CSFF Blog Tour – Dragons of the Valley, Day 3


What, you may ask, does “Dragon Bloggin’” have to do with the latest CSFF Tour feature, Dragons of the Valley? Besides the word “dragon,” both are creations of Donita Paul, the latter her latest novel and the former her fantasy blog. While I wanted to draw your attention to this fine blog where Donita posts her tour articles whenever she participates in CSFF (as she did this week), my intent today is to give you my review of Dragons of the Valley.

The Story. This second volume in the Chiril Chronicles begins a week after the events at the end of The Vanishing Sculptor. Same primary characters, same immediate threat, different opponent.

Strengths. The Characters. Donita has outdone herself in this one. First, she created a truly formidable foe for her cast of heroes to bring down. The Grawl was fearsome and believable. To be honest, he reminded me of a very evil Rigador (I think I have that name right), the meech dragon in the DragonKeeper books.

But true to form, Donita also brought some of the secondary characters front and center so that they nearly upstaged the primaries. Lady Peg played a critical, and hilarious role. Wizard Fenworth was at his best, and we met a delightful kimen named Hollee who made everything more fun.

Then there was a new minor dragon, Rayn. This little chameleon dragon was a jack of all trades and no slouch when it came to mastering them. He started out as such a needy little stray, my heart went out to him before I realized he would be the most talented of all the minors.

Themes. Donita’s stories are rich with spiritual truth. The Chiril Chronicles are actually evangelistic, mapping the way in which a people who forgot God learn to know Him. But there are other significant threads—the importance of following God even when it takes you out of your comfort zone, of accepting and loving those who are different than we, of rejoicing in the beauty of the world God has made. Donita even shows a little of her former teacher self and makes a point (humorously) about not ending sentences with prepositions. 😉

Writing style. This is where Donita puts her stamp on the book. She uses an abundance of light-hearted humor alongside an adventure quest. It is a story of good versus evil, with joy.

Fred Warren, one of our blog participants (and an author in his own right), came up with the perfect term to describe Donita’s stories—cozy fantasies. Nothing could be more apropos.

It seems Donita’s writing is a mirror of her, as you might expect. In a fun interview, another of our blog participants, Noah Arsenault, asked Donita to choose a song that would describe her books. Her answer? “Amazing Grace sung to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.”

What a classic answer. Front and center is Truth, God-honoring Truth, but it’s delivered with a healthy dose of humor.

Weakness. It hardly seems important, (and I know this sounds nuts) but the plot could be stronger. It hardly seems important because Donita’s stories are not the kind that induce one adrenaline rush after another. Going in, we can pretty much guarantee that the good guys—all of them—will win, with little blood shed.

This softening of fright and violence is a motif of the “cozy fantasy.” But at the same time, someone who wants an unpredictable story with a huge clash at the climax will probably be a little disappointed.

Yes, the victories are easy, the wounds healed quickly, a lot of the hitting and hacking told, not shown. But that’s part of what makes the stories perfect for all ages, as the front cover declares.

What could make the plot better? I think more direct confrontation with The Grawl, where he is creating roadblocks to keep Tipper and company from their goal of protecting the statues. But even so, there is plenty of plot to keep the pages turning

Recommendation. This is a fun book that families can read together. A must read for the fans of the cozy fantasy.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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