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The Dragon Charmer

by Jan Siegel

(HarperCollins Voyager, £16.99, 346 pages, hardback; 20 November 2000. Paperback, £6.99 published 5 November 2001.)

I came to The Dragon Charmer with only a few vague recollections of the first book in the trilogy, Prospero's Children--a sometimes cover scanoverly flowery prose style, an interesting blend of folklore and mythology and a use of the lost city of Atlantis that did a pretty good job of avoiding becoming old hat. Fortunately this book recaps enough to jog the memory of readers such as myself who don't remember the ins and outs of the first book. And now the inevitable question arises, what did I think of it?

It's taken me a long time to actually write this review, because although it has very few specific faults, somehow it completely failed to engage me intellectually or emotionally. This time round, I found the writing style to be more settled and enjoyable in not breaking out into the overblown style of parts of the first book, and Jan Seigel has created a rich backdrop which draws on various different mythologies. There are intriguing characters and ideas, but yet I still didn't really care for the characters or want to find out what happened next.

The book opens with Fern Capel, heroine of the first book, heading into a loveless marriage as part of her efforts to blot out all memory of the strange events of twelves years ago. Herein lies part of the trouble--she begins the book a rather cold, and in my opinion, unlikeable character. Unfortunately, I didn't really feel she improved much as events unfolded, and I found the other main characters, Gaynor and Will, uncharismatic and difficult to empathize with.

Perhaps the problem also lies in the rather leisurely pace. The nebulous plot lacked sufficient energy and drive to keep me gripped. Even the dangers of the Underworld, while evocatively described, fail to inspire any fear or terror, and the climax is pretty unmemorable (for that, read "I've forgotten most of the ending, so it can't have been that good"!) I dragged myself through to the end, but it was a struggle to keep going and finish it.

So despite admiring much that seemed good in this book, in particular the poetic and skilful descriptions, I couldn't really enjoy it. Perhaps that's just me--perhaps you'll like the rich, dreamlike quality, and like a lesiurely pace, and perhaps it's just my personal taste that I find the characters uninteresting and unlikeable. But if you want my even-more-than-usually subjective opinion, then there are many more enjoyable books to read than this.

Review by Caleb Woodbridge.

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