CSFF Blog Tour: One Realm Beyond

Cantor only ever wanted one thing: To be a realm walker – to travel from one plane to another, helping, discovering, adventuring, with an impressive dragon by his side.

All right. He wanted two things. One he will certainly get.

One Realm Beyond is the first book in Donita K. Paul’s Realm Walkers series. The shape-shifting mor dragons are a classic fantasy element, but overall the book had sci-fi flair to it. The “realms” were given a more or less sci-fi explanation; even the special powers of the realm walkers struck me as more superhuman than supernatural.

The setting of this novel completely engaged me. I enjoyed the various bits of technology, I enjoyed the political intrigue and the educational “rounds”, I enjoyed the fantasy mix of races – dragons and humans and Brinswikkers. I enjoyed the idea of the realms and the realm walkers.

The characters were even more engaging. Bridger and Bixby charmed me at once, and the more I saw of Totobee-Rodolow, the more I appreciated the uniqueness of her character – supremely confident, supremely knowledgeable, and almost exaggeratedly feminine. Cantor was the straight man of the foursome, which made him less flashy but not less needed. Somebody has to be normal.

One of the interesting pieces of this story is how the dynamics between the two young realm walkers and their dragons work out. Cantor is persuaded to accept a dragon as a “temporary constant” (now there’s a contradiction in terms), and Bixby persuades a dragon to accept her as a temporary constant. Bixby ends up with the sort of dragon – elegant and sophisticated – that Cantor dreamed of having, and Cantor gets an offbeat, diversely talented dragon who is much more like Bixby than himself.

Religion was a persistent theme of the story, but by no means an overstated one. Primen (their name for God) is mentioned a good number of times, but always in ways that seem natural to the characters and their situations. (In a brief but fascinating moment of complexity, a character who has been studying “Primen’s Guide” denounces realm-walking as witchery.)

One chapter revolves around going to sanctuary – an obvious church equivalent. And what is interesting about that is that even fantasy novels with religion generally have no church equivalent. Going to church (or the synagogue, temple, etc.) is such a constant in real-life religion, and so rare in fantasy-world religion, that I have to congratulate Donita Paul for the chapter.

The plot of One Realm Beyond moved only gradually to the main point; it took a while for the story to find its dramatic center. I noticed this as I read, but it never really bothered me. I was enjoying myself anyway. It is such a fun book, such a light-hearted book, with entrancing characters and a terrific setting. I like fantasy, and I like sci-fi, and I hold a special fondness for well-done science fantasy – which is what One Realm Beyond is.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Landmarks

This month, the CSFF blog tour is featuring One Realm Beyond, the first book in Donita K. Paul’s new Realm Walkers series. It involves realm walking. And dragons.

Donita K. Paul is the first author ever toured by the CSFF, back in the distant day, so returning to her work is something of a landmark. My own personal landmark is that this is the first time I have ever begun a tour without first finishing the book.

Yes, I’m ashamed. Yes, I will be reviewing the book. Yes, I will finish the book first.

My plan for this tour is as follows: Day one, introductory post with links and confession; day two, review of book; day three, musings on the contrast between Scripture portraying Satan as a dragon and modern Christian fiction portraying dragons as our big, loveable friends. What is the import of this biblical symbolism to our fantasy novels? Where does the leviathan come in, and what about snakes and lions?

The links follow below, so that you can begin your exploration of One Realm Beyond. As for me, I’m thoroughly immersed; the characters are scurrying towards the climax and I’m going with them.

One Realm Beyond on Amazon;

Donita K. Paul’s website;

best of all, the blog tour:

Julie Bihn
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Donita K. Paul
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Jill Williamson
Deborah Wilson

CSFF Blog Tour: Dragons of the Valley

(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:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Keanan Brand
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Amy Cruson
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Amber French
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King

Emily LaVigne
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis

John W. Otte

Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Dave Wilson