Redheart – Jackie Gamber

About the book
Enter the lands of Leland Province, where dragon and human societies have long dwelled side by side. Superstitions rise sharply, as a severe drought strips the land of its bounty, providing fertile ground for the darker ambitions of Fordon Blackclaw, Dragon Council Leader, who seeks to subdue humans or wipe them off the face of the land.

As the shadow of danger creeps across Leland Province, a young dragon named Kallon Redheart, who has turned his back on dragons and humans alike, comes into an unexpected friendship. Riza Diantus is a young woman whose dreams can no longer be contained by the narrow confines of her village, and when she finds herself in peril, Kallon is the only one with the power to save her. Yet to do so means he must confront his past, and embrace a future he stopped believing in.

294 pages (paperback)
Published on: April 6, 2011
Published by: Seventh Star Press
Author’s webpage
I have a very hard time with young adult books. I’m not sure why, but I just can’t ever seem to get into them. I’m constantly sitting on the fence wavering between giving up the YA subgenre all together, or giving it another go. Thus, when I’m faced with reviewing a YA book, I feel rather guilty because I have such bad luck with enjoying anything young adult. It’s hard for me to step back, when reading these books, and think about reviewing from the perspective of someone who actually enjoys YA. I’m telling you this, dear reader, so you may have full disclosure as to my various predispositions before you actually read my review.
I am also going to say, before I continue, that it is impossible for me to like every book I read. I really don’t enjoy writing negative reviews, but I also have to be honest.
First and foremost, I should say that Redheart reads like a book written for a much younger audience than me. However, despite the young grade of writing, Gamber doesn’t stilt on eloquent descriptions, though they can, at times, be rather jarring to a reader who is used to Gamber’s youthful writing style. The writing seems geared toward the younger end of the YA spectrum (I’d say younger than 15 years old and the book might have better luck with individuals around the age of 13). Many of the deeper, darker themes in Redheart seemed in direct contrast to the younger-audience-geared writing that Gamber used to tell her tale. This did serve to disconnect me from the book almost immediately.
Gamber’s characterization was also lacking. Riza, Kallon and Jaston never quite came away from their two-dimensional black-and-white hole. While they were fairly interesting, this never-quite-developed characterization made them incredibly hard to care about or relate to. Added to that was their incredibly predictable personality traits. For example, the bad guy was ultra bad and the good guy was very good and the mysterious guy was oh-so-mysterious. While this may be something a younger reader will be able to overlook, the predictability of the characters coupled with their poor development was a huge disappointment to me and served to drag the book down quite a bit.
Kallon was another sore spot for me. While I understand that he is a dragon, there was basically nothing but scales and wings separating him from being human. While that is fine, and his development is the author’s preference, as a reader, if I’m reading about a dragon I expect to read something draconian. Furthermore, Kallon had some very awkward dialogue and stilted sentences which left me wondering why he was talking like that, as he seemed to be the only dragon in the book who did.
I found myself, throughout Redheart, wondering if the whole thing would have worked out better if Gamber had nixed the dragon idea and transformed it into a humans vs. human theme instead. With a genre flooded with dragons and various other winged friends, authors really need to make their dragons (and other winged beasts) different somehow, so they stick out, and these dragons just didn’t. Sadly, they weren’t believable or unique and I found them to be a huge disappointment.
The plot was another issue. While it did have promise and there were some very interesting parts, it was also incredibly predictable and messy. Gamber, while keeping the plot moving nicely in the beginning and middle of the book, seemed to realize that she had left a lot of details out around ten chapters from the end. The book, at this point, completely falls apart. The plot becomes messy. Too many subplots are inserted that make nearly no sense. The ending is quickly tied together and the conclusions that were reached seemed next to improbable.
While I write this review (which is probably any author’s worst nightmare) I realize that there are plenty of reviews out there which praise the book. In fact, with Redheart, it seems as though I am one of the few who just really didn’t enjoy it. This makes me wonder if I missed something, or if my predisposition toward disliking most YA books is coloring my review somehow, though I really tried hard for it not to color my enjoyment of the book. The point I’m attempting to make is that you shouldn’t take this review on face value. There are many, many more who enjoyed this book and can sing its praises and readers should do a google search and find them to get a more well-rounded opinion of Redheart.
All in all, it’s fairly obvious that this book was a huge disappointment to me. The plot was promising. After the first few chapters Gamber ironed out her writing style, and while Redheart does read as though it was written more for individuals younger than 15 (which I can fully picture enjoying this book), her writing is still fluid and lyrical and was the strength of this book. Couched in an awkward plot, with two-dimensional characterization and plenty of predictability is some promise. It’s worthwhile for fans of young adult fantasy and fans of dragons to take a look at Redheart.
1.5/5 stars

3 Responses

  • Erik Lundqvist

    I'm basically skipping anything with dragons or vampires nowadays. Feels to YA to me.

  • Seak (Bryce L.)

    Eek. I was worried about this one.

  • Hélène

    It didn't work for me either. The plot and the characters felt inconsistent. It was difficult to remember some characters were supposed to be dragons.

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