For someone who is interested in breaking into the novel industry, I probably don’t read enough novels. In fact before this year I’ve probably read one since high school, and I graduated in 2006. That doesn’t mean I don’t read, as I’ve read plenty of non-fiction, short stories, science articles, entertainment news and a lot of comics over the years. I really should read more novels though.
I’ve decided that every month I take off from writing, I’m going to try to read at least one novel. After reading it, I’m going to post my thoughts. These won’t be reviews so much as opinion pieces mixed with observations about the writing. It’ll be more about what I take away from the book as a writer who wants to improve myself, although I’ll recommend it if I think it’s worth reading anyway.
The first novel I’ll talk about is called Dragon Whisperer. It was written by a fellow Kitchener/Waterloo Nanowrimo writer, Vanessa Ricci-Thode. She first introduced this book at the Nanowrimo launch party, describing the main character as inspired by Daenerys of Game of Thrones. The main character, Dionelle, is born immune to fire. She also shows a natural talent for talking to dragons, much to the dismay of her newlywed husband, Reiser. After Dionelle goes missing, Reiser finds himself forced to deal with the dragons himself in order to find her, while trying to keep the peace between the dragons and the local humans.
I’m not all that experienced with dragons in fiction. The only other dragon book I’ve ever read was The Hobbit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dragon movie in full, save for Pete’s Dragon (in which the dragon is friendly and doesn’t talk) and a couple movies where they just happen to be there but aren’t critical to the story. This book makes me want to know more about them. There’s a lot of intrigue into dragon culture in this universe, with their proud yet polite personalities, and their immense curiosity into the unusual.
There isn’t all that much action in the book, instead aiming for a more dramatic story. That’s not to say there isn’t action though – one particular rescue scene was kind of amazing. Even the climax is mostly a drawn-out conversation; a very good one. That’s probably where this book shines the most, with its dialogue and the conflicts between characters. While Dionelle and Reiser were childhood friends, their marriage was an arranged one and they spend much of the book getting used to each other. Their struggles feel very real, and they’re only complicated by the dragons and the meddlesome lord of the area.
It’s also a fairly short read. Usually it takes me at least a week to read through a book, but I read through this in a day and a half. Maybe it’s because I’m more used to reading novels, or maybe it’s because I spent all day reading it in chunks. Whatever the case, it’s a short book that uses its space well. I’m glad I read this. As a reader, I liked it. If you’re into dragons, this book is worth looking into.
As a writer, I feel this was worth reading. I often feel it’s what I have to improve on the most, at least with the more dramatic scenes. While I’ve improved a lot, I sometimes feel that my dialogue is a bit forced. However there are things about the way the dialogue is written in Dragon Whisperer I’m not entirely sure about. This may be personal taste, but this book doesn’t use the word “said” a lot. It usually words such as “commented” and “insisted” and “repeated.” As the book went on I noticed less and less, but it was a little distracting at first. It’s certainly not overdone as it is in some books, but it’s worth mentioning. There were also a few times where the dialogue felt a little repetitive, but it usually felt warranted by the situation.
I’d be the first to admit that I used to overuse alternates to “said” all the time. The stories I wrote near the end of high school were riddled with words such as “replied”, “whispered”, and “informed”. With Dragon Whisperer, there is a balance. It also makes good use of breaking up the dialogue with people moving around, or having internal thoughts that may even contradict what they say. A lot of writing books say you should almost exclusively use the word “said”, but like most things in life, alternatives can work in moderation.
Another interesting thing about this book is that the climax wasn’t quite near the end, and there were still minor struggles that had to be solved. Without spoiling anything, the events leading up to the climax took their toll on a major character, in a way that could eventually kill him or her. Considering most works of fiction end with a climax, followed by a brief ending, this was actually refreshing. It also gave time to explore how another character was affected by the climax, and how he or she was irreversibly changed. It doesn’t overstay its welcome as there are still a few revelations left. This book had some very interesting consequences with its conclusion that could easily make an interesting follow up. I’d probably read it if it happened.
Ricci-Thode’s writing style is very different from my own. That’s not a bad thing, and it’s probably good to read as many writing styles as possible. But as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I don’t see it changing my writing all that much. She’s also an editor, check out her website if you’re interested. Here’s a link to the Canadian Amazon page for the book, although it’s also available on the American and UK sites as well.
I’ve read two other novels so far this year. One was Magic Bites (which I intend to post about sooner or later), recommended by another blogger, and the other was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I haven’t yet decided on my next book to read, but it’s between Magic Burns (a sequel to Magic Bites), She Hulk Diaries (because I like She Hulk) and re-reading one of the Star Wars X-Wing books.