Author: Martyn Stanley
Title: The Last Dragon Slayer (The Deathsworn Arc, Book 1)
‘There is rumoured to be a noble dragon, an almost mythical beast, long thought to be extinct in Torea – terrorising a village in the north, at the foot of the Sky Cleaver mountains. Saul Karza, Emissary to the Empress and licensed magic user, has been sent by the empress herself to assemble a band of warriors to investigate, and if it is true to vanquish it.’
I love fantasy. I love sword and sorcery and I don’t read enough of it. This, as well as being my contribution to the year of book reviews, is to broaden my scope of these books.
Last week Raven talked about how we’re going to review these books. Well… I’m going to contradict her slightly. Maybe because I’m editing so heavily right now, or maybe because it’s Saturday and I’m on my way to a critique group, but I found it very hard to read this book as just a reader. I read it as an author and editor and a reader and am still having difficulty putting those first two aside. Then again, many of the issues I picked up as a reader would be apparent even if I wasn’t also the other two, though I probably wouldn’t be able to articulate them as well. *sigh*
Anyway, let’s go.
Amazing. I ADORE this cover. Just the right blend of light and dark, an immediate sense of what the book is about and strong, clear text that fits nicely with the image. I might have chosen a slightly different colour for the title text, but I’m not a designer. And that’s personal preference anyway. It’s a fantastic cover.
One point I should make though, is that, as an ebook you generally see cover images as thumbnails on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. It isn’t very clear when made small, because of all the dark colours, but the author name and title are still visible, which is certainly part of what you want from a cover.
My only other thought is actually about title; it ‘sounds cool’, but that’s not what it’s about. The actual dragon slayer the group picks up doesn’t do all that much. Unless of course I’m reading it wrong and the title refers to the slayer of the last dragon. o.O It’s ambiguous and not in a good way.
I feel like I’ve read this book before. I haven’t, but there are elements within it that I’ve seen in many of the books in the genre that I have read. There are a couple of good twists on the tropes and some new insights (especially these hints about ‘The Truth’ that I sussed about half way through), but largely, it’s been done; a band of mismatched heroes go off to find and slay a dragon, picking up more team members on the way. Since this is a four book arc, I’m expecting more and, with the ending, there are certainly hints that the story will go in a new direction, but as the start of a four-book arc, more is needed to draw me on to the next one.
I’ve seen these characters before too. Haughty elf. Wise old wizard. Brash and thuggish barbarian who slowly learns his lesson. Even the dark elf reminded me somewhat of Drizzt Do’Urden from all those Forgotten Realms books (which I adore, by the way). While on the one hand it’s nice to see something familiar and well known, I wanted more.
Yes, the relationships between these characters are interesting, but because there are so many we never quite learn enough about them. There is a valiant effort to give us background and detail with which to connect to these characters, but there is no focal viewpoint, no main point of view. As a result, I’ve no idea whose story I’m reading and that is very distracting. I can’t get into anybody’s head or feel for them or with them. As a result, when a couple of deaths came at the end, I just kinda felt; ‘Meh. Oh well; sucks to be you.’ It feels like a wasted opportunity because there is plenty there to get stuck into.
Worse than that, a couple of the characters sounded so alike that I didn’t always know who I was reading about. The dialogue needed spicing up to make it more unique to each character’s voice. It also needed looking at to take out a bunch of contemporary colloquialisms that just don’t belong in epic fantasy or sword and sorcery.
Overall Reading Experience:
I was dreading this one. I wavered between one and two stars before copping out and stopping between the pair, simply because when I was reading the book I was keen to keep going. However, when I wasn’t reading, I just didn’t care. There was no real drive to get back to it.
The easiest way to encompass my feelings is to say this book needs a savage structural and developmental edit. As I described above, it’s all over the place and distracting to read. There seems to be a disturbing habit of using commas in place of full stops and that strange letter § (explained in the foreword) was just distracting. Every time I saw it in the text, whether it was narrative or dialogue I just skipped past the passage because I couldn’t figure out how to read it. In the end, it annoyed the hell out of me. The pace dips and peaks, but in the wrong places (at least for me), and there are lots of missed opportunities to do something new with a well known quest story.
Hmm. Rating across four points comes up at 2.8, which rounds up to three stars.
In closing I’m glad I read this book; I feel I’ve learned about my own tastes in doing so, which, of course I wouldn’t be able to do if I only read my own work. However I won’t be looking for the next ones in the series.
Why don’t you take a look and make up your minds on how you feel? Tell me what you think; I love getting into dialogue about these things.