Sunday, March 3, 2013

Oh, Ellen: Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles, #1)

January 2, 2013
YA Historical/High Fantasy, 320 pages
Acquired and read: From the local library cooperative (love those guys!) like weeks ago, and resurrected from my teetering book pile yesterday afternoon.
The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms... is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

There's a lot to be said for low expectations.

Wait, I think I said that wrong. See, whenever I've really, really balled up my fists and thrown a tantrum with lots of pillow flinging and high-pitched screaming over the fact that I didn't get the ARC of a debut I really, really wanted, chances are I won't like that debut as much as I really, really thought I would.

Translation: My expectations were too high. Thus, they were quickly, cruelly and irrefutably crushed.

Note that these debuts weren't bad. Far from it. It was just a matter of me building up the title and its subject material to something that it actually wasn't - example: a fun little read on pony power becoming a MASSIVE CYBERPUNK EPIC with programmable robot unicorns roaming the streets of New Tokyo and eventually fighting a lab experiment escapee that has a bad habit of going around and smashing down buildings...when, really, it was a fun little read on pony power.

Back to the review on Prophecy. I really looked forward to this release, but I definitely did not put it on the shelf of Instant Win next to Graceling and Eon, as it was pitched. Recently, I find myself doubting pitches. They just seem to aim too high and don't give debut authors a chance to find a proper spot of their own in the Book Club of Awesomeness.

If you want proof: "Beautiful Creatures is Twilight meets The Hunger Games."

I rest my case.

Anyway, when Prophecy came, I was pretty excited (but not to the brink of insanity) because Ellen Oh is the sweetest on Twitter and has some mega-awesome ideas on diversity in YA (us diverse girls gotta stick together, you know?). And, in the end, I think those reasonable expectations saved me from a world of disappointment.

Because Prophecy is not Eon.

Kira is not Eona.

And that's perfectly okay, because she has some (lethal) charms of her own.

From the very first page, I was hooked on this strange-eyed, so-called kumiho demon slayer. True, some of her friend-family dynamics are pretty cliche if you're on the Asian TV scale of things (family member who distrusts her strange powers, surprisingly supportive and not at all shocked that they have a savior for a daughter parents, and, a little down the way, an unabashed fan boy who hams it up in a truly Korean fashion).

Regardless of that, I found myself feeling for Kira. Even if she's a woman warrior, in a time period and world that I have no experience with, she still has feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. She doesn't think there's any way that a girl who has spent most of her life hated and feared can turn out to be the savior of an entire nation.

(Spoiler: She is.)

I can say that there were some moments in the text and plot that tripped me up (please avert your eyes from the spoilers): everyone's parents have to die? REALLY? Why does it always have to be a wise old monk who reveals the prophecy? There are some cool Buddhist nuns, you know. Share the girl power!

Uh oh, bad guys! No, wait, these are the bad guys? I could totally take them!

(No, really. Don't underestimate me just because I'm sweet and I read YA. Some have made the same mistake and NEVER REPEATED IT.)

...Wait, are those the Japanese? Did you just make the Japanese the bad guys?! (Okay, so I know in a historical context, Japan and Korea have not always been the best of friends, but...loyalties die hard, okay?)

Also, I may or may not have snickered at the use of "oppa" and "noona" in a context out of contemporary K-pop and -dramas. Ignore me, I'm weird sometimes.

In any case, I will be the first to admit that Prophecy does have its flaws. But that's the wonderful thing about a debut. It's your chance to make your entrance in the writing world, to enjoy those who understand and appreciate your loves, and learn from your mistakes and find wonderful friends to be your wingmen. I think Ellen has done all of that, and you can tell how much she loves Korea and its rich history.

Also, people, don't think that being a debut excuses you from awful grammatical faux pas and the overuse of love triangles. I can only be so nice.

(Side note: If you want to read Prophecy and aren't swayed on the idea of a K-drama set in a historical backdrop, read it for the romance - or lack of, as it pretty much lingers on the back burner. It's rather refreshing.)

Warnings: There are a few bad words here and there, insults against people's mothers, painful character deaths, some creepy demons who devour livers and possess humans...Eesh. Then again, this is Asian mythology, so expect the freaky here, people. But other than that, it's pretty clean.


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