Review: Dream of the Dragon Pool: A Daoist Quest

Dream of the Dragon Pool: A Daoist Quest

Albert A. Dalia
Pleasure Boat Studio

Reviewed by Superwench83

Excerpt from author’s blurb:

Forced by the emperor’s exile order, Li Bo travels up the great Yangtze River toward certain death in distant Burma/Myanmar. Yet Li, not so concerned by his imminent death, regards his trip as a quest for his lost sense of poetic inspiration. Along the way, he unwittingly befriends the emperor’s most powerful shamaness who is trying to escape from the palace to Mount Wu and serve the mythical Rain Goddess, mistress of that sacred mountain. Li Bo accidentally awakens the dark forces of the Blood Dragon and its ghostly slaves. They are in pursuit of a magical sword, the legendary Dragon Pool Sword that Li Bo finds himself in possession of after a dream visit from a Daoist Immortal.

The cast is rounded out by Li’s traveling companion, a wandering blade veteran of the Tang dynasty’s Central Asian conquests, known as the “Iron Talon;” a mysterious swordsman-musician, who travels with a ghost-catching drunken monkey; a “dream assassin,” capable of killing people from within their dreams; and a blond, green-eyed, Central Asian female ghost, enslaved by the Blood Dragon’s powers.

Written by a China scholar with two masters and a Ph. D. in the nation’s history and religion, Dream of the Dragon Pool by Albert A. Dalia is an authentic Chinese adventure full of ghosts, swords, and magic. Dalia is an adequate storyteller, and few other novelists could compete with the rich base of Chinese historical knowledge he brings to his tale. Yet while the story was interesting and at times entertaining, Dream of the Dragon Pool read like an amateur novel, albeit one with potential.

The main mark of amateurism which hit me in this novel was the dialogue, much of which is trite and forced. Good dialogue is much tighter than real conversation. It is there to do more than just show two people talking–it must communicate plot movement, it must characterize, it must develop the scene. Dalia’s dialogue rarely does these things. It also doesn’t resemble real conversation. Good dialogue doesn’t mimic conversation, but it does resemble it. And in real conversation, people don’t always answer questions directly. They are evasive; they answer questions with questions. When a person says something, they may be already thinking of their next comment, so their response won’t match up perfectly with their companion’s words. I don’t want to get into a deep dialogue discussion, but suffice it to say that this book’s dialogue is stale and wanting.

Another issue I had was the point of view. Most of the time, the story was your standard multi-viewpoint novel, getting into various characters’ heads, no all-knowing narrator in sight. But every now and then, the author interrupts the story’s flow with a scholarly aside about the number of miles long a river is and what battles were fought there and all sorts of other irrelevant info. Dalia actually did a good gob incorporating the relevant research details into the story–a tricky task–so it was almost disheartening to see these chunks of useless data cluttering up the narrative.

Other issues include purple prose, clumsy plotting, and under-developed characters. The text is riddled with superfluous adverbs and adjectives. Certain plot details make little logical sense other than that the author had to write them this way to make the plot work right later. As for the characterization, it wasn’t all bad. The ghost Chen is fairly sympathetic, the swordsman Ma entertaining. But all in all, the characters are one-dimensional. There are no deep, secret longings or hidden motives. There is a lack of personal stakes.

And yet I did say this book had potential. Dalia knows how to set a good story pace and demonstrates some skill in spinning a yarn that makes the reader ask, “What happens next?” Despite the purple prose, he also has a gift for description, and some of these passages paint a beautiful, vivid picture. The trouble is, this is not enough to carry the book. Dream of the Dragon Pool is typical of many amateur efforts I’ve read. It has the makings of a good book, but it lacks a professional’s finesse. If you like the idea of a medieval China historical fantasy, if you like mythology, there’s a good chance you will find some entertainment value here. Just know going into it that Dream of the Dragon Pool is a duckling rather than a swan.

12 Thoughts to “Review: Dream of the Dragon Pool: A Daoist Quest”

  1. So sad to hear that this book was lacking in so many ways, because the cover is just BEUTIFUL!

  2. Never judge a book by its cover OR its review! Reviews (like covers) are always subjective – just like in the movies. Before you decide the reviewer has the final word on the book, check out other reviews (like the Amazon site for this book with an overwhelming number of very positive reviews) and best of all make up your own mind by reading the book – if you find it might interest you.

    Best Wishes,


  3. Tia Nevitt

    I’m sorry this was a disappointment for you.

  4. Mr. Dalia,

    All due respect, but there is something all authors must learn.

    To paraphrase Marion Zimmer Bradley, *the story inside your head* is not the same story every single reader, reviewers included, will have inside their heads while reading your book. This is because they filter your words through the lens of their own experiences, gender uniqueness, and personalities.

    This is a good thing, because it leads to the broad appeal of one story, which means more sales, which means more money for you.

    Now, here’s something you really must know.

    *Blogging Book Reviewers Do Not Get Paid*

    This means Tia and her friends here are doing this for the love of story alone.

    This means if other blogging book reviewers dislike your response here today, you’re going to have a very hard time finding more blogging book reviewers to read your book. There are TONS of great books to read and review. No law requires them to read yours.

    And provide you with FREE publicity.

    Less blogging book reviewers posting reviews of your book means less readers learning that your book exists.

    Which leads me to the last thing a debut author needs to know.

    *The only negative book review is no book review at all.*

    If a reader doesn’t know about your book, she cannot buy it.

    Plus, readers do buy books based on negative reviews.

    Therefore, the only appropriate reply to a blogging book reviewer is

    “Thank you.”

    Even if you have to lie through your teeth while the smoke rolls out your ears.

    Don’t worry. We can’t see the smoke in cyberspace.

    1. Dear Ms. An,

      With all due respect, read the book. I have confidence that it speaks for itself. You might also read what the other blogging book reviewers wrote. I have no problems with negative reviews. I only ask that people judge for themselves.

      Thank you,


  5. I am really very shocked at the snippy comments directed at the reviewer.
    I have nothing but respect for Tia’s opinions and if she invites others to review, I respect their opinions. That doesn’t mean that I would base what I read on that information alone.
    I think the story does sound interesting, but I am shocked at the authors lack of gratitude for the time the reviewer put in to read and write their review.

  6. Dear Ms. Nevin and All Readers of this Blog,

    I’m sorry that you misinterpreted my comments. I am not ungrateful nor am I critical. I am simply asking for the book to be read on its own independent of any opinions, including mine. If I have given offense, where none was intended, I sincerely apologize and will allow things to follow their own course.

    Best Wishes,


    1. It wasn’t so much as ‘misinterpreted’ but it was how I interpreted the comments. In general, commenting here about people making up their own minds and stating how other reviewers had better comments demonstrates that the author clearly has issue with negative reviews.
      Not that I think anyone would be pleased to hear negative reviews, however, it is how it is handled that is key.
      With any negative comment we receive, it is always good to stop and ask oneself if there is something to the comment. One does not need to question the reviewers reasons, motives, or point out that others had better things to say.
      For future reference, an author would do themselves a better service to either say nothing or to thank the reviewer for their time.

      We all already know we can make our own decisions. I rarely read a review than avoid a movie/book etc because of negative comments only. Although it does also depend on who the reviewer is, how closely their opinions tend to match my own.

      1. Tia Nevitt

        Thank you Lisa. You were the epitome of graciousness when I reviewed your novel, and you’ve continued to be in the years I have known you since.

  7. Livia Llewellyn

    “I am simply asking for the book to be read on its own independent of any opinions, including mine.”

    If this is truly the case, then we potential book buyers should also disregard the many positive reviews that you first asked people to read over on; and you should disregard them as well. Authors don’t get the luxury or privilege of picking and choosing what reviews matter and what reviews are to be ignored: it’s all or none.

  8. Boy, did I open up the proverbial can of worms.

    First of all, I certainly hope that there truly are no hard feelings. I know I don’t harbor them myself.

    Thanks to all of you who have commented on my behalf. You have all made some very good points. As for the author’s view that the book should be read “on its own, independent of any opinions,” you are certainly entitled to believe this, just as readers are entitled to base their book-buying decisions on reviews if they so desire.

    I’ll refrain from further comment here, but I think I’ll post a short essay about the benefits readers receive from reading reviews. This debate has got me thinking…

    1. Post the essay on my own blog, that is. Not on this one. Sorry for the confusion.

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