Dan Wright asked me to beta read the third book in his Draconica series. This one is called She Returns and it is part of a sub-series called "Final Ragnarok". If you've been following my blog for a while (basically the beginning-Dan was the first person to use Book Tweeting Service to find me) you'd know that I've also reviewed the first book (Trapped on Draconica) and the second book (Legacy of the Dragokin). Both of them scored highly. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.
For full disclosure, I beta-read She Returns so my review will not be fully reflective of the finished product. Instead, it is likely better than what I'm descriping here.
What we have here is an Evil Plan by a bunch of evil supernatural people to release their patron evil god. Like in previous Draconica stories, there are few points for originality, but in my grading scale that are few points to be awarded for "originality" anyway. It's what happens within that framework that matters.
The evil people have varying degrees of evilness, which leads to alliances with the heroes against the other evil people. Some of them have different goals, which leads into different plot points from personal vendetta to country take over and Rage Against the Heavens. Some of these evil people are evil no longer and some of the good people are no longer so good. In fact, two of them have switched places; Cain is calling his brother "Cain" because he is now Abel.
A point I like is the continunity of the books. Each one feels like a true sequel instead of an episodic "the next adventure" sort of thing. For instance, there's Daniar. In the first book she's this young single woman doing the Badass Princess thing. In the second book, she's become a queen, a mother and wife, and having trouble balancing it all. In the third book, she's doing better in all three aspects but the toll on her pysche is implied to be great, thus leading to her actions during the book.
One problem I see with the plot is a lack of focus. Each of the Dragokin sisters has their own plotline, and Benji does as well. This makes them all feel underdeveloped and the narrative to feel cluttered. This is especially the case with Zarracka as she doesn't do much to advance the plot.
A second problem is that the Dragokin don't seem quite as powerful as in the previous two books. One could chalk it up to being out of practice (Zarracka, for instance, has been spent years in a cell), but it feels suspiciously like Strong As They Need to Be.
The ending is a cliffhanger, BUT, She Returns is sold as a two part set so a cliffhanger is expected. Furthermore, it's less of a "incomplete story" thing and more of a " disk 1 complete. Please insert disk 2" sort of thing. There's an epilogue and everything. In other words, it's not a Goading Cliffhanger.
As I said earlier, a strong point with the characters in general is this sense continuity. Growing older, referencing the past, changing in personality as a result of the past; a strong sense of history.
Zarracka, for instance, is 180 degrees different from how she was in "Trapped on Draconica" because in the previous book "Legacy of the Dragokin" she mellowed into Benji's doting aunt, and ultimately calling truce with her sister because of it.
Kalack and Daniar have learned from their experiences in the previous book as well. They're not having marriage issues anymore and being more inclusive with their son Benji. Daniar has finally begun his training as a dragokin. No character arc recycling here.
One problem I have with the characters are the villains. Compared to the previous books they are flatter, more monolithic and more For The Evulz. What makes this a problem, is that they are the very same villains that were killed last time, and supposedly Killed Off For Real.
No spelling or grammar problems. Any that I missed have surely been fixed since the book was published.
The prose has improved over the last two books. It's tighter; less word cruft.
Trickster Eric Novels gives (beta) She Returns a C
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