Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Review: The Dragons of Ordinary Farm

It's not every day you find one of your favorite authors is trying to be J.K. Rowling. The Dragons of Ordinary Farm is a novel for young adults and a sequel is already in the works. It is set in a remote Californian valley, not a British glen, and it involves a brother and sister with a divorced mom, not an orphan with a scar. But in each case there is a world of fantastic creatures to explore, here, a herd of unicorns and a dragon or two. I know this is written in part as a response and perhaps corrective to Harry Potter, because Williams has admitted that his own first fantasy trilogy (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn) was written in both homage and protest to Tolkien. I know Willams' writing well enough that I can spot the same trends here.

So what to say? It was highly enjoyable and, as always with Williams, very well-plotted toward the end (and, also, a little slow to get going). Some of the siblings-with-divorced-mom seems to be to be trying a bit too hard to be relevant. But I will say that there is a real sense of peril in this book (an exciting sense of peril) which is completely missing (for me at least) until the end of the fourth Harry Potter book. It's a sense that the author just might come out and shock you with a tragic twist ... I never felt like J.K.Rowling could bear to do something truly bad to our main characters (until the climax of the final book or two), so I wasn't ever truly excited by them. This one, I didn't know, despite the fact that I know the author better, and it kept me up more than a Harry Potter book ever did.

So, I always enjoy a Tad Williams plot. The world is not quite as rich as Harry Potter's universe ... but then again, what is? This is a California book, and as such, it simply can't be as "rich" as a British series.

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