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Monday, August 5, 2013

"Dragonfly," by Julia Golding

Dragonfly is my genre!  An elusive, inexplicably uncommon genre:  like fantasy with no magic, no strange creatures.  It's a world that follows our laws of physics but has its own culture.  Not bound historical fiction truths.  It allows for great world building and effective social commentary.  I love writing this genre, and would love reading it if I could find more than a handful of books like this.  One reviewer described it as "fantasy cultures written in a realistic fashion."  Exactly.  Others described it disparagingly as "lacking any fantastic elements."  Sharon Shinn's General Winston's Daughter is one of the few other books I know that really fits in this category, and I remember people on Amazon grousing, "Where's the magic?"  I find it very refreshing and fun to read.  

That said, this book does have a few issues.  The head-hopping disoriented me.  In writers' terminology, head hopping means changing point of view from character to character within a scene, so that we know the thoughts of multiple characters.  This is different from books that switch the point-of-view character from chapter to chapter or scene to scene, like Game of Thrones.  Head-hopping is usually quite unbalanced:  we know mostly one or two characters' thoughts, but a minor character sticks his in here and there when convenient for the plot.  This is actually quite a standard style for older books, but most modern novels are limited omniscient, so I found it distracting.         

Some of the changes in Tashi's character are too abrupt.  She goes from formal and restrained to wild and emotional a bit too soon, but I could allow it.  The change I couldn't swallow was when she loses her faith—a major my-world-is-destroyed, who-am-I sort of state of mind.  Then Ramil talks to her for a minute and is like, "Maybe this is the Goddess's plan for you, even if it doesn't feel like it.  Don't lose heart."  And instantly she's faithful and happy again.  It would never be that simple.        

There is also a lot of modern language in Dragonfly.  The worst example, from page 71, goes like this:  "I'm sorry you feel like that, Prince, because it's no use getting all hot and bothered about her."  Hot and Bothered?  

However, I liked the story.  I enjoyed the fast-paced adventure and I really loved the culture clash.  It's a premise I like, no matter how many times I read or watch it:  characters forced into a marriage of convenience, who don't like each other at first, but who then fall in love.  It was fun to watch some of the minor characters, especially the endearing circus strongman.   

I love alternate world fantasy.  I hope more people write and publish this genre in the future. 

My rating:  3

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