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Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles 1)

By: Ellen Oh

Release Date: January 2, 2013

Rating: 3 Stars

Summary: The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.



Review:

If you’re looking for the start of the next great fantasy series, I’d suggest looking elsewhere, because Prophecy isn’t it. However, if you’re just looking for a serviceable fantasy with some straightforward demon slaying action and don’t mind the middling to poor writing, well, there are plenty of worse books I can think of than this one. So while I wouldn’t recommend picking up Prophecy over the book it’s obviously reminiscent of, Graceling, plotwise at least I wouldn’t say it’s leagues (or li as it may be) worse either.

But yes, one hundred percent of this book’s troubles is the writing. Ellen Oh’s style isn’t bad per se, isn’t unreadable per se (believe me, I’ve seen unreadable writing…), it’s just simple. Sometimes, that works, like Kira’s introductory scene with that no good nameless thief who filches her bag of coins, but most of the time, it’s flat, telling instead of showing, strings of short sentences by way of action, clunky dialogue, you know how it is. The keyword here though is serviceable, because I had no trouble following the narrative and the prose didn’t drive me bonkers, but neither is it the greatest thing since sliced bread. The characters were active and did things, but they weren’t outstanding or fully connected with me. The descriptions of the Korean inspired setting were there, but they weren’t impressive or captivating. The details added to the story, but they weren’t memorable or wowing. In short, for a genre with awesome characterizations, fantastical settings, richly detailed descriptions, and even whimsical inanimate objects, Prophecyfalls kinda short in all the requisite departments.

The bigger issue though is that the poor writing bleeds into the other aspects of the story and really does a great disservice to this book. Probably the biggest example is Kira’s cousin, Prince Taejo, who’s supposed to be this brave and eager little guy who gets himself into trouble because he can’t help but do the right thing – at least I assume that’s Oh’s intent, because in reality he reads more like an annoying brat who’s only purpose is needing to be rescued – all the time. The problem? All his dialogue basically consists of a bunch of short clipped sentences, the majority ending in exclamation points – probably to show how excited or emotional he is, but the effect just makes him seem like he’s whining every time he opens his mouth. I can also point to the first of Kira’s two love interests, Shin Bo Hyun – it just feels like Oh’s trying too hard to create this romantic tension between him and Kira, like two star crossed lovers on opposite sides of the conflict, but in reality Oh’s dialogue makes the guy sound more like a lecherous psychopath. And the second guy, Jaewon? Hardly felt his presence at all.

However, if I look beyond the writing, there’s actually a pretty good story buried beneath the mediocre prose – a brisk action adventure based on Korean mythology starring a girl trying to prove herself and stop an extremely dangerous foe. Yeah, to do so requires giving Oh the benefit of the doubt and looking at her intentions rather than what’s actually written on the page at times, but like I said, that’s really the writing’s fault. Like Oh overemphasizes Kira as the lone woman in a man’s world, a Demon Slayer feared and maybe reviled by her people, but even if it’s a common enough theme that’s been done much better in many a fantasy before, for me at least it still worked because the medieval Asian societies Prophecy takes its inspiration from are notoriously misogynistic to the point that many of the over the top reactions Kira gets could be considered accurate if melodramatic. That, and the actual plot involves wide scale conflict between what are obviously the Korean kingdoms and Japan, lots of action packed searching, defending, and killing goes on, and obviously loads of demon slaying occurs throughout, so there’s a lot to keep anyone busy, even if the pacing could’ve used work because I got little to no sense of many of the minor characters.

So would I recommend Prophecy? No. But I liked it, even if the clunky writing made the characters seem like they were shouting at each other when they were merely excited, because, even after finishing this, I can still imagine myself reading this on a rainy day if there was nothing else.


Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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