CSFF Blog Tour: Breaking the Love Triangle

I’m going to start off by putting a Spoiler Alert on this whole post. From here on in I’ll make free in discussing details from the book.

One of the interesting aspects of Dragons of the Valley was the love triangle. Bealomondore loved Tipper, Tipper loved Jayrus, and Jayrus loved … well, you couldn’t tell. Then, at the end, Jayrus eloquently proposes marriage, Tipper joyfully accepts, and they just step on Bealomondore’s heart.

At least that’s how I reacted. I don’t know how Bealomondore reacted, because the book ended without him giving a thought to the matter. Up until that point, he had been the main focus of the love triangle. Its most eloquent summation was when Bealomondore watched Tipper and Jayrus together and – simply, bittersweetly – thought of them as his princess and her prince.

I really thought that Bealomondore might be in the running. He had more far interaction with Tipper than Jayrus did, had in fact most of the sweet moments – and the funny ones, and the dangerous ones. It was also his journey more than anyone else’s, and matching him with the princess would have the virtue of being surprising. And when you add that Tipper’s emotions were still in the crush stage, and for all we knew Jayrus’ emotions were not in any stage – well, the only compelling reason not to bring Bealomondore and Tipper together was that he was a foot shorter than her.

Jayrus and Tipper feel natural together, and one can’t help feeling happy for Tipper. One also can’t help feeling sorry for Bealomondore. I’d be curious to know what other readers thought of the love triange and its resolution. I’d also be curious to know what Bealomondore thought of it. It was probably what he thought would happen, but you’d think he’d still sigh. I would.

The emotions and reality of the love triangle were brought home mainly by Bealomondore. Then, at the end, he was cut out without a second glance. It would have been nice if we had seen him react a bit. But maybe – just maybe – we’ll get a chance in Dragons of the Watch. Because, although Bealomondore didn’t get the girl, he did get the next book.

CSFF Blog Tour: A Judge, a Priest, a Paladin …

One of the main characters of the Chiril Chronicles is Jayrus, dragon-keeper and prince of something. A wizard proclaims him to be Chiril’s Paladin.

What is a paladin? According to my Dictionary, it is “a champion of a medieval prince”. According to Donita K. Paul, it’s some sort of spiritual leader who, by the by, is also a military champion.

Before joining the CSFF blog tour, I had never read any of Mrs. Paul’s work. When I saw that Dragons of the Valley was the second book in a series, I read the first. I understand she wrote another series with another Paladin, whom many readers took to be a Christ-figure. I am not going to consider Paladin as an archetype of Jesus. I have not read the previous books, and the Paladin of the books I did read never struck me as a Christ-figure.

He made me think instead of human deliverers God sent – the judges, the priests, the prophets, the kings. This is the angle I’ll be considering him from. (And luckily Fenworth will not see that last sentence!)

As I said, Paladin is a military champion. God sent many champions to Israel, and they had a curious habit of becoming – if they were not already – rulers.

Let us make a distinction: There were many – Jonathan, Barak, the Mighty Men – who were known for their exploits. Sometimes they brought about great and even miraculous victories. But it was the judges, not they, who were said to be sent by God to deliver Israel (Judges 2:16-19). For the judges, delivering Israel was contingent upon, or a presage to, their rule over the whole nation. The pattern holds with other men: Joshua, chosen to lead Israel into their inheritance, governed the nation as well as the conquest; both David and Saul, after being anointed king, saved their people from oppressors and invaders.

It didn’t seem to be assumed that Jayrus’ elevation to Paladin meant he was on his way to ruling Chiril. Indeed, he always submitted to King Yellat. However – spoilers, people – his marriage to Tipper pretty much locks up the country. Which happens after he becomes a military savior. Hmm.

Still, Paladin is not equivalent to a judge. The Paladin is even more strongly a spiritual figure than a military one. The judges were occasionally spiritual leaders: Deborah was a prophetess, Samuel a prophet, Eli the high priest. But these were cases of dual roles; they were the exception, not the rule. In the Paladin, champion and religious leader are one.

But what sort of religious leader? Not a priest, as Aaron was and Jesus is; not what we now call pastors or priests. Not even, really, a prophet. A prophet is defined by proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord.” As far as I can recall, Jayrus never did.

A closer biblical archetype is apostle. Jayrus is chosen to bring the message of Wulder into Chiril, as the apostles first introduced the Gospel to the world. And he does seem to be the leader and founder of true religion in Chiril, as the apostles were leaders and founders in the Church. Yet playing deliverer and ruler would be wholly alien to “those reputed to be pillars”.

There are two things that set Donita Paul’s Paladin apart from all these figures. For one, he teaches largely through the use of parables. “He never seemed to make a point without using a story” – an obvious echo of Matthew 13:34, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.”

Secondly, Paladin has powers that seem more magical than miraculous. Three examples:

(1) The illusions he weaves at the end of The Vanishing Sculpture. It was a nice effect in the story; you simply can’t see it being done by any prophet or apostle.

(2) His healing of Tipper’s foot. I don’t think any miracle was more often performed by Jesus and His apostles than miracles of healing. It is the execution that is different. Jesus and the apostles healed with a word; Jayrus seemed to have to work at it.

(3) Paladin interrogates a prisoner and causes bile to rise in his mouth whenever he lies. Later he threatens the man with a worse punishment if he disobeys. The flavor of this is fairy tales and fantasy – and not at all Scripture. Paladin’s powers as deliverer and spiritual leader greatly resemble Verrin Schope’s powers as wizard. It could be – I’m not sure how it works in Mrs. Paul’s world – that wizards and Paladins alike receive their abilities from Wulder.

Paladin is a unique creation – somewhat like a judge, somewhat like an apostle, a little like a wizard, and not exactly like any of them.

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