3 out of 4 stars
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Alex Sapegin’s novel, Becoming the Dragon, is the first in a series of five books and clearly sets the tone for a continued storyline. After being caught in the middle of a supernatural accident, Andy, a relatively normal teenager living in modern-day Russia, finds himself catapulted into a fantasy world. This magical world is home to various magical beings, as well as thousands of years of conflicted history. Andy wanders through this unfamiliar world, discovers his own magical potential, and eventually finds himself the prisoner of several different hostile groups. Through a series of painful, but ultimately fortunate, events, Andy is placed in the care of an elderly elf and a father-like dragon and transforms into a fierce and powerful dragon.
One of the great strengths of this novel is that it effectively sets up a complex and captivating storyline for the remaining books in the series. The world that Sapegin has devised combines familiar myth and legend with unique magic, cleverly incorporating Andy’s modern-day backstory.
While reading the novel, I struggled at first to connect with the main characters or the plot, however, the second half of the novel is so engaging and well-written that I believe it justifies the slow start (particularly when considering the length of the series as a whole). There are some problems with grammar and sentence flow, which may be a result of translation errors, but otherwise the writing itself is generally clear. The only other concern that I had while reading this novel is that the action occasionally moves to quickly for me to really grasp the scenario. I found myself returning often to reread sections, so that I could fully understand the events as they transpire throughout the story.
My favorite element of this novel is the incorporation of a medieval-style magical world with the concerns and struggles of a modern-day teenager. Many of the problems that Andy faces throughout the novel are clearly beyond the scope of the average teenager’s modern-day worries, however, these larger-than-life problems provide Andy with the opportunity to develop, and they provide readers the opportunity to see enormous emotional growth.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars, because its compelling story is somewhat diminished by problems with the writing itself. I would recommend this book to lovers of mythical worlds and fantastical adventures. I advise readers, however, to be patient with the story and allow it to develop, rather than giving up on it at the beginning. Readers searching for a more quest-based fantasy novel will likely not enjoy this story.
Becoming the Dragon
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