Dragon’s Touch by A.R. Johnson
Amazon Book Description:
The Guild of Mages is determined to destroy the dragon race at all costs. Queen Christine, keeper of the peace and leader of the dragon riders, strives to maintain stability in Rioch. Amidst this struggle, Zharah is torn between the anti-dragon teachings of her childhood and her unwitting bonding with the dragon hatchling Elihan. She must cross the kingdom in search of her long lost brother and the answers to her future as a Dragon-Touched human. She finds both friends and enemies along the road, but above all she finds herself.
I came across this book when it was being promoted on Facebook in a Christian Indie Authors group I’m in and I decided that it certainly couldn’t hurt to try out a debut Christian fantasy. I wasn’t disappointed with my pick.
Plot – Grade A-
I have read a lot of fantasy books and I know it is difficult to come up with a completely unique plot, often authors must depend on HOW the plot is carried out in order to achieve that which is different from the other fantasy offerings with similar plots. This particular book does have a few elements that are similar to Dragonspell, the first book of Donita K. Paul’s Dragon Keeper Chronicles, mainly the orphan girl who finds the dragon egg and accidentally hatches it. However, the format and details about the bond between dragon and dragon rider presented in this book is very different as are the circumstances surrounding how Zharah finds the egg so I didn’t feel like I was reading a re-write of a book I have loved for years. It was a bit predictable regarding certain elements, but that didn’t bother me too much. There were a few places where I felt the plot was TOO tight since there were several potential subplots that could have been explored as well but received more of a brush than anything, perhaps they will be explored in the next book. The plot was neatly tied up at the end of the book but the next adventure was also hinted at and partially set up, which I enjoyed.
Content – Grade A-
This is a very clean fantasy, especially in regards to language. There isn’t a true romance this time around. It’s more of a crush’s first blush. My only personal quibble was that this has been set up to introduce the (much-dreaded on my part) love triangle between Zharah and the two guys she meets in her quest to find her brother. I admit I am not a fan of the love triangle, so I ended up hoping love potential #2 would die. No such luck. However, I am hopeful that maybe this won’t turn into a full-out love triangle since there is a very good reason for Zharah to choose love potential #1. I’ll keep reading just to see if my hopes or my fears are right. 😉
There is violence present in this book. The bad guys are evil, especially their leader, and people are referred to as being maimed or killed. However, it is all very bloodless except for some minor injuries. There is also magic in this book and I was intrigued by the difference having a relationship with the Creator makes for the magic users. Those who do not have a relationship might kill themselves if they use more than their personal reserve of magic. On the other hand, those who do have a relationship with the Creator don’t have to worry about burnout and re-charging their magic reserve. I thought that was a great way to integrate magic without it becoming “god” in that world.
Spiritually, this book was rather subtle in its use. Partially because Zharah does not have a relationship with the Creator and she’s not even really seeking Him (yet). I would have enjoyed learning more about how the religion works when we interacted with the knights. I also would have enjoyed a bit more curiosity or asking questions about the Creator on Zharah’s part. I did have some reservations about how she still doesn’t seem to have established a relationship with the Creator at the end of the book, considering what happened for her personal (potential) relationship. However, I can accept this if Zharah’s personal relationship with the Creator, or lack thereof, is addressed in the next book.
Technical – B+
In general, this book was very well-edited. I only spotted a few awkward moments where the wrong synonym is used for the context of the sentence. The most prominent was when the evil leader waves healers forward to take his lackey (most recent victim of his wrath) to the healing wing “to treat to” his wounds. Here it should have been “to treat his wounds” or “to tend to his wounds.” I already touched on the missed opportunities for the plot to be further rounded out, so I won’t say much more other than I would have liked to see a bit more world development so I could have been able to further immerse myself in the world. I also would have liked more character development but that is something that can be addressed in succeeding novels.
There were also some places where the writing was a bit too formal and the explanation was too thorough when I would have cut words to tighten things up and help keep the flow steady had I been editing. However, for a writer who is not only working on her debut novel but is also just sixteen, the raw skill is magnificent. The technical aspects just needs a bit more polish to help Johnson shine at her full potential. I was impressed that the language didn’t feel too modern to fit a medieval-esque fantasy world.
Final Grade – B+ or 4.5 stars
Overall, I liked this book a lot and I can see that A.R. Johnson has a ton of potential as an up-and-coming author. It wasn’t a perfect offering even when I take into consideration the fact that this particular book straddles children’s and YA fantasy. However, Johnson is going on my authors to watch list because I can see so much potential in this first book that I am certain she will be one of the greats for Christian fantasy as she matures as a writer. I look forward to reading her next book. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a quick, clean Christian fantasy to read or are looking for a family-friendly fantasy book to help interest their younger readers in fiction. Recommended for ages 9 and up.
Dragon’s Touch is available through Kindle.