Slay the Dragon
Crime, corruption, conspiracy, conflict.
César Rosada is on a crusade. As Minister of Finance, César is committed to righting decades of corruption, crime, and misguided economic policies, and defending progress made in the fight against the illegal drug trade. He anticipates resistance from those with money, power, and vested interests. However, he now confronts a burgeoning challenge—America’s opioid epidemic. César’s adversaries intent on maintaining the status quo conspire and threaten everything for which he has worked. The stakes are high—a reversion to the days when drug syndicates rule, politicians collude and profit, and the people remain hopelessly trapped in a cycle of poverty. Weighing choices between what is perceived as right versus wrong, César pursues a path that for some is morally ambiguous.
FEATHERED QUILL says: Kudos to Zubulake for producing Slay the Dragon, a gripping and provocative read.
A politician discovers that defending the poor becomes costlier than he anticipates in author Laura A. Zubulake’s debut mystery.
Forty-six-year-old Cesar Rosada is no ordinary politician. The famous football star turned Minister of Finance, Cesar never loses sight of his meager beginnings; his highest priority is to help the impoverished in his country break the vicious cycle of oppression. Making strides is slow going amid corruption, especially when opioids are involved. Cesar’s plans (Project Amalur) for citywide changes are met with opposition, beginning with a cryptic phone call.
The call is not the only situation that troubles Cesar. The mysterious deaths of a top-level administrator and a boy (who was involved in a local robbery) coupled with the lack of news coverage also weigh heavy on his mind. More disconcerting events follow that harm the agricultural sector. It’s not until a significant explosion directly affecting his parents’ coffee farm that Cesar believes that all of the incidents are somehow connected. Whether or not he can successfully identify and successfully deal with the miscreants remains to be seen.
According to Zubulake’s website, it is during her many years working on Wall Street where she was able to hone “her communication skills, business acumen, attention to detail, and sense of intrigue.” There is no doubt that Zubulake utilized these skills in the shaping of her first novel, particularly capturing the vicious cycle of exploitation within societies and governments.
A tension-filled plot from the get-go, Zubulake’s fictional Latin-American-ish setting lends plausibility to the ubiquitous corruption connected with opioids and the problems associated with people’s efforts to solve societal ills once and for all.
Zubulake surrounds Cesar, her protagonist, with a tight and well-defined cast. The characters, designed mainly as foils, keep pushing and prodding Cesar in directions that steadily test his principles. Chapters alternate between taciturn and tightly-lipped characters replete with elusively laced conversations and consistently closing on cliffhangers.
While extremely well-written, there are a couple of chapters focused on drug-related history and statistics that may bog down the narrative flow for those who are well-versed on those topics. Regardless and to Zubulake’s merit, the inclusion of such pertinent information makes for a well-rounded plot.
Quill says: Kudos to Zubulake for producing Slay the Dragon, a gripping and provocative read. - Feathered Quill Book Review
César Rosada, Minister of Finance in SLAY THE DRAGON’s fraught Latin American country, struggles against not only the vicious Core Front’s bombings, arson, and assassinations, but inner conflict. Allied with anti-drug campaigns waged by military, government intelligence ops and local police, Rosada learns the deeply embedded “system” exploits insiders as much as the working-class people he vows to free from poverty and—for many—opioid addiction. The relentless violence and despair shatter conventional ideas (and idealists) of good and evil; perhaps only a genuinely ethical soul can effect social change. Haunting the narrative is the ever-mounting opioid crisis, and Zubulake portrays to heartbreaking effect its corrosive spread through user, family, and community—including one politician’s hunger for revenge after the overdose-death (“…another victim of the dragon.”) of a family member.
The so-called war on drugs proves as addicting as the substances themselves, with equally dire consequences for its fighters, here exemplified when protagonist Rosada receives an anonymous phone-call: “Let me make myself clear. The military should continue to focus on what they’re paid to do—protect us from outsiders. Forget about securing borders and airports. Let our trade continue. . . . Mr. Rosada, imagine life without fields to grow crops, ranches to raise cattle, ports and trains to transport it all. . . . What would that do to those people you’ve pledged your undying loyalty to?”
That brief passage accurately sums what Rosada—and certainly real-world agents of change—faces. Entering deeper into a sociopolitical landscape ruptured by rail-line bombing, arson, murder and assassination, the handsome former athlete covets moral clarity no longer existent (or even relevant) in a world changing so quickly there can be no future but risk management. Zubulake’s deft characterizations, silent moments and physicality–played to masterful effect–are her greatest strengths. She’s learned too the value of restraint in dialogue, where each word carries charged emotion, or its absence. Only a handful of glitches are present: cell phones are not “dialed,” but keyed; phrasal redundancies such as “he thought to himself,” and too-frequent tagging of dialogue (i.e., he said, she said) can be easily smoothed by close editing.
Laura A. Zubulake’s very human players, living, loving, lying and dying in her viscerally enthralling SLAY THE DRAGON know it’s a brutal game—with no Off-switch save insanity or death. ~William Grabowski for IndieReader
Small children, when given the chance to look at themselves in a mirror, often take their discovery to the next step—turning the mirror over or looking behind it in an attempt to figure out where the images in the mirror really come from. There’s an intriguing behind-the-mirror quality to Zubulake’s SLAY THE DRAGON for U.S. readers. While outlining the increasingly-concerning impact that opioid drug addiction can have on consumers, SLAY THE DRAGON also goes around to the back of the mirror, trying to describe the implications and social impacts of this huge problem on societies that may have one or more types of involvement in making opioid drugs readily available….Her hero Cesar Rosado has built his entire life on the force of seeking and telling the truth for the benefit of others. Confronted with a complexity of family and friends’ needs and weaknesses, he must struggle hard to balance his love for the people he knows with the love of pursuing justice for all the people under his care. Just as the symbol of the dragon is ambiguous--a source of wisdom and strength for some cultures and a source of danger and darkness for others—Cesar must pursue complex paths in his search for what is really the right thing to do and the effects of his decisions. Zubulake’s pacing is fast and engaging, and she creates a lush atmosphere with a constant underlying thread of tension, inhabited by appealing characters. Her most difficult struggle is with her own dragon: the huge size and complex structure of the opioid crisis itself. Zubulake works very hard to keep the dragon within novelistic bounds; occasionally, as in Chapter 5, the dragon scores points, requiring more straightforward exposition than the story really welcomes. Then again, ambiguity reigns. Zubulake spends longer explaining the current state of the opioid drug epidemic than her literary side might prefer, but it’s a good, comprehensive description of a crisis that impacts everyone from addicted individuals to the populations of whole countries. The novel is intriguing on its own, addresses a gravely concerning problem in today’s world and illustrates some of the difficulties of solving that problem. For going behind the mirror, Zubulake deserves thoughtful attention.- Janet Beal Goodreads & Amazon.com Reader’s review
THREE 5 STAR RATINGS from Readers' Favorite
"Laura A. Zubulake weaves crime investigation, corruption, and social ills into the story of a man’s gritty fight to defend his values and the lives that matter to him. I loved the protagonist, a man who has to make difficult choices, but who must also deal with his shortcomings. The conflict is developed at multiple levels, from the protagonist’s struggle to reconcile his position with his core values, to the opposition he faces from his peers, and then there is the social plague of opioids. I enjoyed the way the author explores the psychology of the characters, injecting them with humanity and realism. The characters are believable, the plot intelligently done, and the prose exquisite. Slay the Dragon can be read as a succinct indictment of the misuse of power and of what happens when a minority in authority has to make decisions that affect the lives of millions. The story is deft and balanced, as entertaining as it is thought provoking." - 5 STARS Reviewed By Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite
"This is a beautifully written book and readers will enjoy the fast pacing, the great dialogues and Laura A. Zubulake’s confident writing. The story gives a compelling exposé on the world of opioids and how users get to the point of taking these, plus the general effect of the drugs on society. The author weaves strong social commentaries into this story, creating a social and financial setting that is real. As one reads through this well-plotted and expertly written story, one can’t help but think about how a handful of people can hold the destiny of millions hostage, a reality that is happening in today’s US political landscape. While Slay the Dragon: A Novel is interesting and entertaining, it offers a lot of material for readers to think about, and characters like Zacarias, Carlos, and the protagonist who are really memorable. There is a fragment of each of us in this intelligently plotted story. " - 5 STARS Reviewed By Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite
"Slay the Dragon by Laura A. Zubulake hooks you in immediately. I loved Cesar; he made a great protagonist. He is a real person who has a genuine strength of character, but also is not afraid to show his faults too. This book has every ingredient for a compelling story; crime investigation, political corruption, the fight for your beliefs, and thought-provoking questions to ponder. The truth of how a drug problem can affect a community and drag it into a cycle of poverty; and the injustice that there are people in power determined to keep them there. It raised questions of how an elite few can hold the future of the majority in their hands, just to keep themselves in a lavish lifestyle. The plot was superbly executed with the perfect mix of suspense and tension. The characters were gritty and true to life. It highlights complete social injustice and corruption, and what can happen if you dare to rock the status quo. I highly recommend this superb piece of writing." - 5 STARS Reviewed By Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
5 STAR REVIEW
There is a lot of evil in the world. Evil that is supported by the very people on whom the responsibility of protection has been bestowed. The kind of evil that stands up against any man who dares threaten it. Men have bled and lost their lives trying to excrete this evil from the world. It is manmade evil.
From corruption to security, so many evils threatening the wellbeing of the people. Cesar Rosada is determined to rid his beloved people of these evils. However, the one that he is having the most trouble with drug trade. Drugs can cripple a country. Drugs can taint anyone regardless of social class. Drugs are also very lucrative. This means that the forces that are for the trade will often outman the forces that are against.
His descendants were mere coffee farmers. He rose to become an athlete before turning to serve the people. Despite his rise from the ashes, Cesar is still considered a minority. One who can be easily crushed. However, these people do not know how strong his resolve and tenacity can be. The Minister of finance is forced to make a decision. To choose between love for his people and love for the truth. To bare all for the sake of his country. To put all his cards on the table so that the future of the country is secured devoid of the opioids that threaten humanity.
Laura Zubulake weaves a tale from a very stark reality facing the world today. She moulds this into a story that is a unique blend of thought provoking and entertaining. She does this with a fast pace and excellent content. The books captures attention right from the get go and does not slow down until the very end. The plot is intelligently woven with twists and turns.
Cesar Rosada is a relatable protagonist. He holds strong values. He is a man willing to put everything on the line for what is near and dear to him. Nevertheless, he is also a man with flaws. A man who accepts and is not afraid to let his flaws show. This man is fashioned out of the human condition. Purpose albeit a little skewed. He shows strength of character and never waivers. His resolve is inspiring and perhaps a directive of how the realities of life should be dealt with.
Slay the Dragon has a constant underlying tension. This only works to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Eager and rooting for Cesar to win the war despite the looming threat of losing the battle. The opioid challenge is a little over explained. It may feel like the author is digressing but it is necessary to understand the deep-rooted problem that it is. It helps understand Cesar’s fight better.
The author’s own passion for the truth is evidence from her narration. It is a marvel and infectious. For a read that holds the complete social evils package, this is the book.- David Gunner Amazon.com reader review