Review of THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL by David Hershey
The first review of The Dragons of Sheol appeared months ago on Goodreads. I have always found David Hershey’s reviews thought-provoking and insightful. Here is his review of The Dragons of Sheol as well as the link to the original posting. I found this in my draft collection on my website and thought I should belatedly make it available for completeness since I have linked to several other reviews. David Hershey rated The Dragons of Sheol as 4 out of 5 stars. I have taken his comment of “there needed to be a summary of where we’ve been so far” to heart.
This is the third book in the Halcyon series and the third that I’ve had the privilege of reviewing for free. Social media has lots of problems, but one of its positives is that you can connect with people. [I’ve] never met Pete, but I’d almost consider him a friend. Or perhaps a kindred spirit.
Pete loves fantasy and has worked hard in creating his own fantasy world. I recall loving the first book, The Halcyon Dislocation, and liking the second, The Battle for Halcyon. “Recall” is an appropriate word there, as it’s been years since I read them. I guess I’ll start the review with a negative (well, I did say nice things about Pete first!): there really needed to be a summary of where we’ve been so far! Even Stephen King did this in his Dark Tower series and you can find summaries of that all over the internet. I imagine reading these books closer together would remedy this. But apart from the main characters, I struggled to remember.
On top of this, the primary big bad of the first two books is barely mentioned (Meglir). Instead the antagonist is Bigelow, a lieutenant of Meglir’s who has a personal vendetta against Al, one of the mains. But I couldn’t remember who Bigelow was. I pieced enough together as the story went, but a summary would have been nice.
Another thing to note about this book is simply its brevity. In a world of Sanderson and Jordan and Martin where world-building is everything, a lot is left to the imagination here. That’s not necessarily a negative. Yet it would be nice to know a bit more about secondary characters like Dwight and Tom and others who are usually around and sometimes say and do things but don’t seem well-developed.
Before I said Pete’s work reminds me of Lewis and Tolkien. Lewis’ Narnia stories were brief and the world was a bit shadowy as Lewis relied on the reader’s imagination. Even Tolkien’s The Hobbit includes 13 dwarves in Thorin’s company but most are not well-developed at all. Dwight and Tim are like Ori and Nori: they’re always around but you don’t know them. [Honestly], this book reminded me a lot of Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara series as I recall a few primary characters being complex and others just being there.
That said, I’m not gonna fault Pete for not writing a Wheel of Time rip off! Sure, a 600 page book full of details would be fun, but it’d be easy to lose focus. This book is about Dave and Al and Floyd and maybe 1-2 others. They are who we know and their actions drive the story. Each of them is a strong character. Reading their adventures remains fun.
And adventure they have! Dragons and spiders and other creatures chase them around the island of Sheol. Sheol, with its real world connotations was distracting as it’s quite different here. It’s not an underworld or land of the dead, though it is not a pleasant place either. Once I rid my mind of preconceptions, I found Pete’s creation scary and riveting.
Overall, it’s a great read. Pete’s best skill remains thing in real world style conversations into the story. Al and Floyd argue about God, Al reads his Bible, people pray. The characters aren’t preachy or unrealistic, they are simply Christian characters (or interested seekers) having an adventure and having conversations. Imagine Legolas and Gimli discussing the gods and such over a campfire during the quest. That’s what Pete gives us: the conversations other authors skip.
If you like fantasy, check this one out.
THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL Review: “A solid, well-balanced novel within an epic framework”
Writing a novel is a bit like cooking dinner for someone else: a badly prepared meal will appeal to no one, but even a well-prepared main course will not appeal to everyone, since tastes legitimately differ.
Having said that, it is always a special pleasure for me, as a writer, to find a kindred spirit that seems to appreciate the same things in novels that I do. I am so grateful for speculative-fiction-author Tessa Stockton’s thoughtful and insightful five star review of The Dragons of Sheol. Check the links below …
In case you have difficulty accessing the review on these sites, see below …
After having finished reading The Dragons of Sheol, I can’t help but come away feeling as if this is one of the most solid, well-balanced novels within a high fantasy, epic journey setting. This is not a subgenre in which I often read, as it’s not one of my favorites in the speculative fiction realm. However, the amount of work and detail the author skillfully presented was impressive. That in itself won me over, never mind the successful plotline.
This is some of what I appreciated about the book: deep symbolism, amount of fine detail, weapons hosting names, well-developed and likeable characters, as well as villains who make you cringe. There’s an array of interesting creatures—and I enjoyed that a vicious lup was adopted and turned rather cute and helpful. I also favored Hanomer, a critter with a hand at the end of his tail, and the green dragons were downright cool. The story held intriguing manners of communication, and the powers of nature were highly descriptive. Abaddon is evil and the dark magic that presides there invokes fear and trepidation as it should. The Dragons of Sheol is a complex story well carried out.
As a Christian reader, there are refreshing surprises along the way. One is with Al, a protagonist who kick-starts this journey in a search to find his kidnapped pregnant wife and stepson. The honesty that is painted regarding his sense of failure and defeat followed by purpose is realistic and relatable. And I appreciated most of all how questions were presented about the nature of God via down-to-earth conversations between characters; therefore, it never came across as preachy. A teaser from one of my favorite exchanges comes from character Dave in speaking to Al: “At the end of the day, my question still stands. Can God really love me if he’d let me choose a destiny that involves eternal torment?” It’s this kind of philosophical exploration that works—really works in causing one to think and ask those tough questions regarding spirituality and fate.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of creativity, philosophy, purpose, sheer writing skill, and also a unique addition of scientific elements to cap this outstanding world-build. We are gifted by the author with the explanation of air pressure and how it is that dragons can fly, the topography of Abaddon, contour of the terraces, relative maps, and an in-depth glossary.
In offering something constructive, it would be with the chapter titles. Seems like an insignificant thing, and maybe it is. However, I as a reader find that an air of mystery would have had more impact. Many of the chapter titles here flat-out told me beforehand what to expect, and that kind of killed the suspense for me (because I especially love elements of suspense and mystery). As an example, when I read the chapter heading, “Necroan Attack,” I thought, “Okay, something called a Necroan is going to attack,”—and I was right! With all the interesting twists throughout this book, the chapter titles seemed, in contrast, too direct in telling. One of my writing coaches from back in the day said the best thing for a writer to give a reader is room for their own imagination to fill in some blanks. Tease them with hints of what a chapter might be about, but don’t summarize the chapter by its heading.
Those who admire J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis will really dig this epic fantasy by Peter Kazmaier, as their influences are evident. Yet, I can also recommend this book in general, even if it isn’t what you’d typically read, because it’s very well done and deserving of a five-star review.
I received this book as an ARC for free and am giving it my honest review voluntarily.
The Topography of Abaddon in THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL
If you’re viewing this and some of the images have not been loaded … here is the link of the original WordPress blog.
I had written previously about the essential difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction [Link]. An illustration of this is provided in how I deal with dragons in THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL when compared with other occurrences in literature, for example in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not regard Tolkien’s silence on the question of “How can a large animal fly?” or “How can a dragon breathe fire without burning itself up?” as a defect. Not at all. Indeed, I regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy among my favorite books of all time and would not like to change a thing.
I merely wish to point out the difference in approach that the two genres take when designing the fabric of the story. As a genre, Science Fiction, often takes great pains to think about the physical laws involved, while for Fantasy these considerations are usually set aside.
So What’s the Problem?
Many years ago, I listened to a captivating lecture by Professor Octave Levenspiel. His lecture has been published . He applied many engineering principles to animals reconstructed from the fossil record and argued that these animals existed and were able to function because the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 Bar (a little more than 3-5 atmospheres).
Of relevance to The Dragons of Sheol was the data captured in his Figure 7:
The above figure is a log-log plot of mass (kg) against cruising speed (m/s). Since the lift (force holding the flyer up) is proportional to the square of the velocity and the first power of the wing area, one quickly runs into a limitation for birds. At our air pressure one of the highest wing loading (force/unit wing area) occurs for Canada geese. Indeed birds reconstructed from fossils (quetzalcoatlus and pteranodon) were much larger and were well above the one-atmosphere line.
However lift is also proportional to air density. According to Professor Levenspiel, very large flying creatures, that is muscle-powered flyers weighing more than 14.5 kg, could only have flown if the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 atmospheres. Even in fiction, if I want to have dragons flying, I have to imagine a setting that is plausible. In my thinking this led to the continent of Abaddon.
Abaddon Below Sea Level
The sketch below shows the altitude of Abaddon on a much-contracted horizontal scale. The Abaddon Plain is about ten kilometers below sea level while Sheol is about sixteen kilometers below sea level. For comparison, Mount Everest is 8848 meters above sea level. If sliced from the summit all the way to sea level, it would still be lower than the rim wall around the Abaddon Plain. Still, since Abaddon is a continent-sized plain, the ten kilometer rim wall on the scale of thousands of kilometers of plain, make the rim wall quickly disappear over the horizon.
Rough calculations on the pressure (assuming temperature is approximately the same as at sea level) would make the pressure approximately three atmospheres and six atmospheres respectively for the plain versus Sheol. Given the higher air density, much larger animals could fly at these pressures using muscle-powered locomotion, but it brought up the interesting idea: if the larger dragons grew so large they could only fly in the lower reaches of Sheol, then only the smaller ones could reach the higher terraces.
The Terraces on the Edge of Sheol
So how does one drop from the Abaddon Plain to Sheol? One huge drop? A steep slope? How about steps? Using steps has some interesting possibilities as shown in the figure below.
Depending on the geometry, line-of-sight would block vision of all but the immediate terrace below the escarpment edge. This fact, coupled with the danger of dragons rising from the depths would make the terraces an ideal place to hide. This plays a significant role in the story.
Want to Check Out Peter’s Books?
Read The Halcyon Dislocation for free at the Mississauga Library … if your library doesn’t have it, you can have your library request the e-book from Overdrive or the trade paperback from Amazon or Indigo.
Why not check out Peter’s author page on Amazon?
Proposed Cover for THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL
Here is the proposed cover for the Dragons of Sheol, my fourth book overall and the third in The Halcyon Cycle. I would appreciate your feedback on the design.
The book should be available in May.
If the image is not displaying properly, here is the link to the original blog site … http://bit.ly/2Um1up8-TDOS-Cover
If you’d like to read the first chapter, use this link.