Book Review: Sapphire & Lotus: Dragon Kin

Book Title:  Sapphire & Lotus: Dragon Kin

Author: Shae Geary and Audrey Faye

Pages: 264 (Kindle Pages)

Release Date: November 2016

Author Website: Amazon Author Page

Purchase Link:  Amazon

Price: $4.99

S&LDK Cover.jpg

Spoilers.  Duh.

 

Plot:  The story begins with a prologue during a ‘dragons vs. elves’ war, in which the dragons have narrowly won a recent battle.  Worried about the future of her kind, the Dragon Queen Lovissa seeks guidance from her predecessors to see into the future – and is ultimately confused when she sees five elves riding a top five dragons along with the message ‘The five will come.  You must be ready’.

Fast forward to present time, and we meet Sapphire Silvermoon, a 14-year old elf running away from home because she doesn’t feel like she belongs in her family, the ‘ruling family’ of the Moon Clan.  What makes her think she doesn’t belong?  Unlike her sisters, she doesn’t have any ‘special talents’ – not that these are explained.  So what is the Moon Clan, exactly?  That isn’t explained either.  In fact, we never hear a peep from anyone in Sapphire’s family, ever, despite her up-and-coming dramatic lifestyle change.

During her escape, Sapphire spots a large egg in a tree and instantly feels drawn towards it.  (Oh, don’t mind how the egg got in the tree, since that isn’t explained either!)  She climbs the tree and snuggles with it.  Eventually, the egg hatches to reveal a peach-pink baby dragon.  The two bond instantly and survive a cold night in a tree together.

The next morning, an older woman and her large dragon happen to come across Sapphire and the baby dragon, and offer their assistance.  Sapphire and Lotus eventually climb down from the tree and join Afran the dragon and the ‘woman who introduces her dragon but not herself until several pages later’, Karis.

Karis and Afran lead Sapphire and newly-named baby dragon Lotus to their settlement (instead of, you know, escorting a 14-year old back home), a community in the woods dedicated to raising dragons.  There is some long-winded conversation about dragons and the settlement/school between Sapphire and new character Kellan, who herself has a special connection with dragons but lacks a bond with one.  After another long conversation, Sapphire is accepted as a student in the settlement and begins to bond (‘kin’) with Lotus.

After introducing a couple more characters (Irin and his bonded dragon Kis) and another long-winded discussion about bonding, the group goes off to meet the dragon queen Elhen in a cave somewhere.  There, Sapphire and Lotus are labeled as ‘chosen ones’ of sort because they are ‘marked’ by the ‘dragon star’ because they will one day save all of dragonkind.  From what?  From who?  When?  How?  Well, turns out it doesn’t matter, because that’s not the plot of this story.

Two years pass, and it turns out Lotus has an extreme fear of heights due to being hatched high up in a tree.  As a result, she flies low to the ground – which doesn’t bode well with the citizens, forcing her and Sapphire to overcome this fear.  (I will make clear now that this is the plot of the latter half of the book.  Yes, never mind that there’s a ‘big bad’ out there that intends to destroy the dragons, because Lotus learning to fly properly is far more important.)

The two begin training with Karis and Afran, but when this proves futile they go solo with some tips from Irin.  This helps somewhat – they fly higher but Lotus is still a bit hesitant jumping from high places and flying over the ocean.

But we’re told again they need to overcome this because they’re marked, so they’re going to be saving all of dragonkind from…something.

65% of the way through the story, Sapphire has a dream that her and Lotus are flying high, but being swallowed by darkness.  Lovissa, despite being dead, somehow senses this and calls out to Sapphire through a star-filled song to encourage her to not give up her training.

This also introduces another baseless character to ‘interpret’ the stars through an overly boring scene, but a scene which should be the focus of the story.  Instead, the underwhelming explanation is that the stars are from a different part of the world, and Lotus and Sapphire need to fly there (over the ocean nonetheless), because they’re marked for reasons of course, and therefore none of the other characters with more experience can do this.

Sapphire and Lotus, however, still need to finish their training, which prompts a visit from Fendellen, the future queen of dragons.  After more conversations about Sapphire and Lotus being ‘marked’ and how they need to learn how to fly, they rendezvous with Fendellen for their final lesson.  After a ‘believe in yourself, you’re special!’ pep talk that lasts for pages, Sapphire and Lotus successfully fly over part of the ocean within one page on their first try, and everybody is happy.

The end…

No, wait – the story reiterates that Sapphire and Lotus are one of the five who will save dragonkind or something.

The end.

Characters:  Let me make this a point before the ranting starts:  The characters have a lot of soul in them – you do feel for them for the most part.

But while they don’t come across as lifeless, most characters come across as baseless.

The main character, Sapphire, oddly fits her own assessment of an ‘ordinary’ character.  She is constantly narrating about how mundane she is, and she’s right – there really is nothing special about her.  She found Lotus, and has an occasional foreboding nightmare, but for someone who is ‘chosen’, nothing revolves around her.  In other words, for a main character, she doesn’t have a lot, if any, tribulations to overcome.  Unfortunately, she’s the undeterred focus of the story too, insomuch as no one can not be talking about her, which takes away a lot of context from not only other characters, but the world they live in (more on this later).

Lotus is a bit more interesting – she’s fiery (literally and figuratively), haughty, and has an odd fear of heights (odd for a dragon, anyway).  One of the best things I liked about Lotus is she can’t exactly talk, even telepathically, making her communication with Sapphire a bit of a challenge at times.  I actually wish the story was more about Lotus and less about Sapphire, since it’s actually Lotus who bears the story’s main conflict, not Sapphire.  Had the story been told from Lotus’s perspective and not Sapphire’s, it would have had a lot more depth behind overcoming a fear of heights, as well as what’s at stake for dragonkind.

Karis and Afran are also a bit on the forgettable side – they play a small role in Sapphire’s training but since their training doesn’t help, they really aren’t worth remembering.

Kis and Irin are another bonded pair, but unlike Karis and Afran they have a bit of history.  The two are the ‘gruff but lovable’ caretakers of baby dragons.  Despite their warrior-like attitudes, an unfortunate event ‘grounded’ them forever, giving substance to their slight jealousy of, well, all the other dragons and their kin.  They find some solace in caring for the babies, but it’s clear they really want to fly again.  Irin eventually assists Sapphire and Lotus with their flying, and unlike Karis and Afran, his advice actually helps.

Kellan is probably my favorite character, and I wish she had more development.  She’s mischievous, friendly, and a good cook, but has a bit more in terms of personal conflict than Sapphire: Despite having a natural and deep connection to dragons, she does not have one to call her own.  I did feel a bit sorry for her, but since the story isn’t about her it’s difficult to fully connect with her internal struggle – which, sadly, also makes her kind of useless.

Alonia and Lily are entirely forgettable – they serve no purpose except to show Sapphire has friends, a role which Kellan could fill by herself.

Lovissa, Elhen, and Fendellen are rather minor characters.  They play their role sufficiently and stay out of the spotlight.

But the biggest flaw about the characters in this book?  The lack of description.  Aside from the cover art and a few dragon colors, there are no valid descriptions on any characters in the book, even at the most base of hair/skin/eye.  The only aspects that are routinely indicated among characters is age and size.

Setting/World Building:  Typical fantasy setting – school for dragon training in the woods, by the sea and mountains – nothing unusual.

There’s a bit of world building in terms of the dragons vs. elves war but because this event happened eons before the story took place it really has no value to the current time.  Also, because the story is so focused on Sapphire and Lotus there’s a bit of shallowness in terms of what else goes on in the world.  The Moon Clan (or other elf clans, or other races) plays virtually no role, and even other happenings inside the community itself go unrecorded.

It seems as though the focus should be more on Sapphire’s nightmare about being swallowed by darkness, or even how they’re going to ‘save all of dragonkind’, rather than on her and Lotus learning to fly high.  This would give more insight and depth to the nature of the world they live in, what’s at stake, and why it’s so important for them to rise above their fear.  Instead, because we’re stuck with the entire story being about Sapphire and Lotus overcoming their fear of heights, that takes opportunity away from explaining a much more meaningful goal (saving dragonkind) and opening the world they live in.

In short, the ‘who’ is defined, but the ‘why’ and ‘how’ are not, leaving the world, its history, and its future, vapid.

Grammar/Misspellings & Flow/Syntax:  The good news is, there are very few, if any, grammar and misspellings.

Also, I will give credit here – the book has a lot of heart, a lot of passion.  Reading it wasn’t necessarily a bore, but it was a chore.  Because I have so many issues with the flow and syntax, I’m going to break it down in sections:

– The main plot, goal, and narration of the story is misplaced:  One of the ways the writing bothers me most is that the story is narrated through Sapphire, but its Lotus who has the fear of heights, this conflict to overcome.  It feels that the focus of the story is misplaced – either it should be told through Lotus, or it should be Sapphire who has the fear.  It makes little sense for the main character to narrate overcoming a fear that really isn’t hers to conquer.

(Now ‘supposedly’ Sapphire had this fear as well, but it wasn’t exactly brought up many times, and I never got this impression from her.  If she did have this fear, it would be much more prominent in a character who doesn’t naturally fly than one who does.)

Last, the story focuses more on Lotus overcoming her fear of heights/flying than it does Sapphire’s dream – which should actually be the main focus because it means something beyond a personal conflict, giving the impression that more is at risk.  The fear of heights can still be appropriate, but since it’s the main plot, the overall goal comes across as flat.

– There are numerous instances that are superfluous:  A short book like this can easily be read in a few hours, but the narration tends to imply that everything is forgettable.  This actually undermines the writing quite a bit, insinuating that certain events or conversations aren’t worth remembering, because you’ll just be reminded of them later.

For example – how the egg in the tree is ‘not a chicken egg’, how everyone believed Kellan might (or might not) someday bond with a dragon, how Sapphire is ‘bonded’ with Lotus, Sapphire’s self-infliction that she’s ‘ordinary’ and ‘the youngest’ daughter of the Moon Clan, questioning time and again what Sapphire’s dream means, metaphors about courage, Sapphire’s stubborn determination to learn how to fly, etc.

And, most prominently, how Sapphire and Lotus are marked to save dragonkind.  I swear, every character in the book mentioned this at least one.

Having so many constant reminders interrupts any sort of flow in the story, preferring to shift back to what the reader does know in favor of exploring what the reader doesn’t know – which almost expresses a lack of story-telling confidence.  It’s like taking one step forward and two steps back throughout the entire book.

– There are sentences that just don’t make any sense, or are oddly worded:  Such as this one when someone named Orion may (or may not?) write about Sapphire:

And while he’d occasionally been kind enough to notice that Sapphire existed, she was pretty sure he’d happily trade in their limited goodwill for unlimited comedic potential.

(Honestly, I have no idea what this even means in context.  Not that it matters – Orion is never mentioned again.)

And:

The grandmother of my grandmother, twenty-five generations past.

(Does it mean there are twenty-five generations between ‘the grandmother of my grandmother’, or twenty-five generations before ‘the grandmother of my grandmother’?)

There are also some odd-worded like:

‘Reverently, she touched her fingers again to the egg…’

(If you touch something, you can pretty much assume you’re using your fingers)

…the parts of her touching the egg were quite comfortable, and even some of her a little farther away had almost managed to stop shivering’.

(What ‘parts’?  Her belly, hand, legs, etc.?)

It took ten eternities, or fifteen, or twenty [to climb down the tree]

(…Does it matter after ten?)

I also noticed a few odd words only used sparingly – ‘Summerworld’, ‘Snowmelt’, ‘younglings’, and also slang such as ‘shiny things’ and ‘lightshow’ and ‘heater’ and ‘totally’ which just sound out of place for a fantasy world.

However, the very worst scene is near the beginning, when Karis gets Sapphire’s attention while she’s still stuck in the tree with Lotus, in the dumbest way possible:

She shoots an arrow at her.  Yes, because the best way to get someone’s attention is to shoot someone with a weapon that can injure, if not kill, them.  Without warning, Karis purposely shoots an arrow at Sapphire to get her attention.  Never mind if Sapphire or Lotus suddenly turns, or if it startles them into falling out of the tree, or heaven forbid Karis misses – apparently getting Sapphire’s attention is more important than getting her attention safely.

Let me tell you this, as a writer who befell the same lesson:  This.  Never.  Makes.  Any.  Sense.  Ever.  It is not realistic.  It is not dramatic.  It is stupid.  You would never do this in real life, and it makes no sense to do it in a fictional one either.

– The buildup to tense scenes is overwhelming, while the execution is underwhelming:

At the books most intense moments (such as jumping off a cliff to fly), the consequence of these actions is underwhelming.   Essentially, the buildup to certain events like Sapphire and Lotus meeting Elhen and the final lesson with Fendellen took pages to cover.  But when Elhen told Sapphire she was ‘marked’, Sapphire (and everyone else) just kind of accepted it.  And excelling at Fendellen’s final flying lesson on the first try with no dramatic tension made the last act in the story feel like it was all for show and no substance.

– Simply put, the story is over-worded.

For such a light-hearted, optimistic story, the book is rather long-winded in general.  In addition to the above flaws, it’s as though the authors go out of their way to overcomplicate even the simplest of scenes.

The story is riddled, beginning to end, with sentences such as:

‘She held very still.  No Moon Clan elf with any brains at all moved when a little one was on its way to dreamland, because her mother also had a rule about waking sleeping babies.

(How about:  She held very still so as not to wake the baby dragon.)

And

Ever so slowly, green eyes made their way closed.’

(How about:  The green eyes slowly closed.)

And:

Lotus, like every other dragon in the village, looked highly askance at the strange desire of humans and elves to immerse themselves in water, but they all willingly took turns heating up the small pool that had been built under Lily’s direction.

(How about:  Dragons balked at the desire to bathe in water, but were eager to heat the community pool for their human and elven companions.)

And:

Sapphire hadn’t been aware they (her eyes) were closed.  She scrunched up her face, trying to find the muscles that would pull her eyelids open.  It was hard – they were still fighting against the last awful things they had seen in the dark (her nightmare).

(How about:  Sapphire struggled against the last remnants of her nightmare to open her tightly-shut eyes.)

I really don’t understand why there’s such a descriptive need for nearly every action in the book.  Don’t write about doing it – just do it.

Overall Recommendation: For a feel-good story with a lot of heart, this book does ‘okay’ despite its many flaws.  For the start of an epic fantasy series, however, it falls way short.

There is a story in there, but its buried beneath this ‘fear of heights’ plotline, which in of itself is a tangled, word-salad story narrated from the wrong perspective.  It isn’t a confusing story by any means, and in fact seems to be geared more towards younger readers.  However, the focus is misplaced, the flow is bogged by redundancy, many of the characters are pointless, the world they live in is ho-hum, and I can’t, with good conscious, say I have confidence in this series.  Like I mentioned, the book has heart, and it isn’t boring or half-assed, but it goes nowhere in a story that clearly has somewhere to go, and it adds insult by all the extra wording along the way.

Another main reason I don’t recommend it is the price – awfully high for a shorter story that doesn’t tell much of anything.  If you still want to read it, it may be worth waiting to see if the price drops when the entire series is finished.

However, one props I will give the book is the cover.  (I know I put it up top, but I’m putting it here too because I love it that much.)

S&LDK Cover.jpg

Gorgeous – just really, really gorgeous and enticing.

However, I doubt I will read any more in this series – only possibly if one of them revolves around Kellan, but then again the author’s writing style is simply too dragging for my personal tastes.

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