Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dragon Touched by JB McDonald

Title: Dragon Touched
Author: JB McDonald
Cover Artist: BS Clay
Publisher: Torquere
Genre: fantasy
Length: 63 pages/17,500 words
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Being called a demon and given suspicious looks has become old hat for Ashe, depressing as it is. But a mob attack leaves him shaken, aware of the danger he's in every time he walks out of the palace. With no purpose, no friends, and a culture that hates him, Ashe is barely putting one foot in front of the other. He wants to go home.

Katsu wants to go home, too, but first he has to fulfill his duties. The problem is that every time he finishes one thing, something else needs his attention. If Ashe will just be patient, Katsu will figure it out. But Ashe is running out of patience, and the boys are learning that sometimes, love isn't enough. Katsu knows the solution is there, if he can just find it... before everything falls apart.

I’m invested enough in this undisclosed serial to keep reading, but that may not last. Again, we don’t have a complete plot arc—it feels like we left off at an inciting incident last time. (For a more complete discussion of three act structure, look here.) Here the stakes get higher, but resolution? What resolution?

The writing is smooth, and the characters vivid, particularly if one has been reading all sections as I have. Should you stumble on this one cold, it will be unsatisfying, because the dragon is an established fact, Ashe’s fish out of water state is clear but has no background, Katsu’s divided loyalties are clear and even have context for part but not all of it. The state of the relationship is seen only as “troubled,” with no build up, no resolution. You need at least 3 of the previous six installments to know, or care, about what is going on.

If you have that background, this is a wonderful section. If you don’t, quite a lot of this is pointless.
This would be much less of a problem if anyone was being upfront that this IS a serial. The author is coy about it, the publisher’s site says nothing about it, not even installment numbers, though you can find them at Goodreads. Supplied by readers. The lack of honesty, transparency, and continuity here bothers me greatly. The assumptions by author and publisher that we are patiently following along and not noticing how things are being strung out is apparent from the blurb, which doesn’t bother to state that Ashe is an elf and Katsu is a deposed prince amongst his human folk. Readers are assumed to know something as basic as species from having followed so far, and not need any explanations.

Katsu, who started off with grumpy as the new charming, here is only harried. If it’s for good reason, it’s still only a fragment of his former appeal. Again, without the background, the question is open as to why Ashe has stuck around this long, because the city is slowly killing him. Everyone, from Ashe, to Chieko, (Katsu’s beloved sister) to the queen (Katsu’s mother) to Daisuke (a figure from Katsu’s past and Ashe’s guide to local culture) is working at cross purposes, all pulling Katsu one way or another, and that part is beautifully portrayed. How this resolves is yet to be seen,  although the battle lines between factions are growing clear.

What I’d like to do is wait until the complete story arc is available to rate this. It would probably be a 4.5 to a 5. What I have to look at in this one file is approximately a third of a story arc, and that, no matter how well done, is incomplete and being sold without disclosure that it’s incomplete. So, JB McDonald and Torquere, get honest about what you’re offering and I’ll read the next part, otherwise, I’m done. 3 marbles

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