Bazil Broketail was another case of having seen the book and its series regularly, and then when I actually planned to buy it, it was no where to be found. To make a short story short, I ordered a used copy. Now, judging from the cover, I was quite certain this was going to be a “boy and his dog” type story, though with a large wingless dragon who can wield swords. Great concept! However, throughout most of it, I was ready to accuse the author of false advertising. Yes, Bazil is often there in the scene, as is the boy, Relkin, but outside the beginning and end, the focus tends to be on other characters. Characters who are less interesting.

A lack of focus on these guys was a let down.

The plot loosely centers around a princess kidnapping, a character with all the personality of a sponge, and then a journey to rescue her before she’s handed over to “The Doom,” a disembodied entity. It’s kind of like proto-Voldemort, just without his charisma and sad backstory, or if there is one, we never really hear it. The Doom’s senses all come from caged, physically manipulated men. He hears, sees, and talks through. I did find a subtle creepiness to it, but it ended up being too little, too late to finish the book with fondness.

No one ever told Christopher Rowley about showing, instead of telling. He comes out and tells you everything, with nothing to really let us see or feel. No imagination. No guessing. Nothing. It makes the writing feel amateur, and for quite some time I thought he was just a teenager when this was written (his regular comments about sex further led me to wonder) so I was ready to cut him some slack. Heck, the stuff I wrote in my early 20s was terrible. I’m going to be easier on younger writers, but after looking up the author, he was around 40 when this was published, and it seems he’s written many books before this as well, so the writing quality is disappointing. The book feels like it was written quickly, full of weak sentences, dialogue, and scenes that do nothing to add to the story.

One in particular had me saying aloud, “Are you kidding me?” more than once. Bazil is separated from the group and he runs into another dragon who hates him.  She has good reason to, and then after a thorough explanation as to why, the caveman (lizard?) part of his brain decides to get rough with another dragon whom she at least likes, if not is friends with, and seriously hurts him. Then all of a sudden she wants to go sleep with him. Really? She just gives herself to him? There were other moments where it felt like Rowley wanted to make something happen and bypassed any logic so he could. And yes, I see that wounded dragon had a role in the end, but Bazil never even had to run into him for it to happen. In fact, that could have been dropped all together because the scene would have been fine without him. The wounded dragon isn’t even mentioned after that quick scene. After giving so much help, and changing his opinion about Bazil, you would think it would be something to at least touch on before the last page.

The middle of the book had a section where it seemed to be one long winded battle after another, always against faceless imps and trolls, and with the action often described in such a manner: “And they were doing this, and then this was happening, and these others guys were doing something, and then. . .”

All of these battles without much to set them apart felt kind of like level grinding in an RPG, just less instant gratification. I half expected experience points to pop up over the characters’ heads and someone to level up at some point. Characters die in these battles, but they are never developed enough to cause any reaction other than, “Oh? Well, that sucks. Next page.” Now there was one death near the end that bugged me, both because it was one of the few interesting characters with an actual personality, and because it was so sudden and needless. The only reason I can see for it was to give Bazil some motivation to defeat his enemy, but if he needed anymore, then that’s a real shame. The guy was in a fight or die situation, a situation against those he hates to begin with, so I find it hard to believe that he needed an extra boost. We were robbed of a character that had some actual chemistry with Bazil. Not a love interest, but they got along well, and their dialogue together was enjoyable compared to the rest.

Rowley uses abrupt, jarring point of view shifts. He talks about how one character feels, what they’re seeing, and so on, and then all of a sudden we’re with another. A page break would have been kind at least, but there are often many characters in one scene, and with how often he jumps, it’s disorienting. He never gets close enough to anyone to really get to know them either. It feels like watching a movie, but since there is no visual, and since he never shows us anything, the reader is as good as blind.

I did like Bazil, and the boy Relkin. It’s a shame that the focus drifted from them so often. The book would have flowed better and been more concise staying with the two leads. I wanted to know about their friendship, about their wants and desires. I wanted to see them grow. Instead, it feels like Rowley is trying to tell too many stories at once. The focus did tighten near the end, and gain some much needed tension and drama, but this is about 420 pages into a 470 page book. It takes too long to get there and I struggled to get through most of the story. I really wanted to like it, but it’s too unfocused and sloppily written.

Maybe the book improve. Bazil’s adventures are an extensive series, and judging from the reviews online, people really like them, but if the rest are like the first, I can’t see it being worth the time or money to continue. I hope the rest are like the last 50 pages of book 1. Maybe I’ll find out sometime. There is so much potential for an enjoyable read, but sadly it was never realized on the first outing.