Book title: Prophecy
Author: Ellen Oh
Series: The Dragon King Chronicles, #1
Publisher: HarperTeen (Harper Collins Publishers)
Release date: January 2013
Format: Hardcover, 312 pages
The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.
Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…
Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.
Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.
Prophecy was a disappointment. It has a stellar premise — just read that description! — but falls flat in terms of characters, plot, and writing. After finishing the book and looking to see how others rated it, I noticed that most of the bloggers I follow gave this book an average of two stars (which I actually have to agree on). Many also mentioned that the book was marketed as “Graceling meets Eon/Eona“. Thankfully, I wasn’t aware of those comparisons going into the book, because if my expectations had been set that high, I would definitely be frowning at Prophecy much more due to the obvious similarities. Graceling is one of my favorite books ever. And while I didn’t love Eon, I will say that it was far more engaging that Prophecy was. Yikes.
Prophecy follows a girl named Kira, the only female warrior in the king’s army. She also has gold eyes, magically fast healing abilities, and is the only person in the world who can see demons. (Whoa, ain’t she special?) She’s also wrapped up in a prophecy that I honestly don’t even remember that well… something to do with a Dragon King. (Mm-hmm, you can tell how much I was paying attention while reading this… Also, going back to Kira’s weird eye color: Why do the protagonist’s eyes need to be different? I never can understand why authors give their heroes wonky eye colors, especially if it’s just a cosmetic trait and not one linked to a particular ability, like it is in Graceling, although, even there, it’s still a little odd. The whole trend is just illogical and weird to to visualize.)
The book is part quest, part rescue mission, and part ALL THE KINGDOMS AT WAR MWAHAHA. (Sorry for the yelling.) All the kingdoms actually became a muddle in my head and I never felt very affected by the battles and political play. (Political play is basically nil here.) Hooray for the map in the front of the book, though, because so many character and kingdom names are similar. And I’m usually a boss at remembering names of all sorts. Ahem, moving along… There’s just so much going on here, including cursed dead people and magical tigers… This book really needed to focus on just a few specific points. It suffers from plot and sub-plot ADHD.
I’ll admit that I skimmed parts when things weren’t holding my attention. (The book is both super fast and super slow. It’s weird.) I hate skimming, but I find I’m doing it more for books that don’t really grab me but that aren’t bad enough for me to DNF, since I try to avoid DNF-ing books at all costs. I know I miss a lot of details when I skim, but Prophecy didn’t flow very well and I wasn’t in the mood to read every single word on every page. (Don’t hate me for my careless reading habits! I swear I don’t skim very often!) That being said, I’m pretty sure there are some dragon parts here, but I can’t even remember with certainty! And I LOVE dragons! (The fact that I can’t recall basically tells you all you need to know… However, I was feeling generous and did go back and flip through the book after writing this to see if there were dragons, and, lo and behold, I found one: a water dragon of sorts, so that counts. But to have to go back and look for dragon proof? Tsk-tsk, book, tsk-tsk.) Prophecy isn’t a bad novel, but if you’re well-read in fantasy this isn’t going to impress you.
To talk about the characters… Kira herself was fine but kind of boring. She was bad-ass and could kick some serious butt, but she was a little too perfect and a little too lucky. Taejo, her cousin and the prince she’s sworn to protect, was a nice contrast to all the other characters, but he felt more like eight than twelve. He made some really stupid decisions and acted kind of bratty on occasion, even though his heart was in the right place. He felt very not-princely despite being raised to be a ruler his whole life. It was a little illogical. Kwan, Kira’s older brother and another warrior, was my favorite character. He didn’t really have much to do that was exciting or vital to the plot, but he was along for the entire journey and was such a nice, protective, smart presence. I also loved Jindo, Taejo’s dog. Because furry friends are the best and make everything better.
But I think the most interesting character was Shin Bo Hyun, Kira’s childhood frenemy and her recent betrothed. Shin (or, Bo Hyun, as Shin is the family name, if I remember correctly) always disgusted me as well as Kira, but he’s layered: He has a past friendship of sorts with Kira and does seem to like her, but is on the opposing side that Kira is fighting for. He’s really despicable and I hope that Kira knocks him off a cliff sometime, but he’s possibly the most complex character in the book. Sadly, I really don’t care about him to want to know how his arc plays out in the end. Creep.
Since we’re on the subject of Kira’s love life, let me say that it was actually refreshing to have no romance in the book! At the same time, however, I kind of wish there had been more push/pull/attraction between Kira and her likely future love interest, Jaewon. Also, the lack of romance could be a reason why Prophecy felt more Middle Grade than Young Adult. The writing in general felt a little young for YA, and if you make Kira a few years younger as well as Shin and Jaewon, this book could easily become a story fit for middle school readers. (I find this a little frustrating, too. Why can’t we have YA books that don’t include the protagonist falling love or having romantic feelings for another character? Why is it that without any romance, often times YA books are thought of as skewing more Middle Grade?)
The best part of the book is the Korean culture, history, and mythology Ellen Oh expertly weaved into it. I don’t think I’ve read a novel about Korean history and mythology yet, so that was really cool. A lot of Korean words and terms are used in the writing, and there’s a glossary at the back of the book. However, it’s disappointing to say that the glossary is actually necessary, because many of the terms used in the story aren’t all that explained via context in the writing itself. There’s also a lot of telling versus showing in this book, I noticed, especially when it comes to Kira and what she’s feeling and what’s happening to her. The writing style is definitely a contributing factor to why I felt the book was both fast and slow and why I never felt very connected to anything going on. I had very little emotional attachment because I wasn’t experiencing everything myself. Throw in all those words in italics and no wonder I was skimming.
I hate to bash this book. It’s not bad, it’s just not nearly as good as it sets itself up to be. I have the rest of the trilogy sitting on my shelf, borrowed from the library, and now I’m a bit reluctant to finish the series; I originally intended to marathon the three books but now I’m not really sure if I’m in the mood. Overall, Prophecy really falls flat in almost every area. The characters were bland and the plot was so abrupt, clunky, and crammed with a gazillion different things. I liked the ancient Korean setting and the magic, but this book really isn’t all it’s cooked up to be. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Prophecy? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was the last book you read that incorporated Asian culture, history, mythology? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!