Prophecy by Ellen Oh – Advance Review


Book Jacket:

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms…is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

You can read an excerpt here.


Sadly my predilection to like Prophecy – at first blush a story that seemed Tamora Pierce-like – just wasn’t enough to save this story from itself. And while I enjoyed the opening scenes, and the overall general idea, frankly this book ended up running away with itself, blowing right past any reason I could have had to care about the characters. And in the end, my overwhelming reaction to this book was dissatisfaction.

But first off, let me just say – holy generic cover, Batman. I mean, this book is an Asian-inspired fantasy with crazy demons, tiger spirits, and magic dragons, and they go with an utterly boring rock for the cover? Okay, sure, there’s a mote of dragon detailing if you squint hard enough, but honestly it kind of felt like this book was secretly hoping people would mistake it for Girl of Fire and Thorns (another generic rock cover). Underwhelming cover representation, to say the least – but I digress.

So, the story: well, it started out well enough, with a teenage demon-fighting leading lady, reviled by society for her freaky yellow eyes and unfeminine warrior ways, and I really liked how isolated and ostracized she was – such that even her Uncle, the King, hated her. I also enjoyed how the out-of-the-blue offer of an arranged marriage shocked her to her core, challenging all her notions of self-identity – accustomed as she was to thinking of herself as utterly unwomanly – but just as I was settling in to really like this book, unfortunately the story veered away from its promising character groundwork in favor of a meaningless, generic Prophecy and endless run and jump. So sadly, after the intriguing start, it was all downhill from there.

Oh, but how I wanted to like this story. A high fantasy inspired by ancient Korea sounded like a wonderful idea, and I do so enjoy stories about teen warrior types who have to fight tooth and nail to earn a place in their society – but sadly, this story glossed over all that in favor of its Prophecy Quest. Now I have nothing against prophecy stories in general, but the problem with this particular prophecy is that it falls out of the sky and lands with a resounding thud. There’s nothing to support it – no mythology or magical system, no sense of a religion or culture that includes a tradition of prophecy or foretelling, no traces of any seers or oracles lurking about the palace – and worse, the prophecy overwhelms this story completely, bowling over the far more interesting question of why Kira has yellow eyes and mad demon-slaying skills. Instead Kira’s powers are only addressed in an aside – a lame, info-dump of an aside – and therein lies the heart of my disgruntlement with this story. This book complete ignores anything personal in favor of its grand prophecy scheme, and by doing so it completely separates its plot from its characters. And so we end up with chapter after chapter of chase sequences and fight scenes, of pieces moving across a board, but none of it means anything, because why would I care about a prophecy when I don’t care about any of the people it affects? To be brutally frank, plot is running the show here, not character, and it just did not work for me.

But the insanely frustrating thing was, I was perfectly willing to root for Kira – I wanted to, even – I just needed something,  character-wise, to get behind, but it just was not there. It felt like Kira was never given the chance to develop a personality, and as for everyone else, they barely registered with me – Kira’s family is pretty much a matched set of Good, Brave & Strong, and her traveling companions were varying blends of attractive and useful. Really the only character who made any kind of impression on me was Taejo – and that was only because he annoyed the heck out of me. Here’s a kid who is supposedly going to become a great leader, but all he does this entire story is throw temper tantrums until he gets his way – and he always gets his way, despite everyone around him knowing better – and then, shock and surprise, his way leads to disaster, again and again. I was a hair away from rooting for him to die, to be honest.

And speaking of things that annoy me – I’m not usually a stickler when it comes to using vernacular, but there were some instances of very modern teen speech in this book, and it really jarred me. Look, I don’t mind modernisms if they’re part of a consistent style – as in The Friday Society – but here, in this solemn, prophecy-fueled quest story, it just felt painfully out of place.

So I guess all that leaves us with is the action/adventure quotient of this story. Well, there was certainly plenty of it – the fights came at a fast and furious clip – but while I wish I could tell you there was something redeeming about the non-stop action, sadly it all just blurs together in my mind. As far as lasting impressions go, the only fight I really remember is the first fight sequence, the one where Kira has to face down a hostile crowd to take out a demon – and that one I cared about, that one I was was vested in, because it was all about Kira. It was personal – her choices, her danger, her future on the line, as she knew the outcome would have serious consequences for her, both personally and professionally – and so it was more than just a mindless action sequence. That first fight helped me understand what Kira was all about – and THAT is exactly what this story was missing for the rest of the book. It just wasn’t personal.

So in the end, while I liked the idea of Kira, her world, and her adventures, this story just did not give me a character I could get behind and root for – and without that, there really is no point to it all, no matter how epic the trappings of good versus evil. And frankly it was a crying shame.

Byrt Grade: B/B-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Christina Reads YA says:

The writing wasn’t cliched, as I had thought of Fallen Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, but it reminded me of that book in that its writing was also superficial. I could not get into the story, and I’m almost certain it’s because the writing was surface level only. Expository dialogue and flat characters and constant telling. Even scenes that should be important (one of the side quests to the major prophecy) were not expanded on, as I thought they would be. Tension low, conflict high. But without the tension, without the feeling, why should I care about the conflict?

The YA Kitten says:

The only compliment I can give without a criticism entwined with it is that the romance is completely on the backburner for once and I appreciate that because it may be the one thing that makes me remember this novel now that I’ve finished it. From here, it’s all downhill due to how derivative, cliche, and confusing the novel is.

Cuddlebuggery says:

On the back of my ARC it reads: “It’s Graceling meets Eon in this action-packed fantasy adventure by debut author Ellen Oh.” In all honesty, I think that statement does a huge disservice to all three novels. And because of that one little sentence, I went into Prophecy expecting something epic with rich descriptions, epic fight scenes and a main character worth rooting for. Unfortunately, I found none of that…It’s like a little kid trying to put daddy’s pants on. He looks awfully cute in it, but just isn’t ready to wear those digs.

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