The Dragon Path Review

By | Monday, May 24, 2021 Leave a Comment
The Dragon Path
This book is almost 200 pages long and pretty much all in one place. And as a reader, you don't notice because there's so much going on.

In the opening pages, we see Lord Wong and his people en route to the Old Land via the Dragon Path. But the convoy is stopped by an intentional rock slide from the Dragon Tribe that inhabits the area. (Despite the name, they bear a closer resemblance to the Lizard Men from Flash Gordon than what you might traditionally think of as a dragon.) A fight naturally breaks out, and Lord Wong's son Prince Sing gets lost. He stumbles into a nearby ruined section of the Old Land where he meets Ming the Mystic. The story then revolves around Sing learning the true nature of his heritage as well as the history of the Land itself, but it's pieced out over an extended period as each portion of the story sheds a new and different light on what had been revealed previously. Lord Wong and Komodo Khan (Commander General of the Dragon Tribe) learn a great deal as well, and eventually part on peaceful terms.

Laid out in those terms, it sounds dreadfully dull but trust me, it isn't. What's fascinating to me as a reader is how Ethan Young lays out several different levels of backstory here. It's suggested in the first couple pages, for example, that Lord Wong's advisor is not to be trusted and, indeed, he bears many traditional hallmarks of a duplicitous character. Ming, by contrast, is immediately presented an honorable and trustworthy character, loyal to the good of the land over any individual. But as pieces of the history that lead everyone to this time and place are revealed, we learn that all of the characters fall into more grey areas with individual motivations driving them to do and say things that aren't 100% good or evil. Virtually every character lies (either telling outright falsehoods or deliberately omitting key facts) but for a wide variety of reasons, so it takes much of the story to piece together how/why everyone is acting the way they are.

As I think on it, I'm reminded a little of Rashōmon, where several people tell their version of the same story and their unique perspectives and motivations have a noticeable impact on how they perceive things. While Young isn't really doing that in such a formal manner here, by having different portions of the backstory revealed by different characters the slow build of details has a similar impact. We keep seeing that events aren't always as obvious as they seem, even after they've been explained! Some of that is from deception, and some of it is just accidental misunderstandings. But it's all built up over time and brings us to where Sing essentially has to re-learn his land's and his family's history. It's almost an exercise in making the world-building an intriguing and engaging proposition in and of itself!

Young's art and storytelling continue to improve. When I reviewed his Nanjing several years ago, I commented on how he'd worked on both his fine linework as well as his brush inking. Here, you can see Young has honed his craft, as both his linework and his brushwork are enhanced yet again. I still see similar inking techniques that I found in Nanjing but they seem much more confident and practiced, and they're often strongly complemented by the coloring.

Also, the story has a 30-foot kitty name Midnight.

All in all, Young turns in another strong work here. His stories have always proven to be enjoyable reads, and The Dragon Path continues very much that tradition. The book came out last week from Scholastic's Graphix imprint and retails for $12.99 US.
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