Laura Harris asked me to read her story "Kindling Ashes". It features a conflict between the Firesouls, who want to revive the dragon race, and the dragon slayers, who want to finish the job they started sixteen years ago. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then then assign a grade.
The story begins in the aftermath of a war between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Auland. It ended with dragon extinction, but unknown to most humans, the dragons have been hiding out inside humans as disembodied spirits. Now the dragons seek to regroup and return to dragon bodies before their hosts go up in flames. It's a sympathetic conflict and drives one of the two protagonists up the wall with in-decision.
There are two protagonist because this book features a dual-protagonist system. Every chapter switches the perspective of the story between Giselle, a firesoul sympathetic to the dragons, and Corran, a firesoul who wants to kill dragons. It works well not only because it underscores the grey and grey morality of the story. For instance, one chapter will have humans recall dragons tearing towers down and burning humans alive while the next will have dragons recall raids by humans that ended with dead mates and shattered eggs.
The cause and nature of the war is revealed over the course of the story. It's an interesting deconstruction of the age-old idea that dragons hoard treasure in caves.
It's not action packed by any stretch of the word but I read through it quicker than I do many review requests because the world building intrigued me and I liked the characters. Corran, in particular, was fun to dissect for his true motive and which side of the fence he would fall on.
There are a couple problems but all of them occur near the end of the story, leaving the rest spotless.
1. There's a Whatever Happened To The Mouse with a major villain, which is puzzling given the situation, but a protagonist notes the absence and also that there's a more pressing matter to tend to. Thus, it's easier to overlook.
2. There's a Diablos Ex Machina that prevents one of the two protagonists from living happily ever after as of this book, instead of waiting for the end of the series. It happens early enough, and there's enough development before and after that I feel it will become something more than that. Thus, it's also easier to overlook.
Giselle is the leading lady. I like her. She has this vulnerable toughness thing that makes her a endearing and sympathetic protagonist. There's also her fighting skills. Considering she's a host for a dragon, one would think the author would make her this super powered warrior but that's not the case. She's as strong and skilled as you'd expect a teenage street urchin whose never seriously fought before the story to be. When outmatched, she runs away or uses guile instead of god mode dragon powers.
Corran is the leading guy. What's interesting about him is that he spends the book pulled in three directions. He's from a family of dragonslayers, holds the soul of a dragon but isn't fond of either group because the former (save one member) is abusive and the latter he has been raised to hate as evil monsters. It's like he's walking on a fence for the entire story and wobbles this way and that while plotting his own course. It was fascinating to debate whether really wanted to kill dragons to be a hero or just wanted to show up his big brother bully; in other words, if he was a hero or a villain.
Frang gets a mention because he's my favorite character. He's a dragon soul stuck in Corran's head and a large part of the reason that Corran's side of the story (his mental processes and such) is so interesting. He shows the boy his memories as proof that dragons are not evil and so the boy has to go to greater lengths to justify his hatred. He's also a witty snarker that, at the same time, has a bigger role and wider personality than simple comic relief.
I could go on, but I only have more good things to say about the characters.
No spelling or grammar problems. I like the split narration because it is consistent and adds value to the story. Other books I've reviewed use this technique but it reads like two or more separate stories. This is two sides of the same one because they reflect each other and constantly intertwine.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Kindling Ashes" an A+
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