Dragons & Ghosts
I’ve set a goal for myself to read 100 books in 2011. Despite a promising January and a 24 hours Readathon in April, I’m behind schedule. Like, behind behind. Thirty nine pages into the sixteenth book behind. It’s depressing. Why this happened is still unclear to me, since I enjoyed most of what I’ve read so far.
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus, right?
For example, I finished His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik a few weeks ago and loved it. Obviously enough, it’s with and about dragons – not my favorite mythological creatures, but cool enough. They are used in so many stories that it’s impossible for any lover of fantasy literature not to have come across them a few times. There only are so many things you can write about them so despite the reassuring blurb on the back cover, I was a bit hesitant about picking the book up.
I’m glad I did though, because the blurb was right: it was an interesting read, with a new take on the winged creatures. First in a series of six novels (as of yet), the book is set during an alternate history version of the Napoleonic Wars in which dragons are used in aerial combat. You are taken through the journey of Will Laurence, an extremely well mannered former captain on a British warship. After coming into possession of a dragon egg which hatches, he is forced to become its handler.
What I found really odd about this book was the dragons being more likable than the humans. Sure enough, after a while you start to care for Laurence to the point his way of speaking actually becomes appealing. But you go ‘awww’ as soon as Temeraire (Laurence’s dragon) speaks for the first time. It is so adorable you can’t help but wish you had a pet dragon. And he’s not the only one.
In fact, I liked those creatures so much that I actually cringed even when the enemy’s dragons got injured in a fight. However, I will say that the ending felt a bit abrupt. For the most part, you are being introduced to the different species of dragons, the training techniques and relationships between dragons and humans. Still, the right amount of plot twists and interesting information transmitted to the reader ensure it’s not a boring read.
Casper time…sort of.
The other book I recently read and enjoyed, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman didn’t wow me because of its plot either. It consists of several episodes set a few years apart from each other and is written in the same format as The Jungle Book.
The premise of a boy growing up among ghosts in a closed down cemetery was much more appealing to me than that of a one growing up in a jungle. Even so, the plot was a bit predictable at parts. I mean, come on – who couldn’t figure out Mr. Frost’s character? Who couldn’t anticipate what would happen with Scarlet? It wasn’t all bad, though. There were plenty of funny scenes as well as an emotional ending which almost made me cry. Considering Gaiman’s characters are not the most well developed I’ve ever come across, I’d say that’s a pretty big accomplishment.
So, the plot wasn’t previously unheard of, yet enjoyable. The characters were sort of two-dimensional, yet likable. But I loved this book mainly because of the names and atmosphere they induced. The main character is named Nobody (Bod) Owens – that is just awesome. His neither alive nor dead guardian is called Silas, which I think is a great name to describe his character: slithery, spooky, intimidating. Or take the character or Miss Lupescu, who is a werewolf. I’m sorry, I mean a Hound of God. That is such a powerful, original name and it evokes a wonderful mental image of a wolf on a cliff, with the full moon in the background. Aaa-wooo!
Now I’m reading Black, by Ted Dekker. This is a book quite a few people I know have liked and recommended. But the writing already drives me nuts, despite reading only short of forty pages. More on that book when I finish it.