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Book Review / The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. Lallo


All In novel cover by Russell Isler

Myranda Celeste's world is at perpetual war. As far as she knows, she's the only one of her family surviving, and all she has left is to keep moving on and try to keep safe. But one slip of the tongue, a sympathetic word about the enemy, and she's hounded from safety into the bleak wilderness.


Almost out of options and certainly at death's door, she stumbles across a frozen campsite, a dead soldier, and a mystical sword. His rations and tent save her life, but his sword turns out to be more trouble than it seems worth.


This book had been waiting to be read on my Kindle for a very long time, with many others patient to be consumed. Unfortunately, though, it started out interesting and had some promise, but ended up being something that didn't quite hit the mark.


I liked the intrigue of the opening. The strangely perpetual warring world, the nomadic existence, the odd lone soldier who met a sticky end, and the mysterious stranger at the inn. I'm happy with standard tropes, and to delve into otherwordly creatures, and I liked the progression of Myn the baby dragon, and her relationship with both Myranda and Leo. The latter's introduction was also a lot of fun, and he was an interesting and endearing character...at least up to a point. More characters are introduced who all seem to want something from Myranda, and kind of or almost get it, but then she is shunted along the story somewhere else with little objection. We never quite get an evolution of how they might all develop later on as allies or enemies, and so they feel fairly disposable.


The biggest issue was when Myranda and Leo got to Entwell, and they never left. This happens halfway through the book, and she spends the rest of it being trained in endless scenes to learn what seems like only one skill from each elemental magic. Leo spends the rest of it being in a huff - his sudden change in temperament doesn't make a huge amount of sense - or being forced to train her and just answers questions about himself very slowly. This is where the story essentially came to a halt. Training is fine, and developing the magical lore of a world is essential, but this read like a paint by numbers of what the reader needs to know about this world's magic, what Myranda can do, surprise surprise, naturally, and what the rest of the series' plot would consist of through pages and pages and pages of just telling.


Myranda just doesn't develop like she should in the situations she's in. There's no real depth in the emotional baggage she should hold. The fact one of the Elites who's chasing her is her godmother is a throwaway comment, whereas it should have formed a massive underlying emotional conflict during the chase scenes. Myranda has excellent survival skills, but they seem to be devoid of street smarts expected with those. She says obviously contentious things to people clearly not on her side. She doesn't know how to avoid pickpockets at inns. She doesn't know how to tell when a dragon lives in a cave, though these beasts seem to be common. They're conflicting traits that don't make sense for someone on the move in a dangerous landscape, alone and consistently.


She is stubborn and willing to power through tough situations, and take risks, but nothing about her fundamentally changes when she defeats objects in her way, and she seems to not have the capacity to feel anything other than mild emotions for anything in her life, whether its happiness, irritation, anger, or fear. And the sudden romantic suggestions from Deacon towards her she is oblivious to...but then so is the reader until the mermaid tells him that he likes her. No build up, no budding attraction, just thunk, you're in love.


It isn't terribly written as in grammatically, though it could have been tighter, and certainly about half the length. There were questions about war and family and integrity that never got the depth they deserved, and there were a lot of fun and interesting things going on that made me want to know more about the major connections between characters, and also what rails Leo was veering off... But too much time spent on training scenes that should have been montages at most meant the really interesting stuff got bogged down and lost. I'm not sure if I'll pick up the second book anytime soon, but possibly in the future.

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