Mystic Dragon: Enjoyable enough to finish but a bit underwhelming

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Mystic Dragon by Jason Denzel epic fantasy book reviewsMystic Dragon by Jason Denzel epic fantasy book reviewsMystic Dragon by Jason Denzel

Mystic Dragon (2018) is the second book in the MYSTIC series by Jason Denzel, and I confess I did not read book one, Mystic. The good news is that while I assume having done so will help reader pick up on a few references to past events, I never felt that my stepping in at book two was any serious detriment to the reading experience. The bad news is that while Mystic Dragon is a solid enough entry in the fantasy field, it didn’t do enough to convince me to go back and pick up its predecessor.

The novel centers mostly on Pomella, a mystic apprentice (think wizardly sort) who, shockingly, came out of the commoner class. We meet her as she is investigating a slavers ring, but the true threat is much less mundane. The rare (every 60 years) celestial event of Crow Tallin is about to occur, when the Fay world and the human world overlap. Already fay creatures are being seen more often and in greater numbers. As in the past, to deal with the impending crisis Mystics from all over have gathered to perform protective rituals, though it goes without saying things this time around will go down an unexpected path.

It’s no surprise that Pomella finds herself at the center of things; she’s the apprentice of a Mystic Grandmaster (Lal) and lives at the site where the High Mystic of Moth lives (the same place the Mystics gather). What is surprising is the arrival of another young female apprentice — Shevia — who has strange oracular powers not fully explained by the usual working of the Myst. Finally, the third major character is Sim, a ranger who grew up with Pomella and who has also encountered Shevia as part of his travels. The actions of all three will determine the fate of their world.

Book 1

Structurally, Mystic Dragon moves amongst the three characters’ POVs as well as back and forth in time, with both Shevia and Sim’s stories beginning years earlier to show how they are gradually catching up to present time. I’m generally a fan of multiple POVs and non-linear storylines so long as transitions are handled smoothly, and Denzel proves himself more than capable in that regard. The book flows smoothly, timelines converge at a good time, and the flashbacks enhance both characterization (explaining why Shevia and Sim are the people they are) and plotting (increasing the suspense thanks to cutting to a different time period at pivotal moments).

The plot itself is interesting in its premise, the merger of the Fay world and Pomella’s mundane world, but it fell flat for me in its presentation, though I did appreciate some of the turns and twists. I never had a solid grasp of the Fay world, or the weightiness of its threat. That holds true until toward the end, when the threat is personified and focused, but in what felt like a rushed, abrupt manner. The magic system was also undefined for me, and the wielding of it seemed to make resolution of issues too easy more than a few times. I had other issues with plotting as well, journeying was vague and again too easy at times thanks to magic; Sim’s background story fell short of what felt like its potential — a bit too plodding through necessary plot points though it had its moments; some plot lines or characters were dropped for long periods and then return in what felt like contrived fashion, and a few others. On a positive note, Shevia’s backstory is quite strong, mostly, I’d say, because it is less plot-oriented and more character-centered.

Style is solid. As noted the book flows well and the prose carries you along effectively, even if it never startles you or has you linger over a particular passage. Occasionally it may tip toward (or possibly over) the melodramatic, but not too frequently.

In the end, as I said at the start, Mystic Dragon was “solid,” one of those books that if you pick up you’re fine with continuing along until the end. It doesn’t ever really grab you via language or plotting or character, but it never accumulates enough small flaws, or presents you with one or two big ones, that make you think about quitting. I was fine finishing it, but don’t really have much interest in picking up book one or reading on to book three. So I’m not recommending it, but I also wouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving it a shot; they might find that just a little bit more of a positive response will convince them to continue the series.

Published July, 17 2018. Mystic Dragon: The enchanting epic fantasy novel from Jason Denzel, the founder of Dragonmount. Seven years have passed since lowborn Pomella AnDone became an unlikely Mystic’s apprentice. Though she has achieved much in a short time, as a rare celestial event approaches, Pomella feels the burden of being a Mystic more than ever. The Mystical realm of Fayün is threatening to overtake the mortal world, and as the two worlds slowly blend together, the land is thrown into chaos. People begin to vanish or are killed outright, and Mystics from across the world gather to protect them. Among them is Shevia, a haunted and brilliant prodigy whose mastery of the Myst is unlike anything Pomella has ever seen. Shevia will challenge Pomella in every possible way, from her mastery of the Myst to her emotional connection with Pomella’s own friends—and as Shevia’s dark intentions become more clear, Pomella fears she may be unstoppable.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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