When Nearra awoke in the woods, she couldn’t remember who she was. After an attack by goblins, nearly being eaten by a dragon, and almost getting run down by a minotaur, she collects a group of friends (a ranger, a warrior, a kinder adventurer, an elfin guide, and the minotaur) who help her on her quest to discover who she is. Her only hope is to find a mystical temple and ask the priests and priestesses there to heal her. But it’s a dangerous trip, and there are all kinds of evil folks chasing them, and one in their own group may be a traitor…
This book, as it turns out, is part of the giant mass of Dragonlance gaming franchise, though It’s a new series, written at a juvenile level (labeled ages 10 and up). I didn’t realize this going in, and so a lot of my moments of confusion may well be due to not knowing the greater world. There was, obviously, a lot of world building behind it, that I was clear on; all sorts of backstory and histories, lots of fantasy species, and lots of…well, stuff. But the problem with all of this is that very little of it was explained, and when it was (such as the colors of the dragons corresponding with their alignment of good or evil) it was dropped in large exposition chunks, so basically everything was either over- or under-explained. So overall, the fantasy aspect of it read a little awkwardly.
The much bigger problem was the pacing/POV strangeness. (Warning: this whole section includes spoilers. Most of them are given away early in the book, though, so it isn’t a huge deal.) Though the book largely uses Nearra as the POV character, it does move to other people’s when important things that Nearra doesn’t witness happen. What makes this odd isn’t the switches themselves, which are smooth enough, but what they reveal. Within the first third of the book, the villain essentially spells out what he wants with Nearra, which would have been a more dramatic reveal later. Second, the POV switch points out that Davyn, the ranger who initially found and befriended Nearra, is the traitor and is being paid off by the villain. But the thing is, none of this seems to be done to much of a purpose. The reveals would be more dramatic later, but instead we know what’s going on with Nearra fairly early, and Davyn…well, he would be more interesting if we didn’t know. Instead, he clues the reader in, then proceeds to be wishy-washy but kind of bad-ish until he is, in turn, betrayed by the villains.
Then there’s the end. It was…not good. Not the climax or itself, which was fine, but the actual end: show
Other than that, the book was…fine. The characters were all pretty typical fantasy archetypes; the quest was a fairly typical fantasy quest; the whole thing was really…generic. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t…anything. I think it would be a fine introduction to fantasy for a kid, but after having read any fantasy at all, I think it would fall a bit short. Two cupcates.
Tags: Tim Wagoner