Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Answering Review Request: "Dynasty O'Shea"

Clarissa Cartharn asked me to read her novel "Dynasty O'Shea". It's about the O'Shea family reclaiming their kingdom from a usurper. I will examine plot, characters, and polish, and then assign a grade.


A lot goes into world building. The leprechaun newspaper (both comedic, plot relevant and simply interesting) the Cider festival, (a rare truce zone) and the legends of the Tsez Xian which sound like something out of a creation myth. When an author goes to these lengths to develop their world it is always a big plus in my book.

I also give kudos to Miss. Cartharn for keeping the parents relevant in the main plot; indeed Jack (the dad) is the hero of this story. All too often with this premise the parents are killed off or pushed to the background so their child can take the spotlight. To me that smacked of escapism and the plot suffered for it but that's not a problem here. All of them stay relevant so one can say that the O'Shea family as a whole is The Protagonist.

However, the plot itself feels empty. Part of the reason for this that the O'Shea family participates in three main events towards reclaiming their throne; go to the Tsez Xian village, recruit them, then final battle. The rest of the story is filled with minor and inconsequential plot threads.
1. Forycdes running back and forth with messages while wondering about Jack O'Shea. This guy is a minor character (his role in the plot is tantamont to a Spear Carrier) and he has screen time comparable with the O'Shea family and his own love triangle.
2. The witches. They appear out of nowhere for their own scene entirely separate of the O'Shea family before meeting with them. Their 'shared apprentice plot' is entirely separate from the main 'reclaim the kingdom' plot because the witches don't care about politics or thrones and Draviador is too afarid of wtiches to attack them. One could remove it and the rest of the story (save one event in the climax) would be unaffected.
3. Blackburn has a third plot arc based on revenge for Jack humiliating him in the first act. He never follows up on this.
4. One of the O'Shea kids helps a squirrel family rescue a bunny from coyotes. It has nothing to do with the main plot and does nothing to progress anything.

There's so much back and forth I don't feel the rise of tension or plot build up. The climax falls flat for this reason (among others). My inner editor wanted to cut them all out.

A third reason is  a clumsy case of Holding Back the Phlebotinum. The O'Shea family intiailly reach the world by using a magic pendant. As soon as they arrive they hide the pendant on the justification that they can't let the villain find it. Then they forget it about except for an offhand mention late in the story. If they used this they could skip all the traveling and have an easier time breaking into the villain's fortress. The story would be much shorter, and in my opinion, better because all the traveling was uneventful and thus boring.
Other than this one case there are no idiot balls. If someone does something ill-advised it springs from their character instead of the needs of the plot. For instance, When David jumps into battle against professional adult soldiers it's because he has been training in martial arts for years and wants his family to stop doubting his skills.

Finally, I appreciate the how Miss. Cartharn ended the story. The conflict is resolved and there is plentiful of poetential for future stories. In fact, a number of sequel hooks are dropped in the epilogue.


The characters are all right. Most of them have distinct personalities and good development but others do not and they include main characters. There are three reasons for this. 1.( The fragmented nature of the plot above; there is not enough time spent with all the characters to develop them sufficiently. 2.)  Inappropriate allocation of screen time. As mentioned above, a spear carrier has the same amount of screen time as the main characters and even gets his own subplots in discovery and love triangle. 3.) The characters with good development don't feel developed until near the end because all the other plot lines pushed these secenes far apart.

The villains get two paragraphs to themselves. First we have the Big Bad, Dravidor. He is a flat and almost non-existant character because he does very little. Other usurping, which is related second hand, I don't know why this guy is so evil. The only evil deed he does is a I Have You Now My Pretty to Rachel O'Shea in the climax and even this is so rushed and trite that I feel it was shoehorned.

The villains as a hole have this problem. Blackburn is introduced early and has a vandetta against the hero but he does nothing. Despite looking for Jack he never finds him nor causes any reoccuring trouble. Then there's Major Scuddorf who is
introduced late, does absolutely nothing, and is killed off uncremoniously off screen. I wonder, why bother including him?

On the plus side,  The O'Shea family grew on me by the end. Aly especially because she gained a unique talent (bear friend) and a foil in the third act that distinguishes her from her brothers. I'd like to see a story where they each have more screen time.

I also like the witches. Miss. Cartharn does a much better job of quickly developing the three witches and their shared apprentice than other characters. Their personalities are distinct, their subplot is more developed, and their interactions are more fun. If she were to write a sequel based on them I would love that.


Over all this is pretty good. There's rarely an error with spelling or grammar and the only word cruft is understandable, i.e, in the teenager dialogue.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dynasty O'Shea" a C+

Click here for the next review request: "Dark Space"
Click here for the previous review request. "Sister Margaret"

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