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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dragonspell, by Donita K. Paul

I recently read Dragonspell, by Donita K. Paul. Here's the book's web page in the author's web site. Dragonspell was honored as a finalist for the Christy awards for Visionary novels for 2005. The Christy awards are presented annually for what I have called Faith Fiction, that is, fiction that tells a story that is designed to appeal to conservative Christian readers, and, generally, is marketed by members of the Christian Booksellers Association.

So, what is explicitly conservative Christian about Dragonspell? There is a supreme being, Wulder, who can be spoken to, and is the supreme creator. His followers invoke his protection when threatened by evil beings. Wulder does not appear in the book. Paladin, apparently meant to represent Christ, does appear a few times. Paladin is said to understand the mind of Wulder completely. I found no evidence of an analog of the Holy Spirit in the book. Satan is represented by The Pretender, who does not appear in the book. There are a number of moral choices presented to the characters, especially to Kale Allerion, the teenaged girl who is the protagonist. For example, she is instructed not to use her magical powers for show.

If you are going to have God the Father, and God the Son, in a work of fiction, why not God the Holy Spirit? And if Paladin represents Christ, why didn't he die for the sins of others, only to be resurrected?

It seems that Dragonspell was influenced by Tolkien. What fantasy novel, in English, hasn't been?

There are several species (Paul calls them races, but the differences seem too great for them to have mutual children), in fact seven (usually) good ones and seven bad ones, apparently always evil. But Paul is not as good at naming things as Tolkien. Mordakleep and bisonbeck are the names of two of these types. She also names other things, such as pnard potatoes, razterberries, and druddums, the last being a nasty sort of animal. Elizabeth Moon, a successful fantasy writer, said this: "In fantasy, you can make up words for things–and I do–but making up new words for everything will make the writing look silly (and incomprehensible.)" Paul came close to incomprehensible, and silly, at times.

In spite of these negative criticisms, I mostly enjoyed the book. There's great appeal in seeing a slave girl becoming aware that she has great magical power. The characters who go, with Kale, to look for a particular kind of dragon egg are interesting. So are the dragons, which are of several types, and can also make moral choices. Great, it's not. Good enough, it is. I hope to read the next book in the series.

Note that I have steered clear of setting the plot before you, as much as possible. If you really need to read about that, read Paul's summary, or look up the Amazon or Barnes & Noble pages on the book.

Thanks for reading.

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