Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: Dragonlight, by Donita K. Paul

I wish I could say, "Donita K Paul has written yet another enchanting fantasy and fun fantasy," but I can't. Dragonlight is the first of her books I've ever read.
I need to remedy that situation!

Donita has crafted an enchanting world full of unique beings, a well-developed geography, detailed philosophy, religion, literature and more. Her books will be examples in my worldbuilding workshops, that's for certain! My only complaint in this area is that she assumes the reader is familiar with her worlds, and there's very little explanation about the different races. (The meech especially confused me. I never knew how much they looked like dragons and how much they had humanoid form.) Unfortunately, a glossary at the end of the book is often too late for the reader. Even a sentence or two would have helped. Even so, the story kept me going despite the fact that I never got a clear mental picture of the characters.

Donita starts with two relatively straightforward plots: finding the secret colony of the dragonlike meech so their meech friend Gilda can lay her egg; and a new cult theoretically based on the teachings of God (known as Wulder) nonetheless takes an insidious turn as it grows. In that framework, she weaves in issues of faith, elf-identity, and racial pride, that are not only common but relevant to the issues of our world today. As an inspirational fantasy, there is a lot of religion in this book as well.

However, Donita does not preach, either about faith or about social issues. Instead, in true story teller fashion, she makes these a natural part of her world and her story. She uses event, conversation, example as well as Scripture, well blended into the story. I particularly enjoyed Kale's reaction to her Scripture-quoting husband: a combination of love, admiration and annoyance, with a dash of self-consciousness. It made his faith all the more meal and them believable as people rather than mere characters acting out a story. It didn't surprise me to learn Donita is a retired teacher. She's used that experience in her writing to make the lessons of her book fun to learn. I definitely recommend this book for readers 12 and up.

Folks who love Donita's work will not be disappointed by Dragonlight. However, if you're new to her work, I'd recommend getting the first book in her series, Dragonspell, and enjoying her world from the very beginning.


CherryBlossomMJ said...

I definitely recommend reading the whole series through. It's worth it. Plus if she used all the detail worthy of the characters in each new book, they would be huge!

Karina Fabian said...

Oh, I understand, cherryblossommj, and i was suggesting long detailed descriptions.

I didn't even need a whole paragraph; just a few words of general appearance when the character or race was introduced, just so I got a general picture. "With green scales and amber eyes with catlike slits..." "Gilda's three-inch claws were elegantly painted..." That kind of thing. Even "The meech, a dragon race, had scales and wings, yet walked and talked like humans." That's awkward, but not unexpected in YA. I went through the whole book, for example, wondering if the meech had scales or long lizardly snouts, what color they were, etc.

At any rate, it's a minor flaw in an otherwise lovely jewel.

Fantasythyme said...

Nice review. I liked the details you mentioned about the character races. I think you picked up on the spirit of the series.
Some of the character descriptions occured in the earlier books. If you get a chance, try other books in the series. Donita Paul builds her story and chracters over the course of the five books.

Karina Fabian said...

Thanks, fantasytyme. I do plan to read them. :)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Great review, Karina. I agree with you about how natural the faith elements are. The characters talk and act from their own worldview and the reader doesn't feel like the author is trying to make a point to the audience.

The meech, BTW, were originally introduced as meech dragons, way back in book 1 I think. For someone coming to DragonLight without having read the others, I imagine the cast of characters alone was a challenge, let alone the 7 high races, 7 low races, and the two from the far away world.

A testimony to both you as a reader and Ms. Paul as a writer that you were engaged the whole way.


Anonymous said...

I really liked the non-preachy aspect of DragonLight. I was a Norse Pagan for many years and when I started reading a certain very popular Christian fiction series, I was annoyed by the long Bible studies and the frequent occasions in which characters wondered how unbelievers could be so stupid as to not convert after this or that Bible prophecy had been fulfilled.

DragonLight is a lot more Pagan-friendly since the Christian message is subtle and part of the plot. I feel that if I had read this book while I was still a Pagan, I would not have felt I was being preached at, which makes it far easier to enjoy the story.