Reading Dragonfly by Charles A. Cornell reminds me of some classic adventure fiction such as Mike Mars or Tom Corbett. Just as our heroes and heroines get out of one scrape, they are immediately tossed in to another. It is a story full of action and adventure, which will keep the reader turning pages. But it also has a slight twist… instead of the usual
Author Cornell manages to write a World War II history/adventure book that is also sci-fi in nature (heavy on the ‘sci’). The war will be fought in the air, between super powers Britain and Germany, with each side creating new and monstrous air vehicles. For England, the secret weapon is the DragonFly plane. Only three exist and they are piloted by a crack team of female pilots (including a young Princess Victoria) led by Veronica “Ronnie” Somerset. But every time the DragonFlys head out, it seems the Germans are intercepting them. There must be a spy in the Royal Air Force!
For the most part, Cornell does an excellent job keeping the story moving forward and leaping from situation to situation. However, he could most likely help himself a little bit by not over-explaining details that aren’t necessary. I found myself bogged down multiple times with too much description. I first made note of it with this paragraph:
Beside the apparatus was a brass stand about two feet tall supporting a small glass plate covered by a glass dome, like a cake stand just big enough to hold a single raspberry tart. Under the glass was one of the crystals, a large one about the size of a walnut. I slowly circled the crystal in its glass-domed home, my eyes transfixed by its beautiful, radiant qualities.
It is not unusual for a writer to think that giving us this much detail helps to create a reality, but if what you are writing is an adventure piece, detail about the furnishings of a home or office slow down the reading, not add to it. Especially given the first person narrative. Why would a first person narrative bother describing the stand? What’s important in the paragraph is the crystal, which isn’t described (except for its size) … but we know it’s on a two foot tall brass stand under a glass dome.
Another over-told moment not too much later is when our heroine gets a delightful surprise. Instead of moving the story forward, we get a short paragraph with her equating this good news with the first time, as a child, she saw a pony. Getting to fly a new, rare, impressive airplane is like seeing a pony. Yes…it is explained a little further (it’s about the ‘awe’), but the metaphor is a bit limp.
One other aspect of the writing troubled me… point of view. Most of the time, the book is being told in first person from the point of view of our heroine, Veronica. As one might suspect, telling a story only through the eyes of one person can be difficult, it means you can never get any information or storyline unless the focus of the book, our heroine, is in the room hearing or seeing something happen. Well…almost never. Cornell gets around this by telling the story in first person AND third person omniscient. When it is not convenient for Veronica to be in the room, the narrative changes to third person (“he” “they” “she”). When Ms. Somerset is in the picture, it’s all first person (“I”). This is Creative Writing 101. I don’t mind a writer breaking writing rules, when breaking the rule is the point. But to break the rule out of laziness (there really was no need for the first person narrative, it should have been third person) or lack of editing is one of those negative hallmarks of a self-published book. An editor at any respectable publishing house never would have let that revolving narrative format through!
A good editor would really help this story. It is a good story and has much promise to it, but there are simple things that detract (as well as the above issues). Mis-placed modifiers (“He sported arms bathed in tattoos of naked ladies and had a beard…”), un-necessary hyperbole (“…was a certified racially pure Aryan…” Certified?), and inappropriate colloquialisms (“at midday on the dot” from a military person instead of “twelve-hundred sharp”) are sprinkled throughout and would presumably be cleaned up by an editorial hand.
On a positive note… the trio of flying ladies is wonderful and fun and it will be delightful to read more of their adventures. The future science in aviation is well thought-out and very clever. “Oxygel” doesn’t seem like too distant a reality given the science of ‘heavy water’ at this time. My illustrated edition includes some really beautiful paintings that deserve to be acknowledged. It definitely adds to the atmosphere in creating a realistic world
I would definitely be interested in reading more adventures of Veronica and her partners, fighting for the Allies in WWII, but hope that some of the technical aspects of the writing can be sharpened in the future.
Looking for a good book? DragonFly by Charles A. Cornell is an alternative history, adventure story with lots of action and lots of potential but does get a little bogged down with some writing mechanics issues.
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DragonFly: Missions of the DragonFly Squadron #1
author: Charles A. Cornell
publisher: Charles Cornell Creative Partners LLC
Kindle Edition, 356 pages