3 out of 4 stars
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Alex Sapegin’s Becoming the Dragon is a science fantasy fiction. Becoming the Dragon is the first out of ten books in it’s The Dragon Inside series. Andy, the teen protagonist, finds himself transported to another planet in a freak accident. Stranded on a new planet he must learn to survive the odds, learn to adapt and live by their rules. His journey takes him through exotic animals, vicious elves, a friendly dragon and many more.
Although the novel begins on Earth, the major part of the tale takes place in the fictional solar system constituting planets Nelita, Helita, and Ilanta. The narration is in the third person and the author plays well teasing the readers with many cliffhanger endings for his chapters. This technique succeeds in building up the suspense and in keeping us engrossed in the narrative throughout. For instance, when Andy is teleported, we along with him keep guessing about his whereabouts until it is slowly revealed to us. The story is fast-paced yet the narrative is not slipshod. He takes time to detail the characters well as well. The author employs many narrative techniques like cliffhangers. He uses analepsis to reveal the planet’s past. Like most fantasies, the novel uses the ruse of prolepsis to impel it forward. There is a prophecy professing Kerrovitarr to play a significant role in the days to come. This stirs greater interest in the plot making us restless and wait eagerly for the events to unravel. Thus, the narration is never monotonous and immensely engaging to the reader. The authors narrative style is definitely what I enjoyed the most about the book.
The language is picturesque, lucid and flows effortlessly. The author has a penchant for detailed descriptions. He vividly describes the strange fauna and flora like the griffons and eleraffs. He also spends considerable time explaining the religion, the church, its working, and orders. Animal imagery is used to forebode the transformation of Andy to a dragon. In many occasions, the author uses similes and metaphors like ‘a bestial roar bubbled in his chest’ to describe Andy. The author also uses succinct, curt sentences like “Nirel was called when the information was needed and the person was not.” Alliterative phrases like “Dark deals were dealt while the law kept….” or “guttural growl” all seamlessly add to the flavor of the language making it more appealing and fitting to the genre. I loved how the author plays with language. Innovative coinage of names like ‘a sharp wit’ or ‘life mage’ for a doctor adds to the exotic feel.
The characters are fleshed out well. Nirel is a perfect antagonist who manipulates the follies of fellow beings to his advantage. Andy is the archetypal hero of a monomyth. The book seems to follow the hero in a journey template where the hero goes on an adventure and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then returns home probably in the sequels. He is pragmatic and versatile.
I was a tad bit disappointed with the progression of Andy’s love. I liked it the least in the whole book. The love affair between Andy and Palona seemed a litter hurried to make the loss seem less intense. I spotted a few errors. Jagira's name was misspelled as Jigarra (Pg. 2556) and ‘bout of reverie’ was spelled as ‘bought of reverie’ (Pg.2842). Overlooking these, the book was fairly edited. The book is provided with a glossary to acquaint the leaders with the races and their jargon. It would have been a visual treat if a map was provided too.
I would rate the book 3 out of 4. I have deducted a point for the lackluster love plot. The book is free of graphic sex scenes and overt violence and is a lot appropriate for young adult readers. Yet, the book can be enjoyed by fantasy book lovers of all ages.
Becoming the Dragon
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