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Prophecy - PROPHECY was a book I had spent the majority of a year looking forward to. I dedicated a lot of my educational life to studying East Asia, even if it was focused on Japan (although I did take a Korean class that boggled my mind and scared me until I peed my pants). But sometimes, expectations fall short and I’m left disappointed.The first in The Dragon King Chronicles, PROPHECY is the story of, well, a prophecy. Kira has spent her life as an outcast, protecting the heir to the throne in her ancient Korea-inspired kingdom. But when the demons she can mysteriously sense grow stronger, assisted by the daimyo of a Japanese-inspired empire determined to take over the seven kingdoms for itself, only Kira and her twelve-year-old cousin the prince can stop the advance before it is too late.PROPHECY is compulsively readable, or at least it was for me. I finished this in a few sittings over the course of maybe two or three hours. The story is action-packed with very few tedious spots. For younger readers of YA, this might be the perfect entry into older YA fantasy, alongside books like STORMDANCER. Actually, STORMDANCER is a pretty apt comparison title – East Asian-inspired fantasy for teens. But where STORMDANCER excelled as an elegant, dramatic, and awe-inspiring saga, PROPHECY faltered.In her debut, Ellen Oh has laid the groundwork for a series that could have been one of the best fantasy entries of 2012. But several missteps leave PROPHECY sitting at the back of the pack.For example, a comment I have noticed in several other reviews – the propensity for the author to tell rather than show. A lot of things in PROPHECY are never described in detail. We’re told about them later, including character traits, events, past experiences, etcetera. With only 312 pages, there was plenty of room left for going even a little more in depth, at least in my mind. The story was taut but left many things to be desired, such as more information that could have easily been threaded in. For example, Kira’s powers, Kira’s family, the history of the Seven Kingdoms, and more about why the Yamatos are crazy. We’re just told a lot of this and never in any great detail, leaving the reader clueless to many other facts that would have solidified the story.Moving onto the characters… There are a great number of cardboard cut outs here. Kira is another entry into the kick butt heroine class of YA main characters, but she never pulls herself away from the pack except for her ethnicity (yay persons of color in YA!). She is fierce, protective, humble, and strong, but we rarely see more. Her entire life revolves around the Prince, leaving her up a creek without a paddle when it comes to revelations about her life. I knew the twist from early on because of the way it was heavily foreshadowed, not because of her actions. Once again, telling versus showing. The third person narration didn’t help, either. We never got into Kira’s mind to care about her, and her personality was lacking. Save the world, save the world, save the prince, like the boy! That was the extent we saw.The faces around her were also cardboard. I never felt anything for anyone except for Taijo, her bratty cousin and the heir to Hansong. And for him, I wanted to smack him and shut him up for acting like a spoiled rotten child in the face of certain death. And Kira half the time supported this, wanting to continue festooning him with rights and titles and privileges even when he threatened to destroy everything. As for the others, including our handsome, darkly brooding love interest Jaewon? I never felt anything. Shin Bo Hyun (ALWAYS referred to by his full name) the villain fiancé? Cliché bad guy. They were simply there, simply existing on some plane where I never cared. Likewise, the story never advances past the bare bones it rests on. We have the foundation for something amazing, but it never rises above. The writing is standard, the characters are standard, and the plot is standard. The thing that is amazing? The setting. I loved the Korean history-inspired fantasy, even if the words did confuse me at times. That alone was worth a star, plus the 1.5 I gave it for being compelling and fast-paced. And I round up because I am nice. But does it stand apart from a vast sea of fantasy in 2012 and upcoming in 2013? Not really.VERDICT: A cardboard cutout instead of a vivid portrait of Asian-inspired fantasy, PROPHECY rests on safe and tried and true instead of standing apart. A let down.