Apr 12, 2010: Fair warning; I read a bit past Chapter 2 before I stopped—the story was getting progressively harder for me to slog through.
Dragon Wars is a story dealing with a set of quintuplets who gear up for a camping trip only to open their front door and discover that it has become a portal to another world. Compelled by a voice that cries out to them, they step into the strange wilderness and begin to discover that the power was inside them all along (no, seriously).
The prose avoids delving into the realms of purple, but reads like a VCR instruction manual—what little passion lies within it feels forced. The characters themselves (particularly the quintuplets) march into this new world with all the grace of B-list actors taking direction from Ed Wood. They soon discover that they each have a Heart Friend; an animal that they have a powerful emotional and spiritual connection to—we know this because the author tells us that they have a powerful emotional and spiritual connection to them.
The MCs are nearly indistinguishable and the most interesting character is still not very interesting (The Dark Rider; I will begrudgingly admit that he was a little bit intriguing, and his relationship with Mela was a highlight). At least the characters remain morally ambiguous; no cackling evil villains have arrived on the scene (though the suicidal matron of the mermaids came precariously close).
I’ve said some nasty things about this story, so I will go ahead and say some nice things about it: It’s very well presented. The prose, though flat, is very clean—though I eventually stopped, it was always easy to read and never once grew impenetrable. The website is sharp and well designed as well—and though I find the setting discouragingly cliche, it’s clear, coherent, and shows signs of considerable thought and ornate design. People who enjoy works that focus on world-building or very straightforward YA versions of Tolkien may enjoy this piece; those who enjoy interactions between lively, interesting characters will probably not. The work does show clear signs of good craftsmanship, but very little spark—like a nice coffee table, it’s fairly well built and structurally sound, but otherwise not very compelling.