Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dragon's Pupils - The Sword Guest by Martin Chu Shui - Book Review

Title: Dragon's Pupils - The Sword Guest
Author: Martin Chu Shui
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 2010
Pages: 208
Format: E-book - EPUB
Genre: Fantasy/YA
Source: Review Copy from Author

Half-Chinese, half-Australian, Liz is not interested in her father’s ancient Tao wisdom, or his cryptic tales. She is more concerned with environmental issues—particularly the plan to mine one of Australia’s great landmarks, Wave Rock. Her father’s latest gift, a Chinese calligraphy pen, seems set to take its place in her bottom drawer forever.
Then Wave Rock is blasted open by something more than a mining operation, and Liz finds that she must battle monsters from ancient times as well as creatures from other worlds, all intent on destroying Earth. She must call on all her powers, from both her Eastern heritage and her Western upbringing, to save her world. Her pen becomes her way into a new and magical world, and Liz discovers she has powers—and allies—that she never could have guessed.
An exciting, fast-paced tale that combines the wisdom of ancient tradition with the pace of a Kung Fu movie and brings them to life in contemporary Australia, this exciting tale takes the best of two cultures and blends them to open up a new world of adventure and mystery.
(Goodreads Synopsis)

I was contacted by Martin Chu Shui back in June, requesting a review of this book and I have only now had time to get to it.

Let me say first off that I do not like rating books low, especially when it is a new writer trying to start out as I know how that feels. But, I was offered a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and so I need to be honest.

This book had a number of problems for me. The main one was believability (or the lack thereof). Sure this is fantasy, but the world still has to have a sense of truth so the reader can suspend disbelief and become engaged with the story and that just didn't happen here. The problem was actually not the 'fantasy' elements, but some of the everyday aspects. This book centres on a group of fourteen year-olds. Fine. But we are supposed to believe that these fourteen year olds are environmental protestors whose parents seemed unfazed about them going off to political rallies without adult supervision. Their language at times felt far too 'adult' and dialogue was stilted throughout the piece.

The environmental 'agenda' in this piece also left me cold. It's fine to have a message within a story, but in this piece it seemed that the story was secondary to the message in places. It also felt like the author had drawn out the piece in an attempt to make it a novel rather than a novella and there were repetitive fight scenes that added nothing to the story.

If I hadn't been reading this at request, I may well have abandoned it without finishing - something I don't do very often. But a sense of commitment kept me reading until the end.

That said, the book was not without positives. The plot was very original and I really liked the idea of blending Chinese folktales with a Western style of writing. I found the Chinese elements very interesting as it is not a culture I know very much about. With some work this could make a nice middle-grade/YA read - but it is not at that stage yet.

I do not mean these comments to be scathing and I hope the author will be able to take something from them that he can use in the future. I wish him all the best in his endeavours.

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