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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Dragon's Touch by A.R. Johnson

Dragon's Touch 

"Dragons, mages, and estranged siblings collide in a struggle to control the Kingdom of Rioch."

The Guild of Mages is determined to destroy the dragon race at all costs. Queen Christine, keeper of the peace and leader of the dragon riders, strives to maintain stability in Rioch. Amidst this struggle, Zharah is torn between the anti-dragon teachings of her childhood and her unwitting bonding with the dragon hatchling Elihan. She must cross the kingdom in search of her long lost brother and the answers to her future as a Dragon-Touched human. She finds both friends and enemies along the road, but above all she finds herself.


The Guru's Review: 

It is only in the past two years that I have seriously begun to read Christian fantasy, apart from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit 25 years ago, but that was because it was a classic and everyone was reading it. However, both those books are a great introduction to the world of fantasy fiction. And it is Tolkien and Lewis that seemed to have started it all and inspired many more writers since many decades later to write successfully in this genre. 

Ariel Johnson can now class herself as one of these successful! If someone had told me after I read this debut novel, that she was only 16 years of age, I would have not believed them. This novel has the level of depth and maturity in plot structure and writing style of someone of more advanced years than she has lived. I know there would be established older fantasy authors who would be very envious to be able to write with this expertise and sophistication at this age or to have even been published at this age! I pray that Ariel will have already been, and continue to be, an inspiration to other budding young aspiring authors who want to write and be published. 

All I can say is that if Ariel continues to write like this, develop her stories with this vivid imagination, she will be an author to watch out for. For a debut novel, I have been very impressed. Her characters are real and believable, relational, the pace is consistent and keeps you returning with expectation and anticipation for more action, suspense and intrigue. Her good guys are not squeaky clean, they have their faults and foibles, her bad guys have enough degree of evil to polarise the reader. I loved the characters of Ryce, Daric and Albin. I was surprised to find that Albin was as young as he was, I pictured him being in his mid 20s or a bit older. And I was not surprised and hoping that the spark of romance would ignite between Zharah and him. Nice plot development for the next book. 

I doubt that any reader would dislike Ryce and Daric, Ryce is instantly likeable and they both compliment each other. Ariel depicted very realistically the mixed feelings of betrayal, shame and affection of Daric for what he has done to Ryce and Zharah. Very well done and this will no doubt be further developed in the next book. Looking at how the teenage characters interact with each other, shows to me that Ariel has a good grasp of what it means to be a teenager and her own age and experience would be a real asset here and just one area where she shines. 

I loved the mythology of the dragons and their connection to the human race. Despite this having a parallel to one other dragon fantasy series, I don't believe that Ariel has copied this. In fact, from now having read both of them, I can see that she has added more depth to this dragon connection than the previous.

I loved the following explanation as to the relationship between a dragon and its rider as explained by Alpin, 
I imagined that Elihan already filled you in on this when he first hatched and you two bonded. You didn't know that a dragon and his rider or her rider are bonded for life? When a dragon willingly bonds with a human, it is called the Dragon's Touch. This life bond goes beyond just the telepathic connection. You literally are bonded for life. Because of the Dragon's Touch, you will live forever, never aging, until one of your is killed. But as another effect of the touch, if you are killed through violence or magic, Elihan dies, and vice versa. 
I pray that Ariel can tie in this dragon lore with poetic licence to Christianity or some biblical connection but would not be disappointed if she did not, but this would be a great avenue to explore for future novels. It is going to be a great plot point seeing the relationship develop between Zharah and Elihan, her adolescent dragon, in subsequent novels. Elihan is such a likeable and loveable entity with his own unique personality and character that I can see this be one of the favourite parts of this series. 

The subtle inclusion of biblical/Christian doctrine only enhances this novel and it impressed me that she gave credit for where the powers of the characters came from: God. This is one example where this novel honours God, adheres to biblical doctrine and does not lead Christian and non Christian astray or promote false doctrine. From my perspective, this is one of the hallmarks of effective Christian fiction. Seeing this in a Christian fantasy novel from an author so young shows the depth of maturity of her as a Christian and this is a credit to her as an author.  

All in all, I loved this novel and I can see it doing well in the future. I would love to see the next installment be released quicker than it will be but that is every reader's hope to an author who has entertained and engrossed them in a wonderful world of imagery and pure escapism. It was very hard returning to the real world once this novel ended.

Highly recommended. 

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