers. All I can say is one moment passes where everyone seems to forget a particular character has a previously mentioned ability that would eliminate a threat, yet it is not forgotten in the big finale.
As for plot, the key plot points are classic ones, dealing with good versus evil, societal and cultural issues, and the trauma of war. It’s all fine ingredients to add to any meal and, for the most part, the plot works. There’s enough fresh thought to prevent some of the more predictable, ‘classic’ plot turns from being boring, and there’s enough twists to keep the predictable from being TOO predictable. My key critiques would be that I wish there was actually a bit more to the book. The tail end seems a bit too compact and, with such a large cast, more time with each character would have been welcome, especially at certain key points that seemed rushed. Still, nothing is left out and the final climactic conflict is handled quite well. I never desired to put it down or just stop reading from disinterest. Kudos are in order, as well, for another series writer who realizes each individual book needs a complete story arc. Prophecy delivers well on that point, starting and ending a complete story while leaving trails of crumbs to lead the reader further along into the broader metaplot of the series.
At the end of the day, The Dragon’s Prophecy is an intriguing new high fantasy meal from a fresh chef, not perfect but ripe with potential! If you like fantasy novels and need a fresh series to pick up, nab this one for sure. If fantasy doesn’t do it for you, you might be more put-off by the collection of ‘first-timer’ slips than fans of the genre, so be more cautious if you think about grabbing this. I, personally, look forward to seeing what Ms. Powers can do with the second book in the series!
FINAL VERDICT: **** (An intriguing new high fantasy meal from a fresh chef, not perfect but ripe with potential!)