Thursday, January 8, 2009

Challenge Update and Musings

Well, first I'll get to the update about the challenge. I have officially finished my first novel of the New Year -- Shana Abe's The Smoke Thief.

This one was an interesting read to say the least. I picked it up because it was one of the only fantasy books that the Wal-Mart in my hometown carried, and the storyline intrigued me. The story is about a clan of dragons -- or, rather drakons -- that live in a secluded village in England. One thing I liked about this book was the presentation of the dragons. The ones mentioned in the novel -- I'm not ruling out other powers in dragons not mentioned -- could transform (Turn) between a human form, a dragon form, and a smoke form. This was interesting, because, unlike one of my friends who is actually consulting the Dragonology book because those are "the accepted guidelines for dragons" Abe did whatever she pleased with these. I like stories that take things that have been done a lot, like dragons, and turn them on their heads.

Another interesting thing about this novel was the behavior of the dragons. They were intelligent beings, basically humans with enhanced senses, but they were also driven by instinct and ancient decrees. When the Alpha male dragon meets the Alpha female dragon, they were supposed to wed. However, in case you haven't guessed, the heroine does not agree with these practices, and so she spends a lot of the novel fighting her instincts and her natural attraction towards the Alpha male.

This is where things get a little wobbly. The storyline is intriguing: Dragons are forbidden from leaving their little shire. However, Rue -- the heroine -- hates the society. She feels out of place, and the idea of marrying because of custom or nature rather than love disgusts her. So, she fakes her own death and moves to London where she uses her Gifts in the art of thievery. She becomes known as The Smoke Thief, and has all sorts of nifty connections to the seedy London underbelly. Of course, they eventually find her, and she's supposed to return, but the dragon's magical diamond has been stolen by another rogue dragon, and so the two Alphas must team up to get it back. Intriguing for me. Not your typical fantasy story.

However, the story seems to get bogged down with the two characters internal musings about each other. I love him, but I don't. He disgusts me, but he's so sexy. I love her, but I also want her. She's mine by nature, but I want her to return my feelings. There are several times in the novel where the action totally haults because the Alpha male gets a little too horny and tries to go all the way with Rue. All in all, though, I thought it was okay. I think it was good for me, because it was much different than the sword and sorcery fantasy that I usually read, and more romance than I'm used to reading as well.

With that out of the way, I thought I might talk about favorite authors. Is there an author that you grew up reading? Someone that, once you could read adult books, you just couldn't get enough of?

When I was in middle school, I got to read one of my first really long books. I'd read all those children's classics -- Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Harriet the Spy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia -- but my first really adult book was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. From there, I believe I moved onto The Dead Zone. I read a good portion of Stephen King's bibliography during my middle school and high school days. I read every King book I could get my hands on: Misery, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Christine, The Talisman, the entire Dark Tower series, Black House, Dreamcatcher, etc.

Then, my friend turned me onto fantasy with the Shannara books, and I started reading every fantasy book I could find. Mostly, books that take place in our world were left behind. The next book on my list, however, is Blaze by "Richard Bachman", aka, Stephen King, and when I read the introduction the first couple of pages, I felt a unique and bizarre feeling. It was almost like a bridge had been built to the past, and I wasn't a almost 20 year old college student anymore, I was an 11 year old kid reading under his covers with a flashlight and the lights out after everyone else had gone to bed. It was a great feeling, like visiting with an old friend that you haven't seen in years (and King's habit of addressing his readers as 'Constant Reader' probably helped a little, too). Do you have any authors that, when you read them, they take you back to your childhood or teen years?


Barrie said...

That is so weird. A friend who was visiting yesterday evening mentioned the Shannara book. Strange...

Anyway, I'm putting together a blog round-up where we all post a book review the first Wed of the month (beginning Feb 4). I'll link to everyone. Let me know if you're interested.

PJ Hoover said...

I loved the Shannara books, too. I think the began my resurgence to fantasy, also.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Wow! That books sounds exactly like a romance novel, but starring two human/dragon beings. Very interesting.

My first (memorable) adult books were by Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, both romantic suspense. But I can't claim to feel like a kid again when I'm reading them. :)

By the way, I love your new blog template!

Jason said...

Barrie: Sounds cool, but I don't know how reliable I'd be. I'll have a lot of reading this semester, but it won't necessarily be fiction. Not to mention writing for Creative Writing.

PJ: I really like them, too. They were my first taste of fantasy, before I knew who J.R.R. Tolkien was, or what the Lord of the Rings even was.

Alyssa: It was a romance. Technically, it won the "Historical Romance of the Year" award or something of that nature. Didn't bother me, except when things were dire, and they would get distracted with each other and the "call of the wild" instead of chasing the bad guy -- who they literally JUST saw running away, lol.

I've heard of Victoria Holt. I think my mom reads her.

Thanks! I was really tired of the bland grey template.

beth said...

Awesome review...I'd picked this book up, but now I want to buy it and read it!

beth said...

Meant to add:

I'm with you on innovation more than reference when it comes to fantasy. I don't know how innovative a dragon story could be when it's based on the mythological "authority" of Dragonology

Jason said...

I was completely shocked when my friend said she was using Dragonology as reference for her story. It would be like using a Dungeons and Dragons player's handbook as reference for race characteristics. But she decided it was a wise move.