Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Dragon

Like The Crab before I approached the The Dragon with a fair dose of apprehension. I'm a complete and utter Dragon fanboy, and the Dragon by their very nature is open ground for some of the worst sins of writing and characterization.

To put it simply, I fully expected to hate this novel.

Fortunately it's not as bad as I expected.

It is full of infuriating moments, but you can actually get past them.

I would actually like to know if this was writen after Enlightened Madness or if the Tamashii debacle was something that was planned well in advance with WotC still in the loop, because the first chapter, or rather the epilogue seem a bit of a sendup to it. I think the novel predates the story by about a year, but I might be wrong.

Basically the novel follows Hitomi's path during the Clan War and her quest for vengeance against Yakamo, with Daini's contact with the Naga as a sub-plot.

Hitomi is a fairly one-dimensional character, but overall does manages to keep the reader interested in her misadventures. It is a pity though that her main foil for her is Mirumoto Yukihera, not because it's obscure CCG character (in fact he may not even be the same character), but because Ree Soesbee, unfortunately, decided to make him a complete monster designted villain. Apparently we are really supposed to be rooting for Hitomi and the kami forgive us if we think she might be monomaniacal. Kitsuki Yasu also gets a bit derailed, and Mirumoto Sukune, which has always been hinted as an interesting character, including in this novel, is left in the shadows again, when he could have probably been a more interesting sympathetic foil to Hitomi.

Daini is a somewhat more rounded character, but much of his development occurs off-stage and by the end of the book that is very much an informed attribute. I suspect that is Naga coming of age ritual was supposed to show us that development, but if that is the case, then in my opinion it failed, mostly because while we are told the ritual was a sucess, it reads very much like a failure. Daini did not achieve any sort of enlightenment, he just didn't fail fast enough not to be enlightened...

Then there are the little quibles, or not so little in the case of the passage of time. Apparently Ree Soesbee is a firm believer of time moving at the speed of plot. No problem with that, except when two characters need to perform different tasks, one taking a few minutes, and the other a few months. They meet just before starting those tasks, and meet again immediately after finishing those tasks...

The hyperbole I used for emphasis above is much less exagerated than what you might think if you haven't read the novel. I have to wonder if Ree Sesbee has a grasp of time at all...

Oh, and incidently, obi are not used to keep armour in place. In fact armour doesn't work that way at all...

In the end this is a fairly enjoyable novel though. It's not boring like The Unicorn, or pointless like The Phoenix. It's main problem is that it could have been so much better. It has quite a few interesting premises that are not followed through.

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