3 out of 4 stars
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What happens when legends aren’t merely legends? What if they are true? What if the relationship between myth and science isn’t so distant? Paul Carran explores these questions and more in his debut novel Claws of the Dragon: The Fu Gambit, combining science fiction, fantasy, and action in an adventurous story that will send readers around the world on an international hunt for the keys to unlock a legend of a dragon.
The story begins more than two thousand year ago, with the legend of how Isang, a young Taiwanese girl during the Han dynasty, made a powerful connection with a dragon after a meteor crashed to earth near her village. While the men of her village sought to capture the beast and harness its energy, Isang saw its deeper beauty and defended it. The dragon, in return, protected Isang from the backlash she received, bringing her back to life with its two jade claws before disappearing. The jade claws were hidden by Isang’s followers and descendants on two different continents, where they remained hidden for many generations.
Fast forward to the present day. Fu Dong, otherwise known as the Dragon Master, is head of an international conglomerate and the descendant of the leader of the villagers who once controlled the dragon from the legend. He’s a smart and powerful businessman and an even smarter and more powerful mafia leader whose main goal is to find the two jade dragon claws so that he can control the power of the dragon as his ancestors did before him. Once he does, it is only a matter of time before he becomes the most powerful man on earth. Two young women, Bi and Maia, suddenly find themselves connected and fighting for their lives as forces bigger than themselves draw them to Taiwan, where they must rely on assistance from an undercover CIA agent and other descendants of Isang’s followers to cunningly protect the jade claws and stop Fu from releasing his power over the dragon.
I could go on for hours about all of the things that I loved about this book. The Asian legends involving dragons would have been enough for me; throw in some Maori culture/history from the South Pacific and how the two cultures are potentially connected, and I thought I was going to die of happiness before I even cracked open the book. If you are a fan of Asian or Polynesian culture, history, pottery, language, tattoos, or anything else, I would recommend this book to you in a heartbeat. There is even a glossary in the back for Maori and Taiwanese words that I enjoyed referring to.
This books has a lot of characters, and each chapter switches perspectives to follow around different points of view within the story. Because of this, there are many things going on in the story all at once. However, I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with any of the events or characters, as every single thing that happens is important to the development of the plot. Carran obviously did a lot of research for this story; as a result, the line between what is real and what is fiction is extremely blurry. When an author can make me seriously believe that a dragon can be produced using science and technology, I find it necessary to give the appropriate praise. Kudos to the author for pulling that off!
There were two things that I didn’t much care for in this story. Number 1: the blurb on the back of the book describes this story as “fast-paced.” Now, while there are a lot of events that take place within the story, and while it’s definitely a page-turner of a story, I personally wouldn’t have used this particular descriptor in my own assessment of the book. Gripping, thrilling, suspenseful, sometimes disturbing or gruesome, plot-driven, detailed, and well-researched are the first adjectives that come to my mind. Some sections of the book are highly in-depth descriptions of scientific phenomena or technology that add to the “well-researched” element of the book, but not so much to the “fast-paced” element. In fact, I personally felt that it was a rather slow-paced story up until the last third of the book.
Number 2 is minor, but it stood out to me from the beginning of the book. Product placement. No one in the book just drives a car. Everyone drives a V8 Mercedes E550 or a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with a V10 engine. Sunglasses are Gucci, jackets are Chanel, and even office chairs are Aeron. While this further demonstrates how much effort the author put in to be as detailed as possible, I found it slightly annoying and often felt like I was reading a never-ending advertisement.
For the above-mentioned reasons, I can’t justify giving this book full marks, despite how interesting and unique the story was. I give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars and recommend it to those who would like to experience some science fiction mixed in with Asian fantasy. American readers should be warned, however, that the writing style, especially concerning punctuation, is a bit different than what we are used to, but it’s easy to adjust to once you let yourself get immersed in the story.
And did I mention that there is a nice cliff-hanger ending and a sequel on the way? There is definitely a lot more to look forward to with this story!
Claws of the Dragon- the Fu Gambit
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