I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Series: The Dragon King Chronicles #1
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd 2013
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.
On the back of my ARC it reads: “It’s Graceling meets Eon in this action-packed fantasy adventure by debut author Ellen Oh.” In all honesty, I think that statement does a huge disservice to all three novels. And because of that one little sentence, I went into Prophecy expecting something epic with rich descriptions, epic fight scenes and a main character worth rooting for. Unfortunately, I found none of that. I tried to love Prophecy. Truly, I did, but it just never worked out and I’m really sad it didn’t because I love Ellen to bits.
Prophecy and I had a very rocky time together that could mirror a relationship from a Taylor Swift song. The saddest part of it all is that I know I could have enjoyed this novel a lot more if it weren’t for three very important factors.
Cookie cut-out, cardboard characters. That’s the best way to describe every last character in Prophecy. Sure, the bare bones was there. We have Kira, the main character, who is a strong, warrior girl. Her sworn duty is to protect her younger cousin and Crowned Prince, Taejo, from any and all harm. She is also hated by everyone in the land, despite the fact that her job is also to protect those very people from demon attacks. In fact, the people call her The Demon Slayer, which is kind of funny considering we are told the people are kept in ignorance of the existence of demons. So why do the people call her that? No clue. It really never made much sense, and really, that’s the least of Prophecy’s problems. All of this is TOLD to the reader in the first two chapters. What does Kira like to do? Fight demons. Does she have any long-term aspirations? Protect the Prince forever and ever. Is that nobel? Sure. But how is it really any different from Bella’s obsession with Edward? I’m not sure it is.
The other characters are no better. We are given a brief introduction to Kira’s mom and we are TOLD how kind she is. We are TOLD her dad is a great general. And Taejo. Taejo is the most infuriating character out of the bunch and only serves as a damsel in distress to give Kira something to do since her life long goal only includes taking a bullet for him. In the beginning, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but as the novel wore on, I began to wonder if he possessed any sort of training at all or courage or bravery or balls. Apparently, none of those things. And don’t get me wrong. I love a strong female character that saves herself and friends, but not at the expense of the others looking useless or helpless.
The rest of the characters did show promise, but they were never fleshed out and served more as sidekicks than anything else. For example, the love interest, Jaewon, I did like. He seemed to have a good story behind him. Troubled past filled with pain and a chance for redemption. Unfortunately, it was never really tapped into. Though, perhaps Oh is saving that for the subsequent novels along with the romance that was never fully formed, but instead thrown in at a blasé sort of way. Because of that, I felt the little line where he says he’d “always do whatever she asked” was a little much. Why would he? What sort of connection did he develop with Kira with their brief interactions in between fight scenes? However, I will say that I did appreciate the romance not being in the forefront.
Show. Don’t Tell:
Immediately, from the first chapter I had a sneaky suspicion that this would be an issue. Readers are told entirely too much about the characters instead of getting to know them for themselves. With every character we are introduced to, the reader is told what kind of person he or she is. There is no surprise with thinking one character is good, but later turning to the dark side. It made Prophecy incredibly predictable and with flat characters, the element of surprise could have saved this novel. I’m supposed to like Taejo because he is young and the prince and is good. But I don’t. I’m supposed to like their uncle, King of the neighboring Kingdom of Guru. Then Kira decides she doesn’t trust him because slight ruthless nature, but it doesn’t matter because I never liked him anyway. I’m supposed to like Kira because she is the main character who has poor self-esteem and must find her way in a kingdom that doesn’t appreciate her. But I don’t. See the problem here? I’m not shown enough about the characters to actually develop any feelings toward them one way or another.
Also, because there was mostly telling the fight scenes were shorter and less descriptive than what I would have liked, making them just as eventful as if they were all frolicking through a meadow. This caused the pacing to feel very off at times. One paragraph they are fighting, then the next it’s suddenly over and they’re walking to an inn.
And even with the other negatives, I could have enjoyed it more if the writing style meshed better with me. This is the biggest problem with it being compared to Eon and Graceling. It’s like a little kid trying to put daddy’s pants on. He looks awfully cute in it, but just isn’t ready to wear those digs. This is where I really think Prophecy would have been better marketed to the Middle Grade audience instead. There is just way too much hand-holding and explaining terms that are better left inferred to my liking. Prophecy does a lot of what Stormdancer did, where it used foreign terms (in this case Korean) that readers my not be familiar with. If there was more showing, the reader could have easily used context clues to guess the meaning. It just felt like there was a lot of “talking down” to the reader and it completely turned me off to the story. This lead to a very basic plot with predictable twists, causing the heroine to appear very slow on the uptake. And that in turn caused me moments of great frustration similar to when Eona couldn’t figure out how to call her dragon for majority of a 531 page novel. *headdesk* (Oh, hey, look! There’s the comparison.) Sad to say, veteran high fantasy and critical readers will not be impressed by this.
Still, while Prophecy did hold significant faults for me, I do appreciate the amount of research Oh obviously invested into the novel. She had a clear outline of her world building and it showed. And there were a few lines that made me chuckle. I just wish there had been a little more time to develop everything. Truthfully, Prophecy isn’t a bad novel and if my daughter was around age 10, it’d be a book I would buy her. For anyone else, I highly recommend anyone considering it to seek out a sample chapter first. But as for me? It’s not really my thing. Maybe the series will get better in the next book. Maybe all my concerns are cleared up. But Prophecy and I are like a pair of incompatible, bickering lovers. Fine on our own, just not so great together. And we’re probably “never ever, ever getting back together.”
An ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review.