I don't really know where to start with this review. I'll just explain a little bit about the book first. Arrival is the first in the new series by Dan Sharpe, Dragonheroes Of Atlantia. I got this book for free from the official website where the author provides it for free in .mobi, .pdf and .epub versions. ( http://www.dragonheroes.org/ ) Despite obtaining a free copy, these are just my honest thoughts and I hope that no-one takes offense to my opinion. Essentially, the book is about many different people traveling on a road one day. A wormhole appears and these people are taken through. Upon finding themselves in some sort of new world, they use the supplies they have to create a small settlement. They find a dragon, with her eggs soon to hatch. They also meet elves, ogres and dwarves. Grab yourself a copy and find out what happens for yourself!
I'll talk about the plot for a while... The beginning of the book introduces four protagonists, Paul Stephens, Danny Chin, Serelynne Song and Raevyn Song (who are fraternal twins). Okay, so Paul has been in mourning for a while, because of the death of his fiancee. One day, he sees something upsetting and decides to take action against evil. He's dressed up like a ninja later, and he goes into an alleyway where something bad is about to happen; he'd just seen some guys drag someone down there. It's not really explained properly, save for the fact that he thinks these guys are the same people who had attacked his fiancee, without much evidence to give us readers as to why he thinks this. Anyway, Danny is the guy who was dragged into the alleyway and is now being abused by his attackers. Raevyn and Serelynne, also dressed as ninjas, have now turned up in the same alley. They all fight and the protagonists win. Yet, because of the crimes (that we know little about) that the main antagonist has committed, the Songs have decided to castrate him. What? Where did that come from? Who gets to decide that? Moving on with that point, earlier in this portion of the prologue, the author made mention that Raevyn has (and used) a Shinobigatana. I didn't know what it was (and nor did the author explain it), so I had to Google it. Essentially, it's a single-edged sword. Yet, once they've announced they're going to castrate a man, one of them pulls out a pair of hedge sheers! What? They have a sword! Why do they need to use hedge sheers? Completely ridiculous... Immediately, I've lost all respect for either of these twins. I also found it disgusting that Danny Chin was laughing so hard at the abuse of another. Sure, Billy was a disgusting human being, judging by what the author has led us to believe about him. However, laughing at his abuse and then death was quite wrong. I strongly believe that he is a sickening person to take pleasure at the pain of another. I felt it also sickening that the twins were willing to torture another human being. Especially considering that these are all meant to be protagonists.
It's a bit difficult to tell how far ahead the first chapter is. Prologue begins with the comment by Paul that, "this is two years before our family began..." Chapter one jumps ahead an unknown amount of time, without explanation, save for the comment, "Raevyn, introduced him to "'Paul Stephens', my fiance, and 'Danny Chin', Serelynne's Squeeze." So, is it two years ahead of the prologue? I guess it might be, but "two years before our family began" is confusing. I take a family beginning to be when the mother and father meet, get married, conceive a child or birth it. The author doesn't really explain this family beginning, so we're left to just assume...
Moving on to the actual part of the book. So... They're going to some sort of highschool Battle of the Brains thing... Right? Yet, when something happens on the drive there (which isn't really explained properly, but one character describes it as a wormhole), Serelynne turns into full "Zombie Apocalypse Barbie" mode (as we're told). She thinks that they need to access their gun safe and battle dress. What? Why are they taking their battle dress (I assume the ninja uniforms) and guns to some sort of conference for highschoolers? What the heck is wrong with these people; taking weapons and body armour to a conference...? I can only assume that they were planning to do something bad when they were going to get there, else why would they need such things? Also? Why are the teenagers all so okay with this? Their guardians simply pull out ninja uniforms and guns as if it happens every day, with no comment as to what the reason they'd have them there might be. Sure, I can understand having one gun or even two for reasons of protection. However, they seem to have at least four to maybe even half a dozen of them (Danny, Paul, Gunny and Ken each definitely get one). Serelynne seems to also have one, a few scenes later. Later on, she issues at least three more guns to team members. That's more than half a dozen guns! They were taking these to a conference for highschoolers! It's later explained that the twins' parents are survivalist types and that the vehicles they had been driving were equipped, just in case of some sort of zombie attack. They also make mention that they also have stored books and movies, later on viewing them in the new world. That just makes no sense to me whatsoever. They were just going to some conference... Why would they choose to take these vehicles? At this point, the ninjas are now dressing in their ninja uniforms... Why? There's no reason for it. I just don't know... This is absurd. A lot of the plot also relies on convenience. At one point, during the prologue, Danny has decided to go and use a payphone to call the police. Rather than that, Serelynne decides to give him a prepaid cellphone in a little baggy. "This has no fingerprints on it, is already activated, and can not be traced to any of us. It will save you a walk to the payphone." There is absolutely no reason for that! Firstly, he was quite willing to walk to the payphone a moment ago. Secondly, it would only be more problematic. He'd have to explain to the police why he used that phone to call them when it's not connected to him. What if it is traceable to the twins? Then he would have to explain why they had given it to him. It just bothers me because there was no reason for it. Later, with the survival vehicles, it only seems that the author wants to make it easier for the people transported to this new planet. So that they have some type of generator to use their tablets with. So that they have some sort of communications using the radios. So that they have something to read or watch. It just makes it seem like it's a very weak part of the plot and only used to make it easier for the characters when, realistically, it only creates more questions for me as a reader.
Going on with the attempts at convenience. Serelynne has taken charge of the group in the new world. At first, she just uses her status as a Federal Agent to do it, trying to use it to overpower a police officer. However, later, she just makes it seem as if she ought to be in charge because she has the most training. For this reason, she also puts Raevyn as her second in command. I can understand her being able to take over because of her Federal Agent status. However, taking Raevyn as second in command is just weird because there are actual police officers about who ought to be second in command; they have a legitimate status to uphold the law. Sure, Raevyn might have some pretty good training in surviving in such conditions. However, why give so little respect to police officers and others that have training as well? It's really quite pretentious of the twins because it's like some kind of sick inferiority complex; they think they have better training, means that they ought to be in charge. They just start making demands of people. It becomes painfully obvious as we continue through the story, that much of the survival portion in these chapters is just to make the twins look good. -"Uh, excuse me, but, aren't the two of you the most important 'assets' we have?" Heidi said.- Serelynne goes through a little dialogue on how she and Raevyn are specially trained for survival, booby traps, etc, etc. She then makes the comment, "But, you do have a point, we will discuss it further at tonight's community meeting." What? There's nothing to discuss; Heidi was asking whether you ought to be putting yourself in danger at that moment. Why is discussing it at a meeting later in the evening going to help the situation at hand? When Serelynne requests volunteers to keep watch, Heidi suggests that Serelynne's team take a break just based on the good work they'd done that day. Everyone had something to do already. It's not as if Serelynne and her team were the only ones working. There's little reason to give them a break just because they've put a bit of effort into the day; so many people have and I think that's really disrespectful to the other people within the encampment; that sure, they've done something, but they're nowhere near as important as the main characters might be.
I'll take a little time to talk about the characters now. My overall opinion is that there are far too many. Really, there is just an obscene amount of them. It makes the book strange because it's just so hard to follow. I've gone back to chapter one when the Battle of the Brains portion is first introduced. It provides nine new people just in the one scene, many of whom have little importance later in the book. Once the get to the wormhole portion, even more characters are introduced. Later, once they start meeting the mythical creatures (dragons, ogres, elves, dwarves, etc), the author introduces character after character. There are just so many of them, many of which bear little necessity within the plot. However, the author doesn't seem to realise that adding so many characters just makes it overly complex. Some of these names, especially with the mythical creatures, are very complex and impossible for me to remember all of them. Thinking back, I can barely remember even some of their names, even the human characters aren't important enough for me to remember all of them. While writing this review, I can barely remember how to spell either Raevyn and Serelynne, I admit.
Beginning of the book is weird because a huge amount of characters are introduced at one point in time, with little explanation as to their motives for acting in such a manner. From what I remember, neither twin had any reason to be in that alleyway. I also found it a bit generic that all four of the protagonists introduced in the prologue pair up amongst each other as partners and never have any real relationship problems. Raevyn and Paul. As soon as she starts her letter to her children, they essentially appear in a church next scene. A moment ago, she was limping and could not even walk by herself; she needed Paul's help. Why go to a church before a doctor? Sure, I believe that Paul's belief is so great that he needs to find guidance. However, surely it would be more practical to visit a doctor first and then take a visit to the house of God. There are all sorts of things that could happen if a wound isn't treated immediately, many problems that arise from lack of treatment can cause death. So, sure, it might be important to see God, but I think it's important to see a doctor first. I've heard that God is everywhere, right? Constantly introducing characters by way of "My name is Blah Blah, DragonRANK of At'Lan'Ti'Ah, and this, my people, is our story" type of thing is kind of annoying. It only spoils the story. Obviously, from the introductions of Raevyn and Paul, they pair off and have children together; each of them write their letters to their children. Though, she refers to them as beloved... So, does he not think the same way of them? Serelynne and Danny also pair off from similar introductions. It also spoils the story because of the ranks each are given; introducing what sort of person they'll be in the new world by way of rank. I felt it Weird to have two main characters called Danny. Though, later on in the story, it seems that the author had completely forgotten about the gang member version.
So, in the Song clan are Serelynne and Raevyn, who are both 27. Galen and Valen are both 17. So essentially it's two sets of twins, right? It's explained later that one set is fraternal and the boys are identical. It just seems unlikely to me, but I looked it up and apparently "The odds of having one set of identicals and one set of fraternals is 1 in 10,000." I just feel like it was completely unnecessary to have two sets of twins. I felt that the transgenderism of Raevyn was not relevant. I accept transgendered people, and I appreciate that the author tried to encourage acceptance of them in general life. However, Raevyn's personal transgenderism carried no importance in the story for me, other than just to make it longer. It was not mentioned in the first few chapters and, when it was mentioned it was a surprise and then it seemed like the only real reason for it was for Paul to make a long and preachy sermon about why to accept them. Afterward, she is somehow transformed biologically into a woman. So now she's not transgender anymore, she's all woman. It bears no actually importance to the plot and just makes the input of a transgender to the story seem cheap. I feel like her being a transgender was just using her. Even the author makes a mockery of her transformation by another character, Jessica, wishing that she could have a transformation of her own to make her breasts bigger. I am deeply upset and kind of offended by this portion. At the end of it, I feel as if the author was just trying to enhance Serelynne's importance even further; that Raevyn didn't like herself enough and wanted to be like her sister. Mind you, I can understand her wanting to be more like her sister; she's the only one the author seemed to really like in the book. I'll extend that comment just so you understand. The author introduced heaps of characters, yet Serelynne is the only one that he seems to pay real attention to. He constantly makes her seem better than everyone else, more important and even tried to give us the impression that no-one would know what to do if she weren't there. If you look over the portions when they first arrive in the new world, it's obvious that she's looking down on others. However, the author does it in such a way that he makes it seem as if she's doing the right thing, despite her disrespect. The relationship between Paul and Raevyn doesn't seem genuine to me. It seems that even the author doesn't seem it worth their time as the pair have very few scenes together. I feel the same of Serelynne's relationship with Danny; there's barely any time spent to focus on their relationship either. Sure, they might have all fallen in love instantly (with their partners, whichever they're with), but there's little evidence of it.
Overall, I didn't like it. Not one bit. I feel like I could have liked it, but the author wastes too much time trying to add in stuff that he doesn't stop and think whether it ought to be there or not. He creates dozens of characters, yet spends so little time on each one that makes it hard for me to find anyone likeable or even relatable. Of the main characters, I find much of their behaviour or nature to be upsetting. It's clear that the author is trying to make them more likeable, but it only seems to make them seem horrible. I'll use the example of the prologue. He tries and makes it out as if the protagonists are doing a good thing by ridding the street of the antagonist. Sure, he might be an awful guy. However, they stoop to abuse and even slaughter. The author also keeps on adding in references to books, movies and televisions shows. I read in the Afterword that the author has done this deliberately to give these characters some sort of "Geek culture". His words, not mine. Anyway, I think this doesn't work for the story. Firstly, I admit that I have not read or seen many of the things referenced. That's just one of the reasons why it doesn't work; the author keeps on having to explain the references which takes me (as a reader) out of the story. Some references are also intended to provide humour, such as the "we're not in Kansas anymore" joke. It's one of the jokes I did get, but I certainly didn't find it funny. To me, it just felt tacky and cheap; that the author is trying to use something over and over again when it wasn't funny the first time.
I felt that so many aspects were unnecessary for the story and only added in because they might be cool to have. The entire prologue felt useless, for starters; Paul was in mourning for his dead fiancee for a long time, yet as soon as the guy who'd killed her had died, he falls in love with someone else. He can't have been very much in love with Farrah in the first place, I can only imagine. Not to mention, he obviously wasn't in mourning very much because as soon as he's gotten his revenge, he's with the next girl he sees. The entire ninja plot just seemed ridiculous to me. I just can't explain how annoying it felt to have the author mention various parts of ninja culture when they bear little importance to the plot. When the wormhole event first happens, Serelynne's first thought is to access their battle dress. Each of the ninjas puts it on and it just seems like it not only wastes their time, but our's as well. If there's a danger, it's impractical to put on your ninja outfit because you're going to be too busy defending yourself. So, for supposedly smart people, it really makes them seem stupid. As I've said above, I think that the whole survivalist portion is simply ridiculous and unnecessary. It provides too much convenience; when they get into trouble, they don't have to rely on their intelligence, all they need to do is to rely on the technology they have at hand. It just seems silly to go through the story where mentions are often made to characters reading books on their Android tablets, and the author even bothers mentioning what size they are each time they commented on. Other unimportant bits, in my opinion: the transgenderism, the marriages, the Song parents and dog turning up, the magic, and the many of the mythical creatures.
So, you might be wondering why I stuck with the book after taking such a dislike to it...? No? Well, I'll tell you anyway. I stayed reading the book because I had to remind myself that this is the author's first published work. I figured that it might get better towards the end or maybe that I would even find something that I would like about it. I just can't explain all of my disappointment. I think stories featuring dragons and mythical creatures are fantastic! However, this one turned out badly. I think that the author had a good idea at hand, but it was poorly produced. I think that, with a lot of editing (in terms of plot and characters), than it could become a good book. Yet as it stands, with it being the author's first book, I think he did the best he could. If I had the chance to read another book in the series, I would be hesitant. However, I might give it a go if I could scrounge up enough patience. I would hope that the author had learnt a little more about plot and character development in the time it takes to write it, though. As this review comes to an end, I'm deciding what to rank it. I would rate it two stars if I could just think up some reason to enjoy any part of the book. As it stands, it was a pretty disappointing read and I'm only going to rank it one star. These are just my honest thoughts on the book and I mean no offense.