(Note: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.)
It’s been said that good fortune follows good fortune, and bad fortune follows bad fortune. This may be why Chiril’s first armed rebellion in many years is followed by its first foreign invasion in many years.
But never fear! An artist is here – and a librarian, and a couple wizards, and several royal personages, and an enormous parrot. This may not sound like a recipe for deliverance, at least until you add an army. But it is certainly a recipe for an interesting story.
Donita K. Paul has created a fantasy world, in an unusually precise sense. (The geography is more comprehensive than normal, with characters talking about continents and countries on the other side of the planet.) Here be dragons. More uniquely, here be emerlindians and kimens and bisonbecks and ropmas. The list goes on. Mrs. Paul populated her world richly.
And that goes twice for the characters. This is where Mrs. Paul most excels. Fenworth, Lady Peg, and The Grawl would be a credit to any author. The good characters are properly likable; the bad ones, properly despicable. Even despicable, the villains have some depth, and their evil is painted with a fine and sometimes chilling touch.
Mrs. Paul’s style is clear and clean. She avoids long and complex sentences; she rarely uses metaphors or similes. This tendency to go down a straight line can be seen elsewhere in the book. The story lines, and the character arcs, take few sudden turns.
But there are so many of them. Mrs. Paul juggles a large cast of characters, and all their intersecting story lines. This is where her novel’s complexity lies. The names can also get elaborate – Odidoddex, Groddenmitersay, Graddapotmorphit Bealomondore. There is actually a scene between Bealamondore and his father, who calls him by his first name. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be raise a child named Graddapotmorphit? “Eat your vegetables, Graddapotmorphit.” “Time for bed, Graddapotmorphit.” And suppose you had to find him. “Graddapotmorphit! Graddapotmorphit!”
Dragons of the Valley is a good story, but there were events that needed more handling. Months of battle, the fall of a capital city, and extensive conquest are mentioned almost in passing. At the end – spoilers ahead – the heroes go from nearly complete defeat to total victory in about three pages. If the battle in the valley really were such a turning point, it should have been given much more emphasis. It should have been narrated. I think there was about half a scene devoted to recounting the battle.
One more thing – and more spoilers: The Grawl is an excellent character, and I fully sympathize with Donita Paul’s desire to keep him in the cards. In fact, as a reader, I support it. But she didn’t manage to justify Fenworth’s decision to spare him. She brought the point up but never really answered it.
I wasn’t even sure about the nature of The Grawl’s imprisonment. I can think of two explanations, both equally unsatisfactory. One, The Grawl was trapped within the silver box. This is so nasty it is almost just, but it’s also dumb. Why carry around a little box that springs a bloodthirsty assassin on whoever opens it? But if what Fenworth actually did was trap The Grawl in his domain – didn’t he, in essence, punish The Grawl’s mass-murdering ways by revoking his traveling privileges?
But for all this, Dragons of the Valley is still a delight for fantasy readers. It engages its readers with excitement, humor, and winning characters.
The blog tour continues and I will, too. In the meantime, you may learn more about Dragons of the Valley from:
the book’s Amazon page;
the author’s website;
the author’s blog;
the other blog tour participants:
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller