Book Reviews

Book Review: The Dragon’s Promise

by Elizabeth Lim

publisher’s synopsis

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.

(Heads up, this review is semi-spoilery.)

After enjoying Six Crimson Cranes, I was sadly disappointed by The Dragon’s Promise. While the book wasn’t terrible, its plot suffered from a strong feeling of disjointedness.

From the opening of the novel and the back cover blurb, I figured that the majority of the story would take place in the dragons’ kingdom. However, Shiori returned to Kiata around the 30% mark. Aside from creating some relationship drama, the only point of Shiori visiting the dragons’ kingdom is to find out who Raikama’s pearl actually belongs to. And after Shiori returns home, her time with the dragons is hardly mentioned.

I think that the plot would have been stronger if Shiori either: didn’t go to the dragons’ kingdom and found out the pearl’s owner another way, or: if the majority of the plot happened among the dragons. But the overall result of the current story structure is the subplots and characters introduced in the dragons’ kingdom feel unnecessary.

After her return to Kiata, Shiori navigates the difficulties brought by public knowledge of her magic. Bandor really comes into play here, which makes sense because he’s the main villain. However, I think he should have been brought into the plot earlier–but that goes back to the disjointedness of Shiori’s time in the dragons’ realm. The plot here didn’t feel disjointed, but the pacing did feel a little off.

Shiori’s time in Kiata ends when she, Takkan, and her brothers set off with Tambu–with Bandor in tow–to return the pearl to its owner. When they first arrive in Tambu, they’re at Raikama’s home village. I actually did enjoy the time that Shiori and co. spent in the village, since it showed how Shiori was still processing grief and the loss of Raikama.

After their pit stop, Shiori and co. go to find the pearl’s owner. What ensues is a battle between Bandor, the pearl’s owner, and Shiori. This is when I started losing interest in the novel. There were some things that I couldn’t follow and didn’t make sense. Now, I was multitasking while listening to the audiobook, so it could have just been a me problem.

When the battle is over, Bandor is defeated, the pearl and its owner are reunited, and Shiori and co. return home. The main plot of the book (or at least, what seemed to be the main plot), is over, and I was expecting the book to wrap up.

I was wrong. The next 15-20% is Shiori freeing the demons from their prison in the mountains. And I really lost interest here. Full confession: I considered not finishing the book; the plot that I cared about was resolved.

So to sum all of that up: the plot and structure of The Dragon’s Promise don’t flow together, leaving the story disjointed. Unlike Six Crimson Cranes, The Dragon’s Promise isn’t a retelling, which might have contributed to the lack of cohesion.

But now for some positives!

Lim has her world-building fleshed out. My favorite part about Shiori’s time with the dragons was the unique worldbuilding.

Like in Six Crimson Cranes, Shiori has a strong character voice. And I appreciated that the strong bond built between her and her brothers in SCC was still present in The Dragon’s Promise.

The narrator for the audiobook once again did a fantastic job. I enjoyed listening to her.

Other reviewers have said that Six Crimson Cranes probably should have been a standalone instead of a duology, and I agree with them. That said, remember that every reader’s milage of a book will vary–you might love The Dragon’s Promise! It just wasn’t for me.

Cautions: three swear words; a few kisses; moderate romance; brief reference to a prince offering to marry someone’s nephew; moderate violence; the plot of TDP is tied closely to the storyworld demons; demonic possession *

*I was listening to the audiobook, so I may have missed a caution.

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