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Changelings Book 1: Dragons and Demons, by James A. McVean Book Review | SFReader.com
Changelings Book 1: Dragons and Demons, by James A. McVean Genre: YA Fantasy Publisher: Lulu Published: 2005 Review Posted: 2/1/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10
Changelings Book 1: Dragons and Demons, by James A. McVean
Book Review by Howard von Darkmoor
Have you read this book?
Stories were originally passed along generation to generation via lore masters, bards, elders - storytellers gathered in the dark around their campfires, their audiences drawn close, spellbound at their feet. The words were cherished, memorized and embellished until their tellers became masters of performance.
Changelings: Dragons & Demons would be perfect delivered like this, by one such as this, over several nights around a campfire. To ten-year olds.
In print it loses much of its appeal.
Author James A. McVean self-published through lulu.com in 2005 and the copy I read plainly evidenced this. In a provided cover letter, McVean advised that some errors were rectified in a second edition that would also include illustrations (At the time of this review, Amazon.com still carried the first edition, but I did find the second edition through lulu.com or the author's website). There actually weren't too many cosmetic corrections that needed to be made; I could find no fault in the presentation or quality of the book. It's the contents that desperately need editing. Even one pass through a critique group could have worked wonders with the prose. At the very least, it would have addressed the largest problem present:
A smothering of overly dramatic and essentially unnecessary extraneous descriptive material such as an overabundance of adverbs often led to confusing sentence structures and paragraphs of sundry sizes that were continuous strings of run-on sentences and often forced me to reread them in order to comprehend their meaning and full import.
However, it would have taken several critique sessions to repair the far too many inconsistencies in plot coherence and character logic that plague much of the story. Again, oral presentation would serve this story so much better, the art of the orator suspending the disbelief that cannot be avoided here in its visual form.
There are too many stretches, too many pieces or steps or timeframes the author knows but the reader does not. Too many implausible situations and contradictory information; ineffective metaphors; weak thees, thys and thous; and a jumble of far too many fantasy concepts for a 112-page book.
'Wonder and confusion troubled Jack in equal measure . . .' (p.44) neatly sums it up.
McVean touches upon practically every staple of high fantasy there is, and attempts to weave them together regardless of congruity or logical placement. There just isn't enough space in this size of a book to establish such relationships or to do these standards justice.
The story is about Jack the orphan, discoveries, and responsibilities. Jack discovers his destiny, his inherent magical abilities, his magical family, his brave friends, his courage, his dreams and himself. All while racing through fantastical events and doing (and becoming) new things without missing a beat. It's ironic that the fantasy of the story is mostly unrealistic.
So unbelievable as to become too unbelievable, disallowing the reader the chance to suspend doubt. A wizard who, in one chapter, can sink an entire island-like metropolis with one word and no apparent fatigue or loss of power, in another chapter must transform into a bear to face a horde of demons in hand-to-hand combat. A boy who discovers he can turn into a dragon immediately flies without mishap and faces a far older and more experienced real dragon in combat at no apparent disadvantage.
Despite what it may sound like, I found this story premise to be interesting and entertaining and I liked the obvious enthusiasm of the author. But out of respect to all the writers out there who labor to make sure their stories are polished, are consistent, and, especially, are believable, I cannot endorse it. Perform this story orally, and I'll give it a 6; make me read it, it only merits a 3.
Click here to buy Changelings Book 1: Dragons and Demons, by James A. McVean on Amazon