The Dragon Charmer
(HarperCollins Voyager, £16.99, 346 pages, hardback; 20 November
2000. Paperback, £6.99 published 5 November 2001.)
I came to The Dragon Charmer with only a few vague recollections
of the first book in the trilogy, Prospero's Children--a sometimes
flowery prose style, an interesting blend of folklore and mythology
and a use of the lost city of Atlantis that did a pretty good job of
avoiding becoming old hat. Fortunately this book recaps enough to jog
the memory of readers such as myself who don't remember the ins and
outs of the first book. And now the inevitable question arises, what
did I think of it?
It's taken me a long time to actually write this review, because although
it has very few specific faults, somehow it completely failed to engage
me intellectually or emotionally. This time round, I found the writing
style to be more settled and enjoyable in not breaking out into the
overblown style of parts of the first book, and Jan Seigel has created
a rich backdrop which draws on various different mythologies. There
are intriguing characters and ideas, but yet I still didn't really care
for the characters or want to find out what happened next.
The book opens with Fern Capel, heroine of the first book, heading
into a loveless marriage as part of her efforts to blot out all memory
of the strange events of twelves years ago. Herein lies part of the
trouble--she begins the book a rather cold, and in my opinion, unlikeable
character. Unfortunately, I didn't really feel she improved much as
events unfolded, and I found the other main characters, Gaynor and Will,
uncharismatic and difficult to empathize with.
Perhaps the problem also lies in the rather leisurely pace. The nebulous
plot lacked sufficient energy and drive to keep me gripped. Even the
dangers of the Underworld, while evocatively described, fail to inspire
any fear or terror, and the climax is pretty unmemorable (for that,
read "I've forgotten most of the ending, so it can't have been that
good"!) I dragged myself through to the end, but it was a struggle to
keep going and finish it.
So despite admiring much that seemed good in this book, in particular
the poetic and skilful descriptions, I couldn't really enjoy it. Perhaps
that's just me--perhaps you'll like the rich, dreamlike quality, and
like a lesiurely pace, and perhaps it's just my personal taste that
I find the characters uninteresting and unlikeable. But if you want
my even-more-than-usually subjective opinion, then there are many more
enjoyable books to read than this.
Review by Caleb Woodbridge.
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