3 out of 4 stars
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Becoming the Dragon by Alex Sapegin is the first book in a Russian heroic fantasy series for young adults. It tells the story of an ordinary teenager from a small town who gets struck by lightning. Thereafter, he is unable to go anywhere near electronic devices including computers. His father is a scientist and one day, while Andy is visiting his father's workplace, he is accidentally teleported onto a distant planet called Ilanta. In this mystical world, he encounters humans and supernatural beings including orcs, elves and dragons. He is captured and sold into slavery but not before he activates an ancient artifact. When fatally wounded, Andy chooses rebirth as a dragon rather than die.
The cover of this book is fascinating and attracted me to the book before I had even read the first page. I enjoyed reading about the Russian teenager's life at home, his unusual neighbour and his sister's friends. I felt the introduction and the level of writing was just right for a young adult reader. The translation from Russian to English must have been difficult because of the subject matter. It could have been smoother in places but I felt it was generally of a good standard.
The beginning of the book offers a realistic portrayal of modern family life in Russia. There was an indication of what was in store for the reader because Andy's father was working on a teleportation system. This held my attention and gave a flavour of anticipation to the tale. Andy is an intrinsically good person and I warmed to the teenager throughout his adventure. Unwittingly drawn into a strange world, Andy tries to make the best choices available to him which is a very endearing quality.
I thought the fantasy creatures were interesting and blended well to form an imaginative fantasy land. I enjoyed reading about some of the gadgets including the trap using a spider's web to stretch over tubes with gluten. The 'tracking frame' that registered the use of magic was another good one. There was certainly sufficient detail to keep the reader engaged. For example, the history of the elves and the dragons was explored in depth. The glossary at the back was useful to keep abreast of the strange terms and characters.
This book does have some dark passages and the episodes of killing torture were distressing for me. Torture using magic to open his scars with a delayed spell was grim to imagine. I was left feeling it was a little too violent in places. The only other criticism I have was the fact that the book was separated into lengthy parts. I would have preferred shorter chapters. Overall, I thought this book was well written and perfect escapism for the young adult interested in science fiction and fantasy. The book left me wanting to know more regarding Andy's future which is what I would expect from the first book in a series. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars.
Becoming the Dragon
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