Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: Talking to Dragons

Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Enchanted Forest Chronicles #4
Published in 1985 by HMH Books

Always be polite to dragons!

That's what Daystar's mother taught him...and it's a very wise lesson--one that might just help him after his mom hands him a magic sword and kicks him out of the house. Especially because his house sits on the edge of the Enchanted Forest and his mother is Queen Cimorene.

But the tricky part is figuring out what he's supposed to do with the magic sword. Where is he supposed to go? And why does everyone he meets seem to know who he is? 

It's going to take a particularly hotheaded fire-witch, a very verbose lizard, and a badly behaved baby dragon to help him figure it all out. 

And those good manners certainly won't hurt! 
Talking to Dragons is the conclusion to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and even though it brings the events of the previous three books to it's rightful conclusion, it still feels separate from the rest of the series. See, Talking to Dragons takes place sixteen years after the events of the third book - and - it introduces the reader to a host of new characters.  Here, we get to know Cimorene's son, Daystar who knows absolutely nothing about who he is or what he was born into.  At the start of the book, he gets sent off rather unceremoniously (and with frustratingly little detail) by his mother on his own adventure which hopefully will begin to set things right from where they left off sixteen years prior.

So Daystar sets off and it isn't long before he starts stumbles into other people and creatures. There's Shiara, a fire witch, a funny and innocent young dragon, Suz, an adorable talking lizard and an even more adorable black kitten called Nightwitch, all of which I enjoyed. There's also a ridiculous princess, a lacklustre knight, a bunch of troublesome wizards (naturally) and other magical creatures which I didn't care for. Things are fairly uneventful in the beginning, but soon Daystar, Shiara, the dragon and Nightwitch get into their fair share of trouble...

Talking to Dragons it seems, was written before any of the other books: the first three books were published afterwards as prequels to this instalment.  I didn't know that going in but after noticing a ...difference in the style I did some research and found that out.  This instalment is the only one told in first person (the others were third person POV) and while the characterization have always been fairly simple with this series, the change in the narrative style did not work to it's advantage here. The characters seemed exceedingly one-dimensional and their perception of their world seemed especially juvenile. The audiobook narrators did nothing to help the matter. I listened to the last three books on audio and while I've had some complaints previously about certain of the voices, this was the worst instance of all. Daystar's parts were read jarringly fast but at least his voice was bearable. His travelling companion Shiara, was supposed to come off feisty and bad tempered but she ended up sounding more impetuous and childish. The voice of the little dragon was sort of whiny which seemed weird, though I got used to it after a bit. The princess was super annoying though and I was really glad she was only around for a few chapters. The returning characters from the first three books (Cimorene, Morwen, Telemain, Kazul and Mendanbar) all had the same narrators though which was good - though they only appeared briefly here.


Even the story itself lacked it's usual appeal. There was very little emotional connection there and I simply didn't get invested in the plot or care for the characters as much as I had before. The first two thirds of the book were fairly uneventful and when things finally started to happen, I'd lost interest by then. I was expecting to feel nostalgic when things began to wrap up, given that the storyline was sixteen years in the making but unfortunately, that didn't happen. It all seems like a fairly poor sendoff for characters and a world I had grown to love. I was going through a major book hangover when I got into this so it might have suffered all the more for it but I know that the POV shift, storytelling style and the narration would have bothered me regardless of when I read it. To me, the strongest book in this series remains the first one by leaps and bounds. It was enchanting and just plain fun to read. The second book was enjoyable though to a lesser extent. I began to have some issues with the third bit it was still fun. I can honestly say that I despite a few cute moments and characters, Talking to Dragons is by far the weakest instalment in the series, which is a bummer.

6 comments:

  1. Aw that's too bad. The POV shift and the 16 yr difference would be tough, and I've always thought these were Cimorene- centric (I haven't read them but I've seen a few reviews) so that probably didn't help either? And a bad narrator? Ugh. Sorry this was a disappointment. These do sound fun, if I read them I'll make sure to read the first three and maybe just ignore this one. :)

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    1. Well 16 year difference in the story but if it had been written the same, I could see it being emotional and exciting...but instead it fell flat. They were mostly Cimorene-centric though the POV changed in every book...it was a bummer to have so little of her presence in this one. Overall it was a fun series but it's a shame it didn't end on a high note :)

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  2. Sorry to hear that the conclusion to this series didn't go out on a high note! After a three book investment, I also would've been disappointed to find the last book so different from its predecessors. :/ I'll keep your review of this in mind if I ever start this series, and like Greg said, I may just stop after 3rd book.

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    1. Yeah, it was a bummer to be sure but I suppose every instalment was a bit less good than it's predecessor so it was to be expected? Though I never thought it'd be this drastic o.O I literally felt nothing for these characters and the long awaited resolution. Womp womp!

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  3. It definitely looks like one that you really wanted to enjoy, it just wasn't in the cards. I'm sorry to hear that this installment was so different from the others. A POV change would be hard to deal with and then add the gap between the books with the style difference and it really wouldn't feel like a part of the world anymore but sort of like fanfiction. I'm sorry this one was not one you loved. Great review!

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    1. I really did but it didn't work out unfortunately. The style and everything was just different and the new characters were hard to warm up to given those changes. OMG it really DID feel like fan fiction!! Thank you :)

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