by Connie Flynn, time-travel (2000)
Onyx, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-40909-4
Just when I thought time-travel romances can't get any more glutted by the same old stuff, along comes a great and original plot that blows me away. The Dragon Hour is a fantasy/time-travel hybrid that starts out with a big bang. It doesn't succeed in maintaining the momentum, but hey, I'm still glad I read this book. It's a great read.
Caryn MacLachlan is fifteen when her brother-in-law and partner in mischief Ian performed an experiment gone awry. Instead of discovering the secret of the philosopher's stone, Ian only succeeds in disrupting time, causing the land of Lochlorraine to be trapped in a time bubble. Lochlorraine now "floats" around the world like a pirate ghost ship, where unwary people can stumble into but can't get out. Even worse, Ian has awaken the dragon Ormeskirk to plague Lochlorraine. Now the people awaits the return of the legendary dragonslayer Sir Lucas to save them.
Cut to the present, where our hero Luke Slade is a shady ex-con still unable to keep himself out of trouble. He unwittingly aids his brother and buddies rob a mob boss, and a shoot-out results in the injury of his brother Randy. Luke, Randy, and a couple of bad guys find themselves trapped in Lochlorraine where Luke is expected to slay the dragon. And of course, Luke and Caryn start hearing wedding bells in their minds.
Caryn's a great heroine, but Luke falters, ultimately causing the whole story to bog down. There's no mistaking great writing and marvelous storytelling, but two flaws stick out like rotten fish - Luke and the fact that no one thought to keep an eye on a mob underling loose in Lochlorraine (hence allowing the latter to wreck mayhem at sundry). Luke is a shady con, which I know some reader friends of mine find appalling, but me, I find the author's attempt to make him acceptable more of an annoyance. Chicken! Am I to believe that Luke hasn't touched a gun in his life? Considering his career, I think that's not likely, no sir. Luke also develops a somewhat schizophrenic personality - he wants this one moment, then rejects it the next, wanting that instead, etc - and he looks down on Caryn and her people one time too often, withholding information because "they just won't get it". His character isn't convincing because I can't help feeling that his redemption is not only rushed, but half-baked. You don't become an ex-con and then chicken out half-way to become Guilt-Ridden Joe, Luke. Be a man!
The villain does something very intriguing and even moving at the ending, I can't predict the plot, and I'm quite devastated at the fate of the dragon at the end, so yes, this book is simply wonderful for an afternoon's grand entertainment. It's just too bad the hero is one big let-down.
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