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The Dragons of the Cuyahoga is the first book by S. Andrew Swann featuring newspaper reporter Kline Maxwell, who usually covers the political beat in Cleveland, OH, never the "fuzzy gnome" stories. What are the "fuzzy gnome" stories? Well, the main premise behind this book and the sequel is that a Portal has opened up in Cleveland and elves, dragons, mages, gnomes, and every other assorted fantasyland creature have tumbled through an inhabited the area around Cleveland. They're limited in how far they can roam by the magical field that surrounds the Portal, but it's still a significant amount of area.

I picked the book up because of the premise, but I went into the book with some doubts. It's very difficult to integrate magic into the real world believable, but I think S. Andrew Swann has done it. There are limits on the magic and the way it is described and how it is used is interesting. There has been a lot of thought put into how something like the Portal would fit into our world, not just the mechanics of it and how it works, but also how it would affect politics and government and such.

The book has two great strengths, and that's one of them. The second is that the elves and dragons and such aren't just humans with funny ears or wings. S. Andrew Swann had gone the extra mile and made them all THINK differently.

The story begins when Kline is assigned to the "fuzzy gnome" story of a dragon that crash lands in the Cuyahoga. Except after a while it becomes obvious that it wasn't an accident, but murder. Most of the outcome of the story revolves around the fact that the fantasyland creatures think differently and that Kline has to adjust his own thinking in order to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together so that they make sense. He keeps assigning human motivations and motivators to the elves and dragons and such, and he has to kick that habit in order to get the mystery of the dragon's death solved. This idea--that the fantasy creatures don't think the same as we do--is something that should be integrated into fantasy novels more, but it's hard to pull off, mostly because it's hard for us (the human author and human reader) to wrap our head around how someone so completely different will think so completely different. In the end, though, you can follow how S. Andrew Swann's creatures think and who killed the dragon and why--and why those who help Kline, help him, and those who don't, don't.

There are some drawbacks to the novel. I'm not sure what happened, but this book appears to have skipped the last page proof phase. There are alot of typos and sentences gone wrong and such. I don't usually mind some throughout my books, because as a writer I know that it's nearly impossible to find them all, even when three or four people go through the book specifically looking for them. But the number that appear in this book is insane and it got annoying. There was also a few sections of the book where I thought the worldbuilding detail of how the Portal was integrated into Cleveland was a little too much. This happened most often when the author spent a page or two explaining the "history" of a particular section of Cleveland--how such-and-such area went from new-wealth to a slum housing the lesser classes of fantasyland creatures, for example. I don't mind a paragraph on this, but when it went on for a few pages . . .

In the end, though, I thought it was a cool idea and I really liked the way the mystery resolved itself, since it was based on how everyone thought and that not everything had the same goals as, say, humans would have. I'll certainly go on to read the sequel, The Dwarves of Whiskey Island. In fact, I've already started it. *grin*

PS--These two books can now be found in an omnibus volume called Dragons and Dwarves: Novels of the Cleveland Portal.

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joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)

April 2010

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