"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

12 July 2012

Review: Dragon Fate - J. D. Hallowell

Dragon Fate, the debut novel by J.D. Hallowell, is a heroic fantasy adventure in the finest tradition of the genre. Delno Okonan is a young former soldier eager to put the swords and strife of war behind him, when a chance encounter leaves him inextricably entwined in a tangled web of dragons, magic, and intrigue, as he struggles to find his place among dragons and men, and stave off a plot by renegade dragon riders that threatens all he now holds dear. Teens and adults alike will find themselves hanging on every twist and turn.

My Review of Dragon Fate (4/5):

This book took me on an adventure filled journey full of magic, intrigue and excitement. Overflowing with likeable and believable characters, Hallowell successfully depicts a traditional fantasy story that I thoroughly devoured in just a few days. Delno, a humble young man finds himself face to face with an old and pregnant female dragon and is immediately thrown into the world of the revered dragon riders, magical individuals blessed with longevity, unrivalled strength and a unique companionship filled with love and respect.  

Delno was an extremely likeable character with a strong set of values and a longing to be free of heroism and leadership. He is an easy going, friendly and honest individual; a character that I took pleasure in reading about. Despite his status as a commoner of low birth he is truly a noble and heroic individual who is willing to fulfil his destiny and step into the role as a true born, influential leader who other men will follow loyally. I especially admired that he took no pride in killing and sees it as a necessity in war, but takes no pleasure in the act. I enjoyed the fact that the protagonist was a grown man who had actually experienced life in all its forms; it made a change from reading a fantasy based around a young boy, clueless with no life experience. Delno has witnessed death, suffering, has fought in wars and is an experienced soldier and man, both strong and independent.

Geneva, Delno’s female partner, is a sharp nailed, walking, talking (and flying!) dragon with a cocky attitude and a loving nature. Dragons are common creatures in fantasy with numerous depictions of them ranging from monstrous beasts to intelligent sentient beings; the latter being the depiction of Geneva in Dragon Fate. She is a sharp, witty creature and I enjoyed her character immensely especially when she made sarcastic comments to Delno. Despite being fun and light hearted, she is also a dangerous creature, capable of aggression and destruction who can hold her ground against seemingly greater opponents. I found it especially amusing that due to the close mental/spiritual connection between Delno and Geneva, and the inevitability of being privy to every emotion, she feels jealous over Delno’s possible interest in a female individual. By showing us readers Geneva’s jealousy, Hallowell successfully depicts Geneva as a conscious creature, able to feel human emotions. I enjoyed seeing the close relationship between Geneva and Delno evolve throughout the story and look forward to seeing that bond solidify in future tales.

The other characters just added a whole other dimension to the story and they each served an important purpose in moving the plot forward. I won’t divulge too much information about the other characters but throughout the story we are introduced too Nat, an extremely likeable character, an informative individual who isn’t all that he seems to be; Brock, an almost father like character, both loyal and firm; and Rita, feisty and independent, small in stature but aggressive with a sword. Hallowell did an excellent job of depicting a believable baddie and I found myself greatly disliking him from the beginning. He is depicted as being a twisted, bitter and sour man, discontented with life in general. Blinded by pride, he views others as lesser beings and wishes to rule them with an iron fist. He is tyrannical, arrogant, selfish and argumentative; an excellent portrayal by the author.

I thought the plot of the story was well structured and exciting enough that it kept me reading for hours even when I intended to put the book down. There was a fast paced storyline, with something always happening be it meeting new characters, learning new interesting information or getting caught up in a skirmish. I felt that the plot wasn’t lacking in anyway despite maybe the fact that there wasn’t enough action. There was a few instances in the novel where there was a small number of fighting scenes, mainly training practice and there was a skirmish or two towards the end but they all felt that they were resolved too quickly. I also felt that there wasn’t any real danger except in one fight in particular between two individuals who are supposedly meant to be “colleagues” of a sort. In that one fight I felt that there was a real threat as it was just so intense and the suspense was just evident in the whole scene from the use of language to the characters’ frantic movements. This scene in particular was quite a shocker and definitely served as the catalyst for the rest of the story. In my opinion I felt like this book, Dragon Fate was a starter novel, a tasty little starter that is building up towards hopefully an even tastier series filled with more danger, intrigue, deceit and excitement. It helped establish the characters, the setting and the storyline and all in all I enjoyed my journey with Delno, Geneva and co immensely.  

In my opinion the most interesting part of the story was the mammoth amount of information divulged throughout. The narrative is so rich with the most fascinatingly imaginative facts regarding dragons. There is a detailed analysis of a dragon’s anatomy, a discussion regarding the dragon as possibly being a “six limbed” creature and I especially enjoyed the explanation of how a dragon breathes fire (down to a chemical reaction!). Plus there was the ingenious added bonus of the Dream State which I thought was a creative and original idea.

I couldn’t help but notice that there was a similarity between Dragon Fate and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, Eragon in particular. Right from the beginning it was evident that some parts of the story was very similar to that of Eragon such as the dragon riders, dragon bond and the dragon mark but as the story progressed I thought less and less about the similarities and concentrated on the story as whole and found elements of it both imaginative and original. It is inevitable that fantasy authors will take inspiration from other tales and I believe that this is true about a lot of fantasy fiction. Despite my belief that the storylines are similar in parts, I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon Fate and thought it was an excellent example of a traditional fantasy story with a solid plot and a wealth of intriguing characters.

I would highly recommend this book to younger readers of fantasy who wants to read an exciting and adventurous traditional fantasy story and doesn’t want to get too bogged down in a complicated story. I also believe that lovers of the fantasy genre would enjoy Dragon Fate for its traditional fantasy setting and believable characters. It’s a fun and intriguing quick read, full of excitement and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series to check up on Delno, Geneva and the rest of the crew and hopefully begin another fun filled adventure. 


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