The Dragons of Hazlett by Michelle Scott is a good debut. This is a beach read; nothing complex, a nice read for a quiet afternoon. I read it as an e-book, which is particularly good for stories that don’t require a lot of concentration. (I don’t own a fancy e-reader, I read on my laptop, which probably lacks the sophisticated features that make reading online easier.)
It took me a while to get used to the premise because it’s a little unusual: mechanical items are taboo and considered occult. What’s funny is that in real history, mechanical items were often thought evil, yet in fantasy, it’s almost always magic that is the occult. So I’m reading along with certain expectations and finding myself in a bit of a different place. Not a bad thing, but I found myself thinking, “Hey! Everyone knows that mechanical items are just…” Some of the examples of “mechanical” could have made the concept easier to accept. There’s one scene where the protag doesn’t really know what an arrow is…that brought me up short because it took my mind a while to wrap around the concept that in any world an arrow wouldn’t be common place (why waste magic when something as simple as an arrow would do?)
This is a murder mystery at heart and a good one. Romana’s granduncle has been murdered and though she didn’t know him, she is determined to find his killer. Even though it means accepting some unpleasant truths about his life and going to an unknown city where she has no friends or other family she takes on the duty with determination.
There were two POVs to the story, but the author kept it nicely simple. The character development was strong enough that I didn’t mind the two POVs—I cared about both characters enough to like both segments and not get annoyed at moving back and forth. That said, the character motivations were very simple. I’d have enjoyed a bit more complexity in motivations from both the main POVs and the other characters in the story. The characters are not one-dimensional, but they are simply stated rather than having hidden facets.
The actual plot is where the dimensions of the story is fleshed out. Just when things look simple, there’s a bit of a twist or at least an alleyway. Nicely done—right up until the end battle. It was a nice ending, had great tension, but then it dropped it suddenly. After some of the setup shown earlier in the story (which I can’t reveal as it would be a spoiler) the climax needed to deal with the issue as the true battle it was. Instead, it was packaged neatly and dispensed with. There were certainly other plot elements that were handled with the complexity they deserved so the ending felt a little like the author had a word limit.
Despite the rushed ending, this is a good story and a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. It’s easily worth the e-book price (about 5 dollars) and for those that don’t do e-books, it’s also available as Trade Paperback (click on the title links in this post to go to Amazon). Though it’s not labeled YA and probably rightly so because it isn’t a perfect fit, The Dragons of Hazlett would be good reading for that category as well as adult–I’d call it a cozy/fantasy/mystery.
(Cover Art by Skyla Dawn Cameron)
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