Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: The Last of the Firedrakes, by Farah Oomerbhoy


The Last of the Firedrakes
Farah Oomerbhoy
(Avalonia Chronicles, Book 1)
Kindle Edition, 488 pages
Wise Ink Creative Publishing
August 15, 2015
Fantasy, Mythology, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult Fiction
Source: Amazon Kindle Store

Book Synopsis:16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn't seem so bad.

Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms--including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora's arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear.

With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26102502-the-last-of-the-firedrakes



 

When I came across this book, the cover instantly caught my eye, with all that gorgeous blue! As all of us readers know, though,  not every pretty book cover encloses a great story...

Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this particular story. There were several problems; the writing style makes this book read like a middle-grade novel, not a YA one, and is not compelling at all, especially where descriptions are concerned. Also, the characterizations fell totally flat for me. There were other issues as well, which I will mention further down.

Aurora, the young female protagonist, did not strike me as a very interesting character. She doesn't have the dynamism that I would have expected from someone who finds out, after being bullied and sold to the enemy -- by members of her own family, no less -- that she possesses a secret magical legacy. She is much too passive, just allowing things to happen to her. 

Rafe, known as "The Black Wolf", is the mysterious figure with whom she becomes acquainted not long after her arrival in Avalonia. He was a bit more appealing than Aurora, and more interesting, as well.  He's certainly very charming and brave. Also, he comes across as a combination of Zorro and Robin Hood.

I also thought that the instant attraction Aurora felt for Rafe was not well developed in the story. So the romance also fell flat for me.

The book is full of YA tropes, such as that of the mistreated orphan who discovers they have long-buried magical powers. (This is typical Harry Potter stuff.) The mean girl is alive and well in this story, too, as is her circle of equally mean followers, who gladly comply to the letter with her instructions to torture Aurora. Then there's the unattainable, popular boy at school, whom Aurora has a crush on. (These events take place before Aurora is forcibly taken to Avalonia.) 
  
Another thing that bothered me was the plot, which I thought was too rushed. The twists and turns come up much too fast, instead of being gradually led up to, and thus, do not allow the reader to suspend disbelief (at least, not this reader). Events are also too contrived and predictable, and, sometimes, even silly. For instance, at one point in the narrative, one of the minor characters is spying upon a couple of traitors who are planning an assassination. The door of the room where this sinister event is being planned, is ajar. Now, would people having a secret meeting for such a purpose be so careless as to leave the door of the room where the discussion is taking place, ajar? And would they have even had this discussion in the very same castle in which the intended victim lived? Common sense immediately answers that this is not realistic at all.

One particular plot element that really bothered me was how Rafe kept popping into the narrative at just the right moment to rescue Aurora. Heck, he even does this three times at different points in the first few chapters! And once, she's rescued by her own granduncle.   Of course, this means that Aurota is definitely a stereotypical "damsel in distress". She doesn't do much to see how she can go about extricating herself from difficult situations. But well, she really doesn't need to, because Rafe, or some other male, is always there to save her.

I'm not against female protagonists being rescued (as long as it's not that frequent), but when a writer sets up a character to have all these awesome powers, which means that she's going to become a leader, then I think it's an inconsistency to have this very same character behave in such a passive manner

Paradoxically, I did like the magical world  created by the author. The magic was fascinating, and the concept of a "fae-mage" was a totally new one to me. I also liked the idea of having Aurora wear an amulet that would prevent her magic from getting out of control. That was definitely new to me, as well. 

My favorite magical element in the plot was the winged horse. This horse (a female) belonged to a magical race known as "pegasi", which is the plural of "pegasus". As those familiar with Greek mythology know, Pegasus was a winged horse in that mythological universe. In this novel, the pegasus can communicate with Aurora telepathically. I thought that was actually pretty cool.

Although I began reading this novel a couple of weeks ago, I have not been able to finish it. Perhaps I should try harder to give it a chance. However, although I do like the world-building, the simplistic writing, stereotypical characters, and typical YA tropes really bother me. 

I have read great fantasy novels before, not only in the YA genre, but in the adult genre, as well. It's really too bad that this novel did not achieve the potential I could see latent in the plot. If the writing had only been better, more complex......if only the characters had had more depth.....If only. Yes, the potential is there; it just needs to be further developed. It just needs to be polished so that the reader will sit up and take notice.

I wanted to love this novel. I really did. So I have to say that I do have very mixed feelings about it. The magic is there, just beneath the surface. It just needs to shine.

I would love it if Oomerbhoy went back and re-wrote certain parts of this story. I would love it if she tightened the narrative, perhaps eliminating parts that really don't work. I would also love it if she would make other parts longer, with more details. This would make the plot feel less rushed.

In short, I was disappointed not so much with the story itself, but with the way it was handled. If a fully-revised version were to be published in the future, I would definitely give it another chance. 

MY RATING:






For Farah Oomerbhoy, writing is a passion and reading her solace. She is a firm believer in the fantastic and magical, and often dreams of living in Narnia, Neverland, or the Enchanted Forest.

Farah lives with her husband and three children in their family home in Mumbai, India. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Mumbai. Her first novel, The Last of the Firedrakes, Book 1 of the Avalonia Chronicles, was published worldwide in August, 2015.




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