I bought this for my older son’s “rebirthday” in October, and I think he finished it in a weekend (if not overnight). He passed it along to me, and I just finished it yesterday. It’s not that I spent four months reading it – there may have been only about a dozen days I opened the book. But it just didn’t keep my interest enough to keep picking it up when there were other books around to read.
When I started the Dragons in Our Midst series (this book is #3 in the Oracles of Fire series which follows), I was attracted by the Arthurian themes, the Biblical allusions, and the dragons. The Arthurian aspects largely ended with the earlier series, and while there are still dragons around they play a much smaller role (though it appears this may change in the final book). And while this series initially seemed to deal in some very interesting ways with Biblical material, by this point in the series it seems to have largely moved into worlds of Davis’ own creation.
I do like fantasy, including Christian fantasy (my introduction to it was Stephen Lawhead’s Dragon King Trilogy, and I went on to read most of what Lawhead has written since). I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes me not care for this series as well. Perhaps it’s because it’s building on the previous series, which I enjoyed, but taking it in new directions that just don’t seem to fit. Perhaps it’s merging so many elements – Arthurian, biblical, dragons, and Davis’ own worlds and creatures. Perhaps it’s because, with this book in particular, it seems to be primarily about setting the stage for the final book.
Or perhaps it’s because I get the feeling that the story – as a story – is becoming less important than the lessons it is trying to teach. Here is the blurb for the book given at the author’s own website:
Last of the Nephilim, is the third in the Oracles of Fire series, a set of four books for young adults. This series inspires young people to pursue faith, courage, and love and to dig deep within to find their God-given strengths, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
I think it’s great when a book does inspire young people in those ways. But I think it will do so best when it is first and foremost a good story, not primarily an attempt to teach Christian virtues. By the end of this book, I got the feeling that Davis was going out of his way to create new conflicts for his teen-aged characters to face, just so they could learn lessons of faith and model the virtues mentioned above.
There are some interesting situations and characters. Much of the book deals with “Second Eden,” a world where the people have not yet sinned, and where babies are “born” not through sexual reproduction but in a garden where they grow like plants. One character is being tempted to tell a lie, and major events in the book depend on the result of her actions and how others respond to them. I would have liked to see more of the book spent developing this, rather than quite so much going off to follow other plot-lines and other characters.
The initial series had only a few main characters. I could watch the story unfold from each point of view, and get to really care about them. With each book in that series and even more in this one, the cast has grown until it’s hard to even keep track of them all. As each of them gets less attention, I find it harder to be as interested in any of them.
I realize I’m not part of the author’s target audience, which is clearly young people. I read customer reviews on amazon.com, all of which are very favorable. I read 34 pages of comments in a message thread devoted to this book on the author’s website, and all the comments were full of enthusiastic praise. (I don’t know how many are teenagers, but they mostly sound like teens.)
Of course, I don’t suppose too many readers with less than favorable reactions will take the trouble to create a profile on the author’s website, just for the purpose of expressing their disappointment. I know I won’t. I’ve written some book reviews at amazon.com, and they were mostly if not all for books I thought highly of.
Even my son, who eagerly awaits each new book in the series, agreed with me that the transformation from dragon into human into dragon into human and then dragon again did seem to be taking things a bit too far. But I’m sure he’ll be excited when the final book arrives. And when he’s done, I’ll read it too. They’re good books – just not what I might have liked.