Review - Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Undisclosed Desires by Muse.

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will not review books before 2005 (with very rare exceptions).

Here is story quite interesting that is quite ambitious in its scope, on many levels, it's Dragonfly by Julia Golding.

Dragonfly by Julia Golding
Current Amazon Rank: # 286,336
Published: October 2009
Pages: 390

First Line: The Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands had sixteen rituals to observe from the moment of waking to when she broke her fast.

My Take: Like the first line suggests, this story is all about culture clash. An arranged marriage and culture clash to be precise. Plus and the fact that they hate each other on sight. Oh, and there are kidnappings, daring escapes, and overthrowing an empire. Sounds like a romp of fun, eh? :) It is.

I do not think enough fantasy stories truly delve into the complexities of their own world. Julia Golding does a valiant attempt at many such overlooked things as language barriers, different gods and belief systems, cultural traditions, and even names are addressed. The princess is named Taoshira and the prince is Ramil ac Burinholt. There is no mistaking that they are from very different parts of the world.

It was refreshing to see these aspects common to our world addressed. She also covered many heavy subjects such as war, slavery, brainwashing, responsibility over an entire nation, loyalties, and many others. However, because of all these things are packed into a 400 page novel, none of them were really touched with real depth. The "evil" kingdom's religion was the saddest disappointment, as she mentioned several times that their god looked very similar to the conquering king. I appreciate it when as a reader you can see from all perspectives believably. Their religion was barbaric with very few "true" believers. I would have loved to see what could have happened if those people truly believed in that religion. She also writes in a third person omniscient perspective that jumps to a variety of characters and it made it difficult to get attached to any one in particular. However, I really appreciated that she showed that war was not easy and Ramil's first kill affected him quite a bit. Again though, it was not touched with enough depth to really impact me. But I am glad it was there. The story flowed well but tried to cover too much ground for a single novel. This could easily have been a trilogy and allowed for all these fascinating aspects to be covered in much greater detail.

Tashi's and Ramil's growing love did not quite feel organic. It resolved and unresolved itself quickly. Each new problem became an absolute shift with no natural progression. She never managed to touch on their deep feelings for each other. But my favorite line of the novel came from their relationship:
She smiled: trust the son of a Horse Follower to woo in the saddle.
That seriously made my smile. The supporting characters were engaging and for how many she managed to put in, I was surprised how well I got to know them and like them. Again, I think the omniscient perspective the greatest hindrance in getting close to them. The characters were fun and engaging and I liked a side blossoming relationship as much as our two main heroes. However, the final scene between Ramil and Tashi (the last paragraph) takes the cake will almost assuredly make you smile.

The Last Word: This is a book that covers a lot of material lightly. It never becomes complex enough to be real, but that does not make it unworthy of reading, quite the opposite. It was fun and different with many unique aspects. Quite recommended.

(By the way, finding the reason behind the dragonfly was terribly sweet. Look out for paper, that's all I can say. It was my favorite part of the entire novel).


Kirthi said...

this book sounds amazing! The cover is absolutely beautiful. overthrowing the Empire sounds like fun too :D

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Hmmm this caught my eye awhile ago, maybe I'll make my way towards it soon!

Shannon Messenger said...

Wow Heather, excellent review! I bet you make an amazing (yet tough) critiquer. :)

Oh, and by the way, Muse? Awesome! Love the new album. Not as good as Absolution (in my humble opinion) but it's SO, SO good.

Heather Zundel said...

Kirthi - It really was quite good. It is a fun read. And I agree about the cover. Some people don't like it, but I found it to be engaging.

Frankie - Good. It's worth checking out.

Shannon - Ha, how could you ever doubt me otherwise? Yes, I have several people tell me that. And Muse is indeed a great band. This new album reminds me a lot of Queen which I think is quite cool. :)

Morgan @ BLT said...

Nice blog! I love the layout....

Anonymous said...

I loved loved LOVED this book!!! I'm sort of a geek when it comes to princess storys and that's the only real reason I chose to read the book :) But I thought it created a thoroughly vivid image in the reader's mind, and it certainly made quite an impression on me. Golly gee, I just realized the lenght of my comment! Well I wanted to say that I disagree with your opinion of the third person omniscient thing. I thought it allowed the reader to experience the story from all points of view and therefore really get to Know mor of the Characters. I probably would have hated Ramil if I only knew Tashi's mind. The End :D
This has been Mallory the freshman nerd!