Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Read for fun:Tenryu the Dragon Cycle volume 2

As I said in my previous post, I enjoyed the first volume and looked forward to the next. However, this volume was a disappointment.

This time it has a repetitive plot; a revolving door of Big Bad minions trying to kidnap Ryurei in the same way and they are resolved in the same fashion. The "cliffhanger" ending to the volume lacks any and all force because of this. "This time there's nothing you can do about it" sounds like the author is self-conscious of this fact. I have no reason to believe this character.

There are three instances of Pervert Revenge Mode; it feels cliche, lame, and the third one is narm given its context. The first volume didn't have to rely on this crutch for Unresolved Sexual Tension.

The plot progression is minimal. Little motion is made towards the goal and there is little development in terms of the Big Bad's Evil Plan. The main plot for this volume is set up and then resolved too quickly to be entertaining either in a combat or world building sense. Likewise, little development is made character development-wise. Ryukei may or may have become a Shipper on Deck for his adoptive brother and Ryurei but other than that, not much.

The fight scenes are anti-climatic because Hiryu has no idea how to fight in dragon form (one assumes that this is obvious: use the teeth, claws and tail) and yet the two minions retreat despite this. They may or may not realize it but that it happens twice consecutively.

Overall, it is a let down after the promising first volume. I'm going to look into the third volume, but after this one, it is not high on my To Do list.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Tenryou Dragon Cycle volume 2 a "D"

Click here for the next book review (a request): Hidden from the Face of Humans

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): Tenryu the Dragon Cycle volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Read for fun: Tenryuo the Dragon Cycle volume 1

I found this book at my local library while browsing and decided to give it a shot.


It has a fast plot progression. Events move quickly to develop the conflict and move the story forward. Each scene is significant; little time is spent on comedy gimmicks or fan service. This makes it a quicker and more fun experience.

When I read on the back cover's premise that the two main guys were helping a princess look for a jewel, I thought it was going to be the series goal. Nope, she gets it quick and starts using it for functional magic to assist the main guys. The real plot is something else.

As far as I can tell, that plot could either be a revenge narrative or something with a grander scale. It's unclear as to what that could be. For a while, it even looked like the main cast could split because they don't have a common goal (i.e. conflict). It wavered for a while like the author didn't know what to do next.


At this point characterization is pretty standard: Kiryu is this tough Idiot Hero, Ryurei is a driven Mysterious Waif, the Big Bad is a jerk, etc. I like that. I'm not one to sardonically remark on a lack of stunning originality. Instead, I can appreciate an well-constructed archetype. I look forward to seeing the characters develop and respond to challenges in the following volumes.

The Big Bad sounds sinister and acts evil but he also has this comical crush on Ryurei. It's a funny bait and switch where it sounds like he wants her gem in the sense of an Artifact of Doom but it sounds more like he wants to use for a And Now You Must Marry Me sort of Evil Plan. That's not funny but the scene is played for laughs because the Big Bad is framed as this overly enthusiastic fan.


The art is skilled and appealing without being showy. I.e. Kiryu looks rugged and Ryurei elegant while being overly stylized as such.

Trickster Eric Novels gives Tenryu the Dragon Cycle volume 1 a B

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Tenryu the Dragon Cycle volume 2

Click here for the previous book review (a request): Phoenix Down

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Answering Review Request: Phoenix Down

Catherine Weaver asked me to read her novel, "Phoenix Down". It is a sequel to "Gold Dust" in the "Island of California" series. I have previously reviewed the first book and its review can be found here: "Gold Dust". For this book I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.


The book's tone is immediately set. At the start, Alex wakes up to see a leprechaun riding a giant bunny and saying, basically, "come with me if you want to live". This leads to a new adventure and an awful lot of running.

The sequel to "Gold Dust" has a great plot. It is fast paced and follows the fallout of the previous book's climax. This makes it feel like an outgoing adventure and creates a greater sense of continuity. Furthermore, Alex's actions prove how much she learned from the previous book. Certain relationships also develop and I find it to be appropriate for their ages and experiences.

There is a good bit of world building. Phoenix Down is a magical catalyst and this develops the internal system of magic; by explaining what it can do, Miss. Weaver contrasts it with gold dust and standard magic. It's interesting stuff. Also, the previous book steered clear of population centers, so this one gives a good look at what the society on "the Island of California" is like. It's basically an Amazonian Lady Land but with some interesting nuances provided by the phoenix.

The "no-magic" effect returns and it is even creepier than last time. It is longer in duration and heavier in effect. The first chapter of it is called "we fight the zombies we've become" and shows Alex drifting in and out of Heroic Resolve and Heroic BSOD. No amount of third person description could match that; a fantastic use of show vs tell.

Finally for this section, I like how the plot develops. It holds an overall steady course but makes a number of twists and turns along the way. There are certain things that I wasn't expecting. Furthermore, I like how Miss. Weaver is able to resolve the major conflict in order to give the book closure while still leaving threads dangling for future books.


Alex Lee has transitioned from Unlikely Hero to more Reluctant Hero. She'd rather enjoy her Spring Break than go on another world-saving adventure, but she recognizes that Herman Mendez is a Big Bad and she's the one to stop him. Also, there's no more doubting her ability anymore; her actions, sometimes, but not her ability. As a result, her narration is more dry and playfully self-depreciating then panicked or truly putting herself down (although that sometimes happens too).

Ian has experienced a dramatic personality shift. His first scene in this book has him acting frigid to Alex and then going on a mini-rant about misogyny. It's like he was indoctrinated by Herman Mendenz or someone else in the pro-men/anti-amazon movement. More striking is his treatment of Celeste. The sum total of his motivation in the previous book was finding and rescuing her from Herman Mendez, and she is still being targeted by him but Ian doesn't seem to care. This happens before Dash is introduced and so I can't chalk it up to Jealousy-induced stupidity.

I like Celeste's development as well. While Mendez is still menacing her, she's stepped out of her role from the previous book; more working against him then just getting away from him. I can think of her more as "Alex's portal opening partner" then "Ian's captive cousin".
While the story doesn't specify this, I think that Celeste is more skilled with magic than Alex because she deliberately chooses to use only her singing voice when casting spells. For Alex, that is a handicap.
Third, Plucky Girl! While Ian and Alex had a break from adventure, Celeste still hasn't been able to go home yet. Both books have been a continuous adventure for her yet she's soldiering on.

The Mendez brothers continue to make great villains but for different reasons. Gabriel was previously Ambiguously Evil and now he reveals himself as The Unfettered For Science. Listening to him zealously talk about what he could do with Phoenix Down, just for the sake of doing it, is frightening. Herman, like before, is a power-hungry scumbag, and now he shows that he is vindictive as well.


The book looks good. While I still think the first person narration is odd without a frame narrative, I now get the sense that one is incoming. It's like this is an auto-biography of how she became famous.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Phoenix Down" A+

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Tenryu the Dragon Cycle - Volume 1

Click here for the previous book review (a request): Kingdom Asunder

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).