Book Review: Dragonvein, Book 1

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Book: Dragonvein
Series: Book 1
Author: Brian D. Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Historic

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“Carentan, France 1944 – Ethan Martin, a soldier in the 101st Airborne, is fighting for his life. But soon he will learn what peril truly is when he is ripped from his world and transported to a land of magic, swords, and dragons. And though the Nazis are now far, far away, danger is closer than ever. The Eternal Emperor, Shinzan has destroyed the mages and only a few dragons remain in exile. And now that Ethan, son of Praxis Dragonvein, has returned he must destroy him as well. Faced with unimaginable power, Ethan has only one hope – to reach the dwarf kingdom of Elyfoss before Shinzan can find him.”

Notes of Interest:

I was interested in this book when I saw that it combined several elements I enjoy reading about: magic, dragons, portal adventures into new worlds, and fantastical takes on historical periods or events. The thing in particular that caught my eye about this book was that the historic portion takes place during World War II. You don’t normally see dragons combined with Nazis. So I was in for the ride.

What could have made it better for me:

Though not the fault of the book, necessarily, I started reading on the assumption that this book would pit dragons against Nazis. Or set up some alternate history where both the Axis and the Allies fought their battles on dragons, rather than in planes. Maybe it was the cover art that gave me that impression, or maybe my mind just took an idea and went crazy with it. (I do tend to do that … frequently.) But such does not happen … at least not in book 1. I’m not sure yet if it happens later in the series. But book one starts on earth and travels through the portal and stays there because the end objective is to find the dwarves. I was a little disappointed that not much action took place in the 1940’s, but I can’t fault the author for my own jump-ahead speculation. And who knows, maybe it will do something like that later in the series.

The main antagonist in this book felt a little weak to me. Not in show of strength — there’s dozens of examples of how horrific he is. I just never latched onto him as a multi-dimensional character. Part of this might be due to his identity (which I can’t give away without offering spoilers, so I won’t do that). Perhaps he will develop more complexity in the later books in the series, so I wouldn’t consider that a mark against him as much as just not being able to release too much information too soon. I love complex villains, so I hope he turns out to be dynamic in later books.

There were a few grammar errors, but nothing worthy of individual notations — nothing that pulled completely out of the writing.

What I liked about it:

The plot is straightforward. The characters are well-defined, mostly multi-dimensional. There were some unique features here and there that caught my interest, such as the portal splitting timelines (sort of) so that companions don’t all arrive in the same place at the same time and have to cope with the consequences of that anomaly. The dwarves having the machinery that they do was unique, I think. I like how dwarves in pop culture are sort of seen as the engineers of fantasy worlds, so this plays on that familiar trait, but takes it beyond the usual golems and gears ideas. And the descriptions were visual and tactile enough that several “phrasings” caught my eye in terms of verbal texture.

Upon entering a cavern in search of the dwarves: “It was as if the darkness was actually consuming the light.” I’ve been deep in underground caverns, but they were always lit enough for people to not, you know, slip and break their necks. But I remember how the temperature immediately dropped and the air immediately felt moist and heavy. So, this concept of darkness consuming light had a feel to it that I found very credible.

The descriptions of how the dragons were found stands out to me well because it was kind of creepy. I can’t say much more than that without spoilers, but it wasn’t what I think most people would imagine when walking in on a group of dragons. I found another description that compelled me to highlight it: “Their beastly roars shook the ground and forced the breath from Ethan’s lungs.” Dragon roars shaking the ground is a trait I think we all automatically assume, but forcing the air out of lungs? That’s different.

And finally I had to highlight this wonderful description: “The intricately carved throne was pure white ivory and gold – or that’s what people believed. Hronso knew better. What was imagined to be ivory, was in reality the bones of the Council of Volnar. Often during an audience he would notice the Emperor running his finger along the arm of the throne, an odd little smile on his face. Some claimed that he actually talked to it, even having entire conversations as if it were speaking back to him with a voice that only he could hear. Naturally no one ever dared mention this in his presence.”

Recommendation:

I have already bought the second book in this series and finished it. I will try to review it soon. I am still interested enough to buy a third book, but I need to hit some other books I’ve been hoarding first. If you like portal stories where the main character is a complete noob to his new surroundings, if you like stories about magic in politics, or if you like quests for finding lost dragons, this series might be for you.

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