Monday, February 27, 2012

George Grove and the Dragon (LJ Lawry)

George Grove and the Dragon
(The George Grove series, Book 1)
LJ Lawry
The George Grove Project
Fiction, YA Fantasy
* (Terrible)

DESCRIPTION: Roddy and his two best friends, Dex and Gaz, have been inseparable since primary school... but, if Roddy's posh mother has her way, this will be their last summer together. She enrolled Roddy in St. Jude's, where he might make some worthwhile acquaintances to raise the family's status, while Dex and Gaz - both from "disadvantaged" homes - will attend the notoriously troubled George Grove school. The boys already have plans to work around that obstacle, utilizing Dex's peculiar ability to make others see what he wants them to see and Gaz's uncanny skill at slipping in and out of the most unusual places. In the meantime, they have another, far more interesting summer project to keep them together: a very strange egg, which hatched out a very strange lizard. It only eats petrol and other combustibles, and it has strange winglike growths on the back of its glittery-scaled body... but surely it's just some sort of exotic gecko. After all, dragons are like magic: neither exist in modern-day South London.
Or do they?
Meanwhile, among the hidden community of witches, elves, and other supernaturally-inclined people, a political schism moves toward outright war. The ICE has monitored and regulated travel between the mundane realm and the magical "third realm," source of ideas and inspiration for all Mankind, but squabbles over who should be permitted to cross - or even if the portals should remain open - threaten to tear the community apart. The harbingers of DoOM seek to stamp out the so-called "ordinary" magic that crops up in London's populace, refusing to contact (let alone train) new talents, and separate the third realm from humanity's corrupting influence. But doing so would plunge the mortal world into a death spiral, denying it the new ideas and opportunities that make life worth living.
Before long, Roddy and his friends - and their secret, special pet - find themselves at the heart of the struggle for the future of London... and the world.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: What can I say about a story whose three main characters are so utterly, unsympathetically stupid that they cannot recognize a fire-breathing dragon when it's sitting right in front of them? How can I possibly describe the mind-melting agony of a book that explores the stark, soul-crushing depths of inner city youth, then cheerily suggests that even the most abused and hardened soul can instantly blossom into a wonderful and loving human being after a plate of warm cookies and a nice heart-to-heart chat with a friendly face?
I don't know if I can, but a vague sense of duty compels me to try.
Roddy and his pals prove themselves, time and again, too dirt stupid to actually have a magical adventure. When they read that one of the only ways to control a growing dragon is a siren - which their sourcebook quite clearly describes as the beautiful singing woman of legend - they nevertheless persist in their delusion that only a police car siren will do the trick... a delusion that persists because Lawry practically breaks his back twisting the plot so that there's always a siren of some sort around whenever their dragon needs taming. As ridiculously dumb as they are, I don't suppose I can blame the story when it tires of them and wanders off down the street. By turns, it peers into the world of two dimwitted police officers, visits several teachers at George Grove (both magical and mundane), delves into the hellish worlds of several students, dawdles about in the downright silly "third realm" visiting the beings that live there... in short, it wanders all over South London and beyond, as though it had forgotten all about three boys trying to keep a growing rogue dragon under wraps in the heart of a modern city. In the end, what started as a light modern fantasy about London boys raising a baby dragon degenerates into a sledgehammer-subtle Message about the evils of modern education systems that value statistics and meaningless regulations over learning and imagination. Lawry cannot even bring the tale to a proper conclusion, leaving the whole story dangling on a cliffhanger.
When I finally reached that ending, after subjecting my poor and protesting brain to page after page of thick London slang, wondering just who had edited this atrocity and if they actively hated the reading public, I almost laughed out loud. I'd just about clawed my eyes out trying to finish this book; for what possible reason would I torture myself with a second one?


  1. Sorry you didn't like the book but it's really useful to get a bad review as I haven't had any yet and I wanted to see how I would cope. Thanks for seeing it through to the end, particularly as you hated it so much. I certainly wouldn't have! If I don't like a book, I just put it down and move onto the next one so I do appreciate the time you've spent on mine. Best Wishes LJ Lawry.

  2. Sorry I had such a bad reaction, but I have to call 'em as I read 'em. It needed a stronger focus, not so much on the Theme but on characters clever enough and sympathetic enough to make me really care about the Theme. Trim back the tangents and sidetrack characters, make the three boys a little less dense and a little more more pro-active about figuring out their problems and dealing with them themselves, let the idealists pick up a few bumps and bruises on the way to victory (instead of solving everyone's most drastic problems with a little elfin hand-wave for so much of the book), and run the whole thing by a neutral beta-reader, and it would've likely risen a few notches.

  3. Quite honestly, it's not that important. I only write to raise money for local good causes where I live and it's just a bit of fun. Paperback sales (only available via my website, local shops and me personally) have raised quite a respectable sum, which is supporting young people to train to be dancers and surf life savers and I'd rather give the money to them than to neutral beta-readers, unless you know of anyone who would be prepared to do the job in return for the satisfaction of helping out a really good community project. All the details are on The George Grove Project Facebook Page.

  4. Just out of curiosity, have you ever asked for a volunteer beta-reader? Editors are paid; beta-readers can be anyone outside one's immediate circle of friends and family (and associated biases) who has time to read through a manuscript and give a general yea-or-nay on how it comes across. Credit in the acknowledgments page, and/or returning the favor and beta-reading someone else's story, is usually sufficient payment. (It's more of an informal "take a look at this and see what you think" than a professional arrangement.) Ideally, of course, it would then go through actual editing, either by yourself or a professional editor, but the feedback from a neutral reader at least lets you know if the story you wanted to tell actually made it into the manuscript, or if your diamond needs more cuts and polishing before its public debut.

    It sounds like you have a worthy cause going; strong stories could only do that much more good for it. Best of luck on your future writing!

  5. Thanks for that and as it happens I had several neutral readers go through the manuscript and it was they who persuaded me to publish it. I think I need to find someone who is prepared to be a bit more critical and who simply doesn't like the way I write to give a different perspective on the next one. In the meantime, I'll bear your comments in mind as I get on with the third book in the series.