Urban Dragon is J.W. Troemner’s first three novellas bound into one volume. It follows Rosa and Arkay, two women who are trying to survive the dangers of living on the street. Not freezing during the upcoming winter is heavy on Rosa’s mind, but when an attack on them turns into them robbing the would be attacker, Rosa and Arkay are drawn into something bigger and more dangerous than they realize. Struggling to maintain their innocence, jail is the least of their problems. Rosa and Arkay have to use their wits and their street smarts to stay one step ahead of those who would do them harm. And they thought humans were a problem.
The writing of Urban Dragon was entertaining and flowed really well. I thought that each individual story had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and there were moments in each novella that connected them to the others. It had a readability that allowed me to finish it in one sitting. I suspect that when the next series of novellas are published, it will be easy to do the same. I do think that J.W. Troemner has a talent at keeping the reader entertained and flipping through pages. The author cements this story in the contemporary age by having pop culture references sprinkled throughout; most of them were a little nerdy or book related, so I really loved that. I was genuinely amused by some of the interactions and quips that Rosa and Arkay threw around because they didn’t feel forced.
I really loved Rosa and Arkay’s relationship. It stemmed from being necessary to survive the streets and not get harmed, and blossomed into an actual friendship with shared experiences. I liked that it didn’t really delve into something romantic, even though it possibly had been romantic in the past. It was nice reading a series where the two main characters aren’t in love with each other. I liked that they both remained close and had their own outside relationships.
Something that Urban Dragon tried to do was diversity. The author tried to represent Rosa and Arkay as a race other than white, which was really refreshing, but I felt that it was very much “represented just to be represented.” It fell very flat and I didn’t believe that they were characters. They were representations. I can probably count on one hand how many times Rosa and Arkay were described in the same way (Amazonian Latina and petite Asian, respectively). I believe in diversity and I think that the young adult writing community is getting a bit better at recognizing that there needs to be diversity, but it needs to be done. You can’t just say that your protagonist is a Latina but leave it at that. You have to go in depth. Describe them as more than their race. Otherwise I see the characters as flat cardboard cutouts.
Unfortunately this was similar to what happened with the setting. I felt that it was slightly on the generic side and that there wasn’t anything particularly distinguishing about it. Readers know going into it that the series is an urban fantasy, and I felt that we were expected to fill in the blanks rather than the author filling them in for us. I was disappointed by the lack of world building when there could have been so much. Troemner succeeded at creating a mythology, but it was never explained. I loved that there were dragons, but there was never a cohesive reason as to why they all existed. I wanted to know more about it, and it was explained too slowly. I feel like I hardly know anything about the world despite having read three novellas set in it. I understand that there’s a projected nine novellas, but my interest needs to be piqued by the second and certainly by the third if I’m going to read another six.
Individually, the novellas in this volume were plotted in an okay way. I felt that it was a little basic because each of the novellas went through the same course of: minding their own business, something bad happens, bad people die, and Arkay and Rosa make it out relatively unscathed. However, that wasn’t horrible. They were quick reads and I was able to read them in a couple of hours. However, as a whole, there wasn’t enough happening. I’m fine with reading one to one and a half novellas with a plot like this. But when the series is plotted out to be at least nine novellas, I expect a little more to happen that will let me know what the grander plot of the series is. The larger plot was hinted at in the endings of the second and third novellas, but it wasn’t enough. I certainly expected more of the larger plot to happen in the third novella after it had been hinted at in the second, but I was let down.
Overall, I would say that I may check out the remaining novellas of this series once they are released. I do have a problem with the fact that the third novella left off on a horrible cliffhanger; I think that it would have better suited the book to further explore what had happened at the end of the second book instead of the direction that the third book took.
Not quite enough for 3 stars, but better than 2 stars. 2.5 stars.
I received a copy of Urban Dragon from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Urban Dragon will be available October 15th, 2016.