Today’s review goes to show that my sampling method of book-buying isn’t foolproof. Over the past few weeks I’ve bought three different books that didn’t satisfy me the way I thought they would, to varying degrees. In this review I’ll explain why for one.
First up we have How to Slay a Dragon by Bill Allen. I loved the opening line of this novel and bought the book based on that alone. Unfortunately it didn’t match what I was hoping for. It started out well, using the fantasy cliché of a bullied boy who’s drawn from his world to another one where he learns to be the hero he has always imagined himself being. I’m okay with clichés, as long as they’re used well. After the good start, Allen took me off in a direction I didn’t want to go. Instead of getting explanations and learning to overcome the obstacles he’s presented with, no one explains anything to the main character and he’s pushed along to his destiny with everyone around him knowing what’s really going on. Of course a book needs mystery but this is not the way I like to get it. It felt forced and even a little bit lazy on Allen’s part. Why come up with a good way to make a weak kid chase after a dragon when you can just drag him along a dupe to everyone he talks to? However, its intended audience (of 13 year old boys) doesn’t care in the slightest and for that reason I’m going to recommend it despite not finishing it.
When I dropped How to Slay a Dragon, I picked up Belle by Cameron Dokey. Just in case I wasn’t sure, in Amazon, the subtitle of the book is: A Retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. This isn’t Dokey’s fault. It seems to be what the publisher has done with all the books in this fairy tale series. But this type of obviousness continues throughout the novel. I enjoyed reading it very much but felt that everything came too easily. The main character is too self-aware and too quick to change her ways when confronted with her faults. The other characters all do the same and I was left with the feeling that none of the characters were actual people. Of course they aren’t – they’re fiction – but one of the joys of reading fiction to live real lives that you couldn’t live otherwise. Or at least it is for me. So if you want a quick read that doubles as a sort of meditation on what is Beauty then you’ll enjoy Belle.
Unlike the first and third books in today’s review, I finished Belle for one reason: the main character made choices and took action. She might have been too self-aware but at least she thought and reasoned. In contrast I only made it halfway through the third book, Switched by Amanda Hocking. But I can see why it’s so popular. The main character does nothing. Things happen to her and people make choices for her and she whines or reacts to them without conscious thought. Exactly like Bella from the Twilight series. I managed to make it halfway through the book before the desire to smack the self-absorbed twit got so strong that I was worried about damaging my Kindle. So while I commend Hocking for her amazing success in the indie-publishing field, I won’t be adding to that great sales count.