Book Review: The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms

21855285Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather. She also got his preternatural control of shadows and his enduring legacy as the legendary vigilante superhero, Mr. Mystic.

After a little work, the costume fits OK, but Missy is far from experienced at fighting crime, so she journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather. She becomes embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the allegedly mythical nine dragon-guardians of all creation.

When Lung Di—Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy—raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier.

I received this as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/10

Overall Impression: It could have been much better.

Recommended for: Those who enjoy fantasy with a smattering of Chinese culture. That’s who it’s written for but I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

As I said above, this book could have been so much better. It had the bones for something really great, but the presentation wasn’t quite up to par. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t particularly enjoy it.

It’s hard to talk about some of the issues with the book without spoilers, but I will do my very best. The main issue is that it should have been two books. It switches between the present and the past, with about equal page time for both. Oftentimes when this happens, I end up feeling more attached to one story line than the other, and this is what happened here. I was much more interested in the past story than the present one.

This could also be because much of what is happening in the present is directly affected by what happened in the past, and the information that you need to know to make the present sections more impactful/make sense isn’t revealed until later. It wasn’t very effectively done. However, I think the story would have been great had it been in two books.

Secondly, Missy’s character didn’t feel real to me. It took me forever to place how old she was. In fact, I didn’t know exactly how old until about the last 30 pages of the book. I believe this was due to her voice. She talks like someone in their early-twenties rather than someone who is 33 and has been through…stuff. (Curse spoilers!)

While I enjoyed some of the references—I’m looking at you Princess Bride references—I did sometimes find them either unnecessary or inappropriate for her age and supposed maturity level. Basically, the present sections were not reflecting her past, and considering what her past was, I would think that she would be greatly affected by it. However, it doesn’t seem that she is, which makes the character seem rather flat and unrealistic.

There were also a few unanswered questions that kept popping up in my mind. Why does she seem to dislike her grandfather so much? What really happened to him? What exactly is going on with all of these superheros? Is it like something from The Incredibles where there is a governing body that that regulates them? Has this been around forever (kind of like an alternate reality thing) or have they just discovered them and now everyone knows and likes them? And why did here grandfather dislike the governing body so much? What makes them corrupt? The world building was a little lacking, so I was often bogged down with questions trying to figure out how everything worked.

Sadly, this book didn’t work for me despite its potential. If these types of things don’t bother you, than go for it. Otherwise, I would suggest going to read The Waterborne Blade. It’s from the same publisher and it’s really great!

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