Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power)

The Dragon Round
Stephen S. Power
Simon and Schuster
Fiction, Fantasy
** (Bad)

DESCRIPTION: Captain Jeryon's everything a Hanoshi man should be: punctual, unsentimental, driven by profit and loyalty to his company. The fact that his latest voyage carries life-saving medicine only makes it more important that he follow the rules... even when a dragon is sighted, and his crew salivates at the chance to earn a bounty for its corpse at the expense of a few hours off their schedule - a few hours in which many might die. A mutiny sees Jeryon and the Ayeshi apothecary, Everlyn, given the "captain's chance": stranded in a dinghy with no oar, sail, or supplies, left to the waves to decide their fate. As his ship disappears over the horizon, Jeryon vows to see justice done and the mutineers repaid for their treachery. When the boat ends up wrecked on an uninhabited island, the discovery of a hatchling dragon gives him a unique chance to fulfill his vow - if he can do the unthinkable and tame the beast.

REVIEW: This was another impulse buy, based on an intriguing cover blurb and a different writing style than I usually read: omniscient present tense, sparse on details, with only brief, random glimpses into thoughts or motives. It was a little tough getting into the world, especially when it was difficult to parse character motivations, but for a while I found it intriguing, and I eventually got a bit of a feel for the style. Then... things started disintegrating. The sparseness began to work against my suspension of disbelief, when everyone comes across as a stereotype (particularly females) and I'm only told - rather than shown - seemingly important developments.By the halfway point, any sympathy I had for Jeryon's situation vanished as he proves at least as ruthless as his enemies, killing off bystanders with nary a flinch and for little apparent gain. Then the action jumps from him to his hometown of Hanosh, a place so thoroughly corrupted by the evils of corporate greed (a point driven home countless times in countless ways) that I would've happily seen it burn to the ground. Several bit players get names and minor roles in an increasingly confusing web of allies and rivals, an impenetrable maze by the end that I gave up on keeping straight. By then, it was clear that nobody had an ounce of concern for anything or anyone but themselves... save possibly Everlyn, who degenerates into a helpless damsel/object. At least the dragon, Gray, had an excuse for being an amoral predator. The ending (I'll keep it vague to avoid spoilers, but it's a key part of my dissatisfaction so I must mention it) sees nothing resembling justice or resolution, even though there's no indication that this is part of a series; apparently, the cycle of greed and vengeance and selfish power-grabs, not to mention a total disregard for the many poor and/or innocent souls paying in pain and blood, just keeps on going until there's nobody left to cheat or backstab or eviscerate alive. (Did I mention the frequent, increasingly gratuitous gore? When dealing with revenge and dragons, some bloodshed's unavoidable, but it passed far beyond effectiveness into vaguely repulsive numb territory.) I don't often toss books down in disgust when I finish, but this one got a hard thumping. While there were elements of interest here and there, and it was intriguing to read a book written in a different style than I usually encounter, I just can't care about this nebulous world full of unlikable stereotypes, where it doesn't matter who wins or loses - or even who profits from the win or loss.

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The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan) - My Review
Dragon's Bait (Vivian Van Velde) - My Review

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