Series: Book 2
Author: Brian D. Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Synopsis (from Amazon book page):
“With new friends and allies fighting by his side, Ethan Dragonvein must find a way to overcome the might of the Eternal Emperor Shinzan. As the voices of the dragon’s call to him, he is driven to seek them out in the faint hope that they can help him fulfill his destiny and save the people of Lumnia. But he must hurry. Shinzan has not been idle and moves swiftly to crush this fledgling mage before he can become a challenge to his power.”
Notes of Interest:
This is a follow-up purchase, so I will be referencing my review of the first book in this series for comparison.
What could have made it better for me:
This book makes use of the time travel portal again, but very briefly to the 1980’s. So, I’ve decided to knock the “historic” genre from my description. This is a fantasy book with adventures that include time travel, but time travel is not core to the plot objectives. Perhaps that changes in later books, but in the first two time travel is not what’s important.
There were a few minor technical errors that got missed in editing.
The antagonist, Shinzan, still didn’t catch my interest as a character with personality and depth. He strikes me as an immortal, all-powerful Sauron-type ruler that you know must be defeated in the end or he will destroy the world (more so than he already has). But even after knowing a little about his background, he remains the Big Bad off in the distance. Again, maybe that will change over the series. I understand the need to build up to these things if the story takes place over several volumes as an arc. But as of book 2, he still strikes me as one-dimensional.
The only other thing that distracted me was the predictable love triangle between the two women and leading the man. The way Book 1 ended regarding two female characters, I knew they would be one of the plots in Book 2. And that assumption was helped by the presence of a female mage on the cover. The girl that was too young becomes an adult, and the girl who was frozen becomes thawed. Both want the last remaining mage in their kingdom. It’s not that this subplot was poorly done, it just played out exactly the way I thought it would. And as a woman, I admit I tend to dislike “catty” behavior among female characters because it often replays female stereotypes. It tends to be a division between the doting, “I will love you forever no matter what because I love you!” playful kitten and the “I want you in my bed” manipulative slut. And whether it’s two women jealous over one man, or two men jealous over one woman, at some point those kinds of plots end up feeling childish and cliché because the character being fought over becomes a static trophy, rather than a genuine person in a genuine relationship. Same goes for the two who are fighting. They become static stereotypes and stop growing as individuals. … Jealousy and love triangles do realistically happen. It’s why they’re classic tropes that we keep coming back to again and again. But the more low-key the better, in terms of telling a unique story … in my opinion.
On a related note, this book had some graphic sex in it. Graphic sex in fantasy novels doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s necessary to the plot or handled in a way that doesn’t distract from it. I think in this case the approach was necessary to the plot, but the language felt out of place within the overall tone of the book. It felt like something unexpectedly switched in the writing style, but it was brief and limited to one scene, so it didn’t affect the overall content.
What I liked about it:
This volume in the series is primarily about the “mage training” that Ethan goes through after discovering he is the only remaining mage in the kingdom. Or, at least he is the only mage powerful enough to defeat the emperor. And this is a land where magic is suppressed except for the emperor’s use of it, so even if someone of lower class can do magic, their lives are forfeit if they are caught. So between his training and his quest to find the dragons, that is what carries the meat of the plot. The dragons are the highlight of the book, probably because they are rare in this setting, and they are handled in an unusual manner. They are on the verge of extinction, so they are both accessible, yet not accessible, to aid in the coming battle. Ethan learns the truth about the emperor’s nature. And he is shown enigmatic secrets that are full of plot potential, from dwarves as well as mages and the dragons themselves, for the upcoming quest to defeat the bad guy.
His relationships with the two women do not overtake the main plot, and the triangle does eventually work itself out, which I appreciated. To be able to end a love triangle in a manner where all parties win is good (and different, because usually there is a sore loser).
The most interesting part of this book, to me, did not get enough “air time”. It’s the relationship between Ethan and his best friend, Markus. Markus is a deeply conflicted character, and that makes him more multi-dimensional. The ugly tasks of the plot get dumped on him, but he shoulders the burden assuming this is simply his task because it’s the kind of person he has become. So, his struggles between being a good guy and a bad guy who happens to be helping the good guys was interesting.
In spite of what I said earlier about the antagonist being a bit flat, I did appreciate seeing his capacity for evil exposed. He is spoken about by other characters as a cruel, selfish tyrant. And he is shown more in this book than the first, which is why I give the benefit of the doubt to deeper development in the future. It’s hard to create evil characters who truly do repulse the reader … because killing someone isn’t enough to earn that badge. Maybe it’s because we expect deaths in action/ adventure/ fantasy type stories. So, the evil that defines an effective villain is conveyed more in the “how” and “why” that death and suffering take place. I am now convinced that Shinzan truly is a cruel and corrupt villain, rather than having to accept rumors. The question now is whether there is any possibility for conflict within himself regarding his own behavior.
And I still appreciate the author’s portrayal of the dwarven race, pushing them beyond the most common tropes into being credible characters with depth and imaginative attributes. A great quote to share from Dwarven king Ganix: “War is a wicked thing. It can make monsters of all of us.”
I liked the book overall, but I think I liked the first book better. This one felt slower and a bit more off-topic. As of this writing, I’m undecided whether to buy the third book. The book was good, but I can tell the interest has dipped enough that I need to reach for something different for now. Book 3 will probably go back in my TBR list for later.