The Dragon Orb
The Alaris Chronicles #1
by Mike Shelton
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: March 1st 2017
Bakari is a scholar wizard going on his first adventure in the fantasy world of Alaris. Tasked by the High Judge to figure out the problem with the barrier that protects them from the surrounding lands he finds more than he bargained for with the Dragon Orb. Alli and Roland two apprentices training to be a battle wizard and a counselor wizard attend to their mentors as they help to deal with a rebellion of kingsmen. As these three wizard friends follow their hearts will they end up on opposite sides of the power struggle?
The thing this book has going for it is two things: characters and world. While they still have problems there were still some shining elements…
-Alli’s battles were quite cool (she makes a great battle wizard) and the magic used throughout was quite good with several different moments. (The magic system included animal bonding and battle enhancement.)
-Some of the plot worked well with the characters’ personalities… Roland has a magical scene that was really excellent. Bakari goes through something quite traumatic. Erryl meets someone cool. Daymian is almost rubbed out.
–There are multiple POVs – I LOVE this! This is one of the reasons I picked this up and that part of the narrative was quite successful. I felt the different characters (which are more that the 3 leads) and the side characters like Erryl and Daymian sucked me into their parts of the story. I also loved Kharlia and I’m not going to lie I enjoyed the little romance she added (she didn’t have a POV).
–For a morally gray character Roland grew on me. He felt flat in the beginning but the more interactions I had with his the better he got and I liked the role he played in the end even if it felt too adultish. Alli was a neglected character and too much was made of her beauty. I felt like she is a potential love interest for the future just to have a female main character. Her stats were great – her fights were the best in the book and I wish more had been explored with her (she had grand potential!)
-Bakari is by far my favorite character! I thought the way he was diverse was so intelligent. He came from an area where people had darker skin then the barrier cut them off. It wasn’t made a big deal of except when he runs into someone he likes who shares this commonality with him – smart choice, very believable! I loved that he could remember everything and that he went with his instincts when using magic. The foreshadowing moments with him were really fun! He just jelled as a character from the very beginning and carried me through some of the stuff that I didn’t like as well.
So what happened?! Why the missing 2 stars?
-Politics centered world.
While the info dumping in the beginning was heavy handed I did really appreciate the world building the author was trying to do. The government was very simply explained and the ideas were easy to grasp. There was too much politics for my taste. It wasn’t hard to understand but became dry and boring the more politics centered the story became. Really the right amount of explaining vs. complexity was used but the whole subject smacked of an adult story. The idea of a judges system is one I admire and I thought it contrasted well with the idea of a king wizard. The politics became the world (which I don’t like), otherwise it resembles the classic medieval world in which many wizarding stories are set (nothing new).
-Totally telling = boring writing.
Telling is fine for a middle grade book but YA readers are used to more showing at least some of the time. I wasn’t a particular fan of the way things were described though, like this example:
“Her full, pouty lips and small nose made her young face look vulnerable, but the power in her stance was unmistakable. He saw in her eyes an intriguing intelligence and an understanding of everything going on around them.”
And this example:
“Bakari found Kharlia to be a nice traveling companion. Despite the distractions of feeling her sweet breath on the back of his neck and having her arms wrapped around him, he liked that she was talkative, affable, and knowledgeable about many things. Most of all, Bakari was delighted at her love of learning. In this, they quickly shared a deep bond.”
-Contrivances all over the place!
The characters read as college aged kids. Sure their stat said 16 but Roland acted like he routinely had relations with maids and women of all sorts. Alli killed with no problem. Bakari is the only one who truly felt his age and experience (or lack of it). Erryl was a great potential character but he was used badly just to show us what could happen to Bakari. Daymian was a grown man and the High Judge with too much page time that should have been spent on the kids.
As I got to the end of this book I started to seriously question why this title and cover… I was admittedly drawn to the idea of a dragon orb and a diverse protagonist. The cover is pretty and reminds me of Dungeon and Dragons covers when they were big, which is spot on for this story. Still if the orb were cast into a more mysterious position from the start of the book instead of the clear end that was coming would I have enjoyed the story more?
BOTTOM LINE: If you like D&D and love settling in for that kind of read then this is the book for you.
The descriptions above aren’t bad but they are totally telling, there is no subtext where the reader can intuit their own ideas about what is being felt, thought and said. When you say a character is going to go to such and such and then they do it with only a problem or two that is very boring and unsurprising. It’s a problem for me when I’m not surprised at much of what happened or at least feeling some engagement or suspense. I didn’t expect twists (look at the title!) but it shouldn’t be easy to guess what is going to happen because of the way the story is written.
Contributing to this telling problem was the reasons the characters made some of the decisions they did was quite limp. Really they only chose to do some things because that’s what the author wanted them to do (i.e. they didn’t have much of a reason). This lack of motivation makes for a very flat read. (Lack of motivation is a problem of too much telling and relying on the reader to “just believe” what they are told by the character).
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About the Author
Mike was born in California and has lived in multiple states from the west coast to the east coast. He cannot remember a time when he wasn’t reading a book. At school, home, on vacation, at work at lunch time, and yes even a few pages in the car (at times when he just couldn’t put that great book down). Though he has read all sorts of genres he has always been drawn to fantasy. It is his way of escaping to a simpler time filled with magic, wonders and heroics of young men and women.
Other than reading, Mike has always enjoyed the outdoors. From the beaches in Southern California to the warm waters of North Carolina. From the waterfalls in the Northwest to the Rocky Mountains in Utah. Mike has appreciated the beauty that God provides for us. He also enjoys hiking, discovering nature, playing a little basketball or volleyball, and most recently disc golf. He has a lovely wife who has always supported him, and three beautiful children who have been the center of his life.
Mike began writing stories in elementary school and moved on to larger novels in his early adult years. He has worked in corporate finance for most of his career. That, along with spending time with his wonderful family and obligations at church has made it difficult to find the time to truly dedicate to writing. In the last few years as his children have become older he has returned to doing what he truly enjoys – writing!
Thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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