Dragon's New Home

I found myself smiling when I finished the last page of Dragon's New Home, by Theresa Chaze. I've read a pretty good number of books in my life, but none have given me quite the mix of emotions that this books has. Let me explain.

The Dragon Page reviews science fiction and fantasy from large publishing houses, small houses, and self-published authors. With few exceptions, a wide gulf separates the large houses' books from the others in terms of the quality of prose. Even when large publishers send me books I don't like, from a purely technical standpoint those books tend to be far better written than the small press stuff. Even the small press books that I like.

Now, Dragon's New Home isn't a well-crafted book. But the book has something that most small press books don't even have a sliver of. Potential. Dragon's New Home feels like a diamond in the rough. I think that given a few hundred thousand more words, Ms. Chaze will become one damn fine author. She's just not quite there yet with this book.

The Gist: Kevin Mitchellson's mother murdered his grandmother. His guilt for letting her get away with the crime is eating him alive, but he will not break his word to his father to protect her secret. So, one night, under the influence of potable spirits, he beckons spirits of another sort to take the problem out of his hands, and expose his mother in a way that cannot be denied. And damn if they didn't hear him.

Rachael Franklin, a Wiccan Priestess, has just won the lottery, and has an inclination to set up a New Age bookstore called Dragon's Den (great name.) She calls on the Goddess to send her to a new home where she can make a difference. She throws a dart at a map and eventually finds herself on the front step of Kevin's grandmother's abandoned house with the local agent from Century 21.

So, in one corner, wearing the red trunks, we have Rachael and her three cats: Merlin, Tara, and Ralph. In the other corner, wearing the blue, is Lady Katheryn, the murder, and the House of Christ, the local Christian cult that thinks that whole "live and let live" thing is for sissies.

And the bell rings.

The Good: Is it right to point out the good points of a novel by pointing out the mistakes the author could have made, but didn't? Forgive me if it's not kosher, but as I write this I can't stop making comparisons in my head between this book and other small press books I have reviewed.

For instance, most first time, small press authors try to tell big stories, and tell them too small (all life on earth my be destroyed by a world wide phenomenon. Let's tell the story of one family driving across country.) Ms. Chaze's story, on the other hand, has a simple, relatable plot, and doesn't skimp on the ensemble needed to tell the story.

Most genre books in general are plot based. This story is character driven, which I have firmly come to believe is the better route to take. Every plot-advancing decision Rachael Franklin makes comes from who she is as a person, not from what decision needs to be made to advance the plot in a certain direction. This gives the book a believability that many sci-fi and fantasy stories lack.

And, finally, it doesn't hurt that the reader might be learning something new. Not being knowledgeable about Wicca myself, I enjoyed reading a book told from the perspective of a philosophy I'm not accustomed to.

The Bad: The book suffers mostly from what most first time authors suffer from - amateur writing syndrome. The dialogue has no real spark. It's too on the nose. The story has no irony. In what could have been a very scary and engrossing story, there was only occasional suspense, and not very strong suspense at that.

Not only that, but the author tends to write too much about things that are obviously important to her, but are not important to the story. At all. Not even a little. It is not hard to see that Ms. Chaze loves animals, but why do why have to plod through pages and pages of Rachael feeding the cats, sleeping with the cats, potty training the dog, etc? Dragon's New Home is the first book of a trilogy. I have the sneaky suspicion that once the series is done, it will be apparent that instead of three short novels, the book could have been one moderately-long novel, if the writing were more focused on the story and less sidetracked by animals, visions, astral projection trips that don't really go anywhere, and the like.

The Ugly: A nit-picky thing, perhaps, but come on. Xena is spelled with an "X," not a "Z." I don't know if this was done out of ignorance, or because the author wanted to avoid copyright issues, but it is aggravating to no end, especially since the word is used so often (it's the name of the dog.)

Well, I hope I didn't bore you with another long review, but I have a lot of hope for this author, and I wanted to be thorough. This book is a so-so read, but I'd keep my eye out for future books by this scribbler.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dragon's New Home by Theresa Chaze
Published by: Publish America, Inc.; May 2003
ISBN: 1592863108
Genre: Fantasy, Wicca, Pagan
Author's Webpage: www.geocities.com/tirgana/page1.html

 

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.

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