Literacy Lunacy: Alex Spagel’s Becoming the Dragon

When sixteen year old Andy Kerimov heads to his dad’s work to deliver forgotten paperwork, he’s  accidentally trapped  at the center of a science experiment. Before anything can be done to stop it, Andy is teleported to a new world: Ilanta. Filled with both humans and fantastical creatures, Andy overcomes one life-threatening challenge after another. He meets orcs, elves, and dragons, all while gaining new magical abilities and doing something he least expected: becoming a dragon.

Within moments of landing in Ilanta, Andy fights to survive. In the unfamiliar territory, he is captured by hunters, kidnapped, sold into slavery, and eventually tortured. With a little help of his new skills, he manages to escape with a dragon, only face another choice of life or death.

While the cover for Becoming the Dragon is eye-catching, it gives the impression it’s meant for younger readers. It isn’t until I was well into the first part, did I realize it is not. There’s mention of Andy getting an erection because of his attraction to his sister’s friend, implied pornography a group of teens watch during Andy’s bus ride, and violence and death at almost every turn in Ilanta.

The author over does the description. I have a personal interest in archery, so when Andy starts lessons with his neighbor, I was interested in direction for the novel. Unfortunately, Spagen took his time explaining the history of the bow and arrow. It was nice to know, but didn’t pertain to the actual story, aside from the fact that Andy becomes exceptional at archery. As I continued, I noticed there’s little dialogue. Everything is overly described, from the room the characters are in to the clothes the charaters wear. This would go on for paragraphs at a time.

To add to it,  Ilanta is filled with new and unique creatures. Some were the familiar humans, elves, and gnomes to orcs and dragons. The problem is that each new scene brought a new character or creature. Again, with each of these new characters came the details of their looks, attire, and jobs. This, and the fact that they all had similar names, became a hassle to keep in order. It also didn’t help when they were eventually killed off soon after being established.

The plot was difficult to follow and the narrative jumped around often. It focused on Andy for so long before eventually switching to other characters then, eventually, back to Andy. More than half way into the novel, there’s a jump in the timeline. Spagen uses it to inform the reader how Andy learns the language of the people while being tortured. While the title suggests the point of the story is Andy becoming a dragon, the actual phenomena doesn’t occur until shortly after the reader is caught up with the present torture.

Though there were many characters, I genuinely like Jagirra and Karegar. Their light bickering and relationship was endearing and added something to the story. I continued reading with hopes they would be come a bigger part to the story. When they do appear, they become a key factor in Andy’s transformation. By the end, Spagen wraps up with a cliffhanger, implying Andy’s journey isn’t over. Despite my liking for two of the characters, I’m not invested in continuing the series.

I’m giving this 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Becoming the Dragon is the first book of a series, so it’s the set up for the books to come. While I may not have enjoyed the over use of detail or jumpy plot, there are some who may. With the amount of effort Spagen put into world building, there’s bound to be a reader who’ll appreciate the quality of his writing.

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