Title: Over the Dragonwall
Authors: H.C. Strom and Dennis D. Montoya
Series: Dragonwall Chronicles #1
A thousand years ago the gods brokered a peace treaty with the dragons to save mankind. As a monument, the magical Dragonwall was built stretching from the Dwarven city of Farreach to the port city of Seareach. Over generations, the great dragon’s stories have turned to myths and the treaty forgotten. The wall’s magic is failing and the call for a hero goes unanswered.
Oberon a young monk and his friends leave the city of Delvingdeep to answer the riddle of the existence of dragons. No one expected a short cut though a swamp would ever lead them on a heroic adventure over the Dragonwall.
Source: Review copy provided by the authors via email
If you like standard quest fantasy books, then you might enjoy this. We have a handily placed bard imparting an adventurous tale of yore in a tavern, a young and curious monk who wants to see a dragon, a group of companions wishing to seek their fortune, and walking, a lot of walking, before the wall is reached and the adventure begins! In fact the whole first half of the book is about walking in which nothing happens.
You may think I exaggerate, because surely there will be character development and world building and all these kind of things, which would not be nothing. But there isn’t. I have no idea what Obi, our lead character, looks like. I’m not even sure if he’s human or dwarf, and as for his being a monk… well, apart from the fact that he writes things down, you’d never know it. The intrepid band of adventurers are all pretty interchangeable, except for the old wizard-like guy and the half-elven siblings. It’s a real D&D party here.
Speaking of those half-elves, one of them – the female one, who I found exceedingly annoying – has an owl. Bear with me while I say a lot of boring stuff about owls.
It’s an eagle-owl, called Swiftwing. Now, firstly that name… owls aren’t well known for flying fast – they’re stealth hunters – oh, and eagle-owls are also one of the nocturnal breeds, hunting mostly at dawn and dusk, which made me question the daylight hunting trips. Eagle-owls are also huge and heavy, with the kind of crushing power in their talons that can take down roe deer – so I really don’t think anyone should be carrying the bird on their hand, especially as no mention of gloves is ever made. They also have a very wide range of prey species, so the idea of the bird hunting from the swamp and only bringing back rabbits – when they’re known for catching amphibians – seemed ridiculous to me. It’s also kind of ridiculous that I’m spending so much time on what is really a minor character – and that too annoyed me. If you’re going to put in an animal, don’t forget about it when it’s not conveniently needed for hunting.
So away from the owl the first half is kind of boring. The whole quest is launched on the thinnest of pretexts without any preparations, and no one seems to have much of an idea about how long it’s going to take them to reach the wall. This is something that extends throughout the book, which does become a lot more lively in the second half. The characters come up with some really suspect ideas, which oddly enough land them in big trouble. There’s also a habit in the book of them deciding to do one thing (Let’s stay here until dawn, ’cause I think it’ll be safer) and then doing the complete opposite (Let’s run now. They won’t see us in the dark, even though we know they don’t like bright light!).
As you can probably tell, I struggled with this. The underlying bones of it are okay, in a standard fantasy tropes kind of way, but it needs work. The characters need development to flesh them out and make them distinct individuals. The world really needs some detail and description and colour. The first half needs more action or moments of interest. The second half needs less stupid moments, because frankly the idea of burning everything all the time verges on TSTL, and the fact that they’re going looking for an ancient battlefield and dragons, yet fail to spot the really obvious clues for both just left me wanting to bang my head against a wall (maybe even a dragonwall). It could also do with a serious edit, because the present tense moments really shouldn’t be there, and there’s far to much telling of what is happening rather than showing the reader what’s going on.
I don’t even know what age group this is aimed at. The characters are too old for YA (except maybe Obi, but it’s anyone’s guess how old he is) and there’s a bit of swearing, yet the action is really simple and the dialogue a bit clunky. At the same time, I think the first half would be too boring to keep the attention of younger readers for long, while the second half isn’t realistic enough for older readers.
Overall this reads like a first book, which makes me feel bad because my review is a bit harsh. However, most first books don’t get published, or if they do it’s after an awful lot of revising and hard work. It’s not completely awful or anything, and there will be people out there that can overlook all the faults and enjoy the underlying quest adventure of it all. Sadly, I am not one of those people.
Over the Dragonwall is Out Now.