Dragonscarpe (book, various, 2008)
Pat McNamara, Michal Dutkiewicz, and Gary Turner/Angel Phoenix Publishing/£19.95
Massive, illustrated and ambitious beginning to a new franchise that is somewhat undone by its artificiality.
As impressive looking as it is, there’s not a great deal to this illustrated novel, not so much a coffee table book as a coffee table top. Perhaps its inherent artificiality doesn’t help it – the concept’s by one guy, the words by another, pictures by a third. It has a certain honesty in its commercial attempt to create a new franchise, but it suffers from its inorganic conception.
The writing and concept present two of the biggest problems. The concept is too complicated, and its talk of different realms and elementals is way too reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragon‘s planar cosmology. Much else has been borrowed from RPGs. This forces on the writing a plethora of meaningless fantasy blather, of invented race and rank. The author doesn’t help himself with some extremely poor quality writing – masses of adjectives, and the tedious description of everything we are bearing witness to, as well a blow-by-blow account of exactly what goes on in the character’s heads, leaves little for our imaginations to get their teeth into. This theme park-feel to the story is only enhanced by the pictures. Only the production values and the art work is of any quality, and even then the pictures vary from the pretty good to the pretty iffy. The epitome of US high fantasy, slick, depthless and full of hot babes, it’s something to look at, not engage with, and it keeps you at one well-manicured arm’s length.
And also, the book’s sheer size and weight makes it rather difficult to read. A bad mating between a mediocre comic and poor novel.