Review: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

20 November, 2012 Reviews 29 comments

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.

Review: Prophecy by Ellen OhProphecy by Ellen Oh
Series: The Dragon King Chronicles #1
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd 2013
Pages: 312
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

The Characters:

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.

Basic Writing:

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. 

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

29 Responses to “Review: Prophecy by Ellen Oh”

  1. Kara_M

    Oh boy. This one sounds like a mess. And I was really looking forward to it too. One of my biggest pet peeves is I hate being talked down to. It’s why I had a problem with Monument 13. There seems like there were quite a few other technical issues too. I feel like I should still try this one, but I am seriously on the fence now. I think maybe I should wait for 1 or 2 more reviews before I decide. I probably won’t like this though. Anyway, great review. Sorry this one was stinky for you.

  2. cynicalsapphire

    Alright, let’s do this.
    Bahaha, your relationship mirrored a Taylor Swift song.
    Yup, these characters have nothing to them, no meat on their bones. Where are the idiosyncracies? The inside jokes? The signs that they no one another at all? Also, I totally agree that Jaewon had the most promise. He actually had a back story, though we only get tempted with tiny tidbits thereof. But yes, WHY does he like Kira so much? She’s so boring. Jaewon, you deserve better.
    Exactly! I didn’t mention this, so I’m really glad you did (I could change my review, but no): there are no surprises. Like, the big bad of this installment was a guy who’s described as an untrustworthy asshole from the beginning. Where’s the big betrayal, like her dad having turned out to be the bad guy or something?
    Oh, the Guru plot line. I don’t even really know what that was all about. Why even pretend that Taejo agreeing to honor him is a big deal, since we ALL know that he’s going to be King and Kira’s going to be his emotionless guard dog in the end. THIS IS NOT HOW SUSPENSE WORKS, okay? Don’t even play.
    Bahahaha, the little kid in daddy’s pants thing.
    I approve of this review. Also, I’m very glad you were making your way through this at the same time I was, because it was really nice having a reading buddy to get through this one.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @cynicalsapphire I think the relationship is supposed to develop more over the series, but I didn’t really feel the beginnings of sparks that much. 
      I would have liked for there to have been a surprise or two. Like, with her uncle. I thought that maybe he would turn evil or something (and maybe he will in the next two books, hard to tell), but he didn’t. We knew the bad guy couldn’t be trusted from the start and we knew Kira was “The One.”
      And ditto! We should do more read-a-longs in the future. 🙂

      • cynicalsapphire

        @Stephanie Sinclair  @cynicalsapphire You know what would be an AWESOME twist? If the shadowy big bad boss guy turned out to be Kira’s uncle. He mustered forces to fight against his crazy right hand man, by which method, he managed to unite the other kingdoms under his rule without war. Now THAT would be fucking cool.

  3. Ashleigh Paige

    Well, that makes three of us who haven’t like this book. We can all sob over it together and enjoy something awesome–like, say, Everbound, you lucky duck! Maybe equal exchange will show up and something you didn’t expect to be awesome will be a total knockout of a book soon.
    But yeah, we had a lot of the same issues with this book. Great review, Steph! (And you get bonus points for a Taylor Swift mention. I love Tay-Tay, but she got issues.)

  4. Renae

    Hmm, I don’t think I’ve heard many positive things about this on, sadly. And I honestly probably won’t be in a hurry to read this one, as characterization is the most important  thing for me in any given book. And tell-not-show writing is hardly enjoyable, either.
    Sorry you dind’t care for this one, Steph, but thanks for sharing!

  5. FlyleafHeather

    Thank you! This was EXACTLY how I felt after reading and reviewing this book. ESPECIALLY the showing and not telling:
    “They began their journey to the mountain range…ten days later they arrived.”
    and on and on just like that.
    And yes, I totally agree that this felt more suited to a MG audience. Of course it’s also true that I have read much more entertaining MG books than this one. 
    Thanks for this review. I wanted to like this so much more than I did. I now feel vindicated:)

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @FlyleafHeather Yeah, the “one-sentenced-journey” didn’t work out for me. I like following characters in high fantasy novels on their quests, even when it may seem like the novel has slowed down a bit. Because that way when something does happen, you’re caught completely off guard.

  6. April Books And Wine

    I think I will keep my mind open and give Prophecy a chance. Like, a lot of the things you mention are things I dislike, HOWEVER I love middle grade fantasy with a fiery passion, so I might like this.

  7. Realm of Fiction

    This sounded like my sort of book until I read your review! I’m completely convinced now that it wouldn’t be for me. Without good writing and fleshed out characters, there is very little chance that I’ll enjoy something like this. 
    Thanks for the helpful review, Steph! I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, especially as you are a fan of the author. I always find it incredibly awkward to write a negative review for someone I know and like, but you did it very well. 🙂 I hope your next read is better!

  8. elena

    Oh no!! It makes me sad that this book was so disappointing for you, I’m really looking forward to this! Gah, I hate it when it’s all telling. It’s an interesting point you made about middle grade fantasy and I do enjoy it so hopefully I will still like it. It always bums me out when I love an author but not their book, it’s quite awkward. Thanks for your honest review!

  9. elena

    Oh noo, I’m so sorry this one was disappointing for you! It sounds so good and I’m really excited for it. It always bums me out when I love an author but not their book. 🙁 I don’t like it when book are all about telling so it’s unfortunate this book has it. It’s an interesting point you made about MG but I do enjoy MG so I’m going to cross my fingers I will like this book. Thanks for your honest review!

  10. Wendy Darling

    Oh dear. This one sounded so promising, but all the points you made are things I would have trouble with, too! I’m sorry it was a disappointment, Steph. Mentioning by EON and GRACELING was a tricky move–those are hard books to live up to.
    Wendy @ <a href=””>The Midnight Garden</a>

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Wendy Darling I agree. Graceling and especially Eon are two of the best YA high fantasy novels featuring female protagonists. I know it’s the marketing department that makes those kinds of calls, but it’s very hard to live up to that. 
      (I’m almost done!! :D)

  11. Sarah saz101

    Oooooh, Steph, I’m sorry you didn’t love this more. And I think it sucks even more when YOU’RE SO EXCITED TO READ A BOOK. I mean, I haven’t read Eon *hides* but Graceling? Come on. If you compare something to Graceling it better be GOOOOD.
    But… it sounds like it has *potential* and… boo it’s sad it didn’t read it. Steph, I LOVE reading your reviews. You make me want to be smarter and more discerning in my reading (imagine that said with a lofty tony and snobby accent). No, but for serious ;D

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Thank you, Sarah! That means a lot coming from you! <3
      I was really excited for it. But it happens, I suppose. We can’t like everything we read and we’re bound to get a little disappointed every once in a while. 
      I actually like Eon more than Graceling, but both are hard titles to live up to in the High Fantasy genre. I think you would LOVE Eon.

  12. MeganBrat

    See, I must admit. This is one reason I try to avoid following authors on Twitter before I read their books. Because I get attached to them and then I am afraid of reading their books and breaking their hearts. I got on a certain author’s s— list (even after we’d chatted for ages) after I gave her book two stars and called it one of the most misogynistic books I’ve ever read in my life. Now I’m afraid to read PROPHECY because I lurve the author. But this book just sounds like I’ll hate it hardcore.

  13. Kate C.

    I’m really sad that this book hasn’t gotten higher marks from my favorite goodreads reviewers.  My love of all things Korean made me super excited about this book.  I may still try it out, but I think the bar just got lowered once again.  🙁

Leave a Reply to Stephanie Sinclair Cancel reply

CommentLuv badge