Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unrequested Critique – Dragon Blade

Unrequested Critique – Dragon Blade

Dragon Blade, by J.D. Hallowell, being part of the War of the Blades, published December, 2012. 383 pages.

His author page shows one previous book in War of the Blades.

Selection Method: I picked the most recent book posted in the Amazon Fantasy blurb thread.


The well laid out cover features a dragon in silhouette.


The book follows proper formatting.

Thumbnail Description

Kingdom Defends Good!


Dragon Blade, the final book in The War of the Blades, is the epic sequel to the story begun in Dragon Fate. Delno Okonan, his draconic bond-mate, Geneva, and their allies among the Dragons and Riders are once again caught up in events controlled by unseen forces. They must uncover the real secrets behind Corolan's death and the Rorack insurgency to defeat a threat that could destroy them all and leave the world they know forever altered.

Opening Paragraph

The old man walked up behind Delno and hit him in the back of the head with the wand he carried everywhere.
Ow, damn it, that hurts!” Delno yelled.

The author has the decency to hit the ground running, but the first sentence could use a hook.

I would suggest something stronger.

Old Jhren walked up behind a soldier and slapped him upside head with a wand. “You weren't concentrating on your lesson.”

In this rewrite, we begin with a character who does something unexpected. The reader wants to know why this just happened. There's your hook. I used “soldier” instead of “Delno” because its more important to know that Delno is a grown man and not a child.


What we have here is a screenplay adapted into a novel. This is normal.Visual storytelling is our native medium by a considerable margin. We suckled our storytelling skills from CRTs, cellulose, and flat screens over thousands of hours. The only other media that comes close is radio.

So what's wrong with visual media? Nothing. The problem isn't visual media. The problem is that books are written media, and the strengths of written media are different than visual media. The author needs to sit down and consider the strengths of written media and embrace them.

As an analogy, any workman changes his tools based on the job that he is doing. In the same way, the author needs to add some tools to his toolbox. Written media relies on a different tool set. Tool set produces a higher quality product for less work.

The characters speak from their own perspectives. That's good. I pegged Delno as far younger than he was. His voice needs to be revised to reflect his age, and we need a better indication of his age earlier in the conversation.

When switching character in and out of the scene, switch at the beginning of paragraphs. Readers tend to skim, so having characters walk on or off in the beginning of a paragraph helps them to keep track. When a paragraph begins with one character and ends with a different character, readers get understandably confused.

The author needs to take some time and tell us about WHERE we are. We don't need a twenty page description of the local outhouses, but some landmarks would be good. I was a few pages in and was still figuring out that we were in some sort of military base or fortress. 

Digressions between conversations is useful, as that gives us space between conversations while it also tells us useful things to know.

The work needs more fleshing out. We jump from one conversation to another at a frantic pace. Almost all characterization is by conversation. The author needs to more put more tools in his character building toolbox. I found the characters more asserted than developed. Because the author has so few tools, he must turn up the volume to get proper character building, which winds up a bit cartoonish.

This all FEELS McCaffrey derivative. If you want that direction, sit down and work out what makes a McCaffrey novel tick. What techniques does she use that you don't? Steal from the best and steal shamelessly.

Additional Comments

Ladies and gentlemen, find this author a good editor. The author has all the skills necessary to take his writing to the next level. A good editor is like a coach who takes in players with potential and pushes them to achieve that potential. All good players have coaches, and so do all good writers. The right editor will be worth your  money.

I look forward to more publications.