Here there be Dragons: The Dragons of Heaven Book Review

The Dragons of Heaven Book review

What is this about?: This is an introduction to Missy Masters as much as it’s a story about Chinese mythology and lore as readers are told the dual stories of how Missy came to take over her grandfather’s superhero persona and bring down a wall that has encircled China.

What else is this about?: I would have said it’s also about how Missy became the new Mr Mystic, but it’s of equal importance I think.

Stars: 3

Should you read: I’m a little ambivalent about this one because I just lost steam half-way. Or it lost steam.

Blurb: Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather. She also got his preternatural control of shadows and his enduring legacy as the legendary vigilante superhero, Mr. Mystic.

After a little work, the costume fits OK, but Missy is far from experienced at fighting crime, so she journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather. She becomes embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the allegedly mythical nine dragon-guardians of all creation.

When Lung Di—Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy—raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier.

It’s a superhero novel, a pulp fantasy novel, with lashings of kung fu, immense kick-ass dragons and an unfailingly sympathetic heroine—yes, it’s another wonderful Angry Robot title.

Ambivalent as I am, there is no denying this is a strong series debut, with diverse characters and a diverse world of urban fantasy involving Chinese mythology. And dragons, and really that right there was one of the big reasons for me to read this book.

Missy, like the wealth of secondary characters, is a strong character, filled with snark galore and a fierce desire to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. She, like him, can control shadows but is untrained, which is why we have Then and Now chapters.

The Then chapters tell the story of her journey to meet her grandfather’s teacher so she can convince him to help her master her powers. This part of the story is filled with so much wonderful Chinese mythology and the intricate character relationships, I thought it deserved its own story/book instead of being part of this one.

It made me think that the Then chapters were there to elevate the Now ones in part. I mean, it’s a story about Missy trying to figure out why someone’s erected a wall around China, but there was something lacking for me. I can’t really pinpoint it, but I found the chapters in the past much more interesting.

I am growing so tired of split timelines or dual timelines for that matter. Is linear storytelling going out of fashion?

I hate to admit this, but there was also a point when Missy got tiring to read. She’s always on, always snark-filled and I didn’t feel like she ever had downtime. I think I had a problem connecting with her, I think, because of it. Maybe, that’s who she is though? Maybe it’s just me.

Will I give book 2 a chance? Probably. But I need to decompress from this one before I even think about picking the next one up. What do you think?

14 Comments

  • Sometimes I struggle with the dual timelines, especially when I find the characters a bit much. Given this was the first book in a new series, maybe it was just trying to inform the reader and the second one won’t be as trying.

    • Verushka says:

      I hope so Angela. I mean, there’s another book I just finished where the timelines just worked marvellously, so I am still trying to properly articulate why this one just didn’t work for me. I think it part, it may very well be a case of first-book-itis and too many things being needed to be set-up.

  • Greg says:

    Interesting book, I LOVE that cover. Add in Chinese mythology and I’m very interested. I kinda get you though on dual timelines or split POV’s- that happens so much that I get tired of it too. And I like snarky characters but if it’s ALL snark or never lets up it can be irritating. Still it sounds like it has some things to recommend it. I can see why the THEN chapters might be the more interesting… Nice review!

    • Verushka says:

      There was definitely a heap of good elements in this Greg, and I can’t say the snark wasn’t good, lol, just a bit exhausting in the end. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

  • First of all, LOVING all the red and black on the cover lol.

    This does sound kind of cool, and I’ve never read about Chinese mythology so that would be interesting, but the superhero thing just doesn’t appeal to me. And what you said about the character being on and snarky all the time makes me think I’d struggle to connect to her too. I like more vulnerability and emotion in my characters.

    It’s funny you mention the split timeline thing because I have a review going up next week for a book that did the same thing, and I also mentioned that. It is a rather strange way of telling a story, to jump between past and present. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Why not just make two books, one for the then, one for the now, you know?

    • Verushka says:

      Kristen EXACTLY — why not make two books? Because the Then chapters were filled with so much goodness I would have loved to have read more of. And it’s entirely possible the Now chapters could have done with more focus if they were on their own in a book. The snark is good, the author clearly knows how to write good snark, but yeah, after a time, I realised I wasn’t connecting to her at all.

  • This looks like something I’d like to try, although dual timelines isn’t something I enjoy… I suppose I’ll just have to see how it goes. Adding to my TBR. Thanks!

    • Verushka says:

      There’s much goodness here, Di that might appeal to more people than would be irritated with the dual timelines thing. I hope you enjoy it !

  • Thanks for your honest thoughts. This does seem like an intriguing read. I like books where characters have superpowers, probably because I love comics/graphic novels so much. haha

    • Verushka says:

      I love them too!! That’s why I was so excited about this one! Maybe it’s just first-book-itis and trying to set up too much?

  • Maria Behar says:

    LOVED your review, Verushka! Your approach was very thorough, and I enjoyed reading all of your nuanced insights.

    This is a book I DEFINITELY want to read, in spite of your own problems with it. I mean, a kick-butt heroine, Chinese mythology, dragons, mystery, and sibling rivalry? I can at least give it a try, I think!

    Missy reminds me of another kick-butt heroine — Rose Hathaway, of The Vampire Academy series. Rose was not a perfect character; she did have her negative points. But her snarky comments were constantly flowing, too, although there were indeed times when she was at a loss for words.

    And did I mention dragons? I ADORE dragons!!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this novel! I’m adding it to my Goodreads shelves!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      Oh, I agree – Dragons won me over big time with this one. I do want to give book 2 a chance and hope things are better — because you’re right: Chinese mythology, dragons and so much more really do make for a good read. I WANT book 2 to be better sooo much!

  • Lola says:

    It does sound like it has an unique set-up with the Chinese mythology and dragons, O can definitely see why you picked this up. But that’s too bad it lost steam halfway through. The Now and Then way of telling a story can work well, but I prefer it if both parts are almost equally enjoyable. I hope book 2 is better if you decide to pick it up.

  • Hmm, I’m not hooked by its description or your review of it. Seems like a pass but I could definitely understand why you’d want to read book 2! Great review!

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