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Dragon Prophecy by Melanie Nilles

Dragon Prophecy is a 276 page book written by Melanie Nilles. It is the first of four books, but I consider it a long introduction to the series more than a stand-alone novel. It stumbles in the beginning, but ends with satisfying conclusions. If given a choice, I would prefer to read it and the next book back-to-back given its somewhat abrupt ending. Beyond that, I found it an enjoyable read with interesting characters and world development.

Plot

The plot starts off slow. It could be related to this being the first book of four, but it really feels like an extended introduction that lasts just over two hundred pages. The real meat of the story didn’t jump up for me until the last third of the book. In addition, the ending reminded me of a friend who watched the first Lord of the Rings movie, when it cut to black:

“That’s it?”

The conclusion of the book cuts off a bit more abrupt than I would enjoy. I was curious of how it would turn out, but not having the next book just made it a bit frustrating. I’d treat the entire novel as an introduction and setting of the scene, setting, and world, but as a whole, it doesn’t really stand on its own as a novel.

The characters are enjoyable in the story. The main character I cared less about than Calli, the girl who followed her. I guess I really didn’t click with that main character. Much of that comes from the way she is introduced, just a bit too different from everyone else and with a huge sign over her her head: “main character here!” The secondary character, on the other, had a lot more depth and personality that drew my attention. It could be my personal preferences, but I like the spunky characters who don’t give up instead of the ones who just kind of bob around for something interesting to handle.

The main plot is somewhat predictable. I never had a question of how it was going to end up, just a matter of when it would happen. This is emphasized by many of the characters who know just about everything--they just don’t tell the reader what is going on.

Calli, on the other hand, seemed to have more energy and fire in the story and that is one of the major things that really drew me into the story. The focus on her struggles was more of the novel I enjoyed. It also stood out as the best part of the novel, ranging from the failures in the beginning to how she grew in the end. Not knowing how her plot would end also helped add to the curiosity and enjoyment.

Writing Style

Ms. Nilles’ writing style changes through the book. In the beginning, many of the sentences stumble slightly and there is an overuse of passive voice. This gradually fades through the middle third of the book and it feels like she found her writer’s voice just slightly after the midpoint of novel. At the same point, the action picks up from the slow start and move at a much more rapid pace. By the end, the descriptive voice and actions are enjoyable to read, but I could see someone struggling with the sluggish introduction, both in plot and in structure.

The novel is written with multiple points of view (POV). Thankfully, in my opinion, she sticks with one point of view per chapter. This is my preferred form of reading multiple POV stories and she writes it well. The writing style also uses many questions for the characters, not differentiated from the rest of the text. It adds a nice flavor for the story and is part of Nilles’ voice, but it took me a little bit to get used to. I think in the latter half of the novel, it settled down into questions that empathize the plot instead of justifying it and I enjoyed it a lot more.

In the story, a great deal of characters speak mentally. The typographic use of just italic, with no quotation marks, made it difficult when reading it on the computer, mainly because I couldn’t easily see where the italics started without paying close attention to the font. Having this broken apart, either by the *Mental*, (Mental), or «Mental» (which I use) would have been better than the undifferentiated italics which are also used for internal thoughts. With somewhat standard conventions in other novels, it would have made it easier to read without having to stop to identify the purpose of the italics.

Likewise, there are characters who speak in poems in the story. As they are arranged, it doesn’t flow well with the writing and I ended up glossing over them, mainly because of the effort to handle the startling break in the flowing of writing. The characters who do speak in poems fit appropriately with the poems, they just needs a bit more or less emphasis in my opinion.

Graphics and Typography

The font used for the book is lovely, baring the lack of distinction of the regular and italic cases. It really helps set the tone of the book and fits very well with the overall theme of the story. The preludes font, on the other hand, was pretty but kind of difficult to read. It set the tone of a hand-written letter, but I wasn’t enamored with it.

The cover is a great closeup of a red dragon. I do appreciate the illustration being related to the story, but it didn’t really jump up and grab me as some do. It probably is the 3D rendering or the plastic glossy look to the dragon.

The map inside the book is a simple drawing. I wish the map maker used the same fonts as the book; it looks out of place with the rest of the book and relatively plain. It does give a good impression of the areas, but it needs a bit more detail to really feel like a living world.

World Development

I like Ms. Nilles’ writing comes out in the world development. Excluding the main plot, there is a fair amount of potential in the world setting and I’m greatly interested in seeing how that fleshes out.
There is a beginning of languages in this book, but not enough to really get a feel for the grammar or linguistics of it. Instead, it is more of a spice usage of the language, peppered in for flavor more than the foundation of entire cultures. An appendix with more details would appeal to my language-loving aspect but it still adds to the story.

The name space of the characters is fairly well spread out. There are a few characters with similar sounding names, but for the most part, each name is distinct enough that it stands out. The dragons have a distinct name, which is overly complicated, but it really sets them aside from the humans and I thought was a very nice, subtle approach to naming.

The appendixes are interesting, but kind of dry. I think they hint at a great potential in the world, but its more “tell” than “show”.

Conclusion

Would I read it again? Yes, but only after I read the next one. With the feel of an introduction, it really needs a chaser to follow up. The characters and plot are just starting, which makes a frustrating cliff-hanger at the end. There is a lot of potential in the world.

Would I read the next one? Definitely. I want to see how the world expand and grows in the stories, which is one of the things I find interesting. The character I’m mostly interested in, Calli, also has a great deal of flair and I’m hoping the main character follows suit once we get into the prophecy proper.