Backlist Burndown is a monthly meme hosted by Lisa from Tenacious Reader where you put aside at least one book from your blacklist every month to read, and then post a review of it on the last Friday of that month.
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Edition: Hardcover, 464 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy
I have yet to come across a book that has given the same feeling that A Game of Thrones did when I first read it, but Dragon Hunters is closest I have found.
The sequel to When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods
Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.
Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism — a feat that has never been accomplished before.
But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.
*Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and review.
There are three things I look for in my epic fantasy: a deep and layered plot, multiple POV characters, and complex characters. And Dragon Hunters has a check mark in all three of the boxes.
Every Dragon Day, the Dragon Gate between Dian and Natially is opened, to allow one dragon to enter into the Storm Isles for it to be hunted, and for the glory and fame of the kill, to go the ship that slays the beast. This year’s Dragon Day is going to be different.
The Storm Isles are ruled by one of the Storm Lords of the Storm Council, powerful water-mages, and is switched between them every several years. The current Emira is Imerle, but she has no interest is giving up her rule, and puts a plan in to see her rule continue. However, it appears that the Emira is not the only one interested in the events of the Dragon Day this year. There is another player in the game, and it is the Spider.
Marc Turner starts the book off by throwing you right into the middle of things. I’m talking about a plot that is already right under way, and characters that already feel developed and established in the story. Good heck, it’s awesome! But not reading the first book, I was convinced that it was continuation of book 1, and that I should already know what is going on.
While the Emira and Dragon Day is the main plot of Dragon Hunters, it is told through the plots of our four POV characters. And those plots felt like they were all ready well under way, and that I should know these characters already.
Senar Sol is a Guardian from Erian Elal and has been prisoner of Emira for the past year since he was captured coming through the Mesian portal. One morning, guards come down and say the Emira demands his presence. Senar is convinced that this is his end; either he will have to tell Emira where the portal is (which he cannot) or she will kill him. Sonar’s assumption is wrong. While his meeting with her is tense, she keeps him alive and Senar pledges his sword to her. His first task is follow around Storm Lady Mazana Creed. She has arrived a day before the Dragon Day with a letter she claims was sent by the Emira herself – except the Emira did not send them.
Senar has the feel of an honorable and nobel knight, and he a magic-power called “Will”. Using his Will he is able to essentially will things to happens. For example, he can use it push an enemy back, or deflect a sword attack if he cannot get his own weapon there in time to block.
Septia Kempis Parr is a member of the Watchmen, and has been called in by his commander of the watch, Quina Hilaire Desa, because Dutia Elemy Meddes, commander of the Storm Guards, has need of his special talent. Kempis, while not able to perform magic himself, can track the magic of others (think of it like a dog following a trail). There has been an assassin going around and murdering Drifters (water-mages) at night, and Kempis and his partner, Sniffer, and other watchmen, Loop and Duffle, have to track down this assassin and capture him.
Kempis was my favorite character! He is incredibly snarky and had a bunch of great lines! Reminds me of that guy who has been on the force for years, knows the in-and-outs of everything, can’t stand his boss, and just want to be left alone to do his job. His partner, Sniffer, was so strange too, and was probably my second favorite charger of the story.
Karmel Flood, is a Chameleon priestess, and sister to Caval Flood, the Chameleon high priest of the Storm Isles. Karmel is extremely talented, arguable the best in her class, but feels like she doesn’t get the credit she derives because of her brother, so when he sends her off on a secret mission with no headsnotice, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. All she is told that is that she is to do whatever Veran, a former Chameleon priest says, and that her mission is to prevent the Dragon Gates from opening (and getting into the leve room is a near impossible mission).
Karmel is the younger sister who has always been over-shadowed by her brother. Try as she might, she either never gets the opportunity to prove that she is better, or when she does, isn’t given the credit that is proven. In terms of her trying to prove her worth, and the conflict of emotions she has for her brother – it reminded me a lot of a rebellious teen. Even though she is around 20, I believe.
Kalischa Agenta Webb, is daughter of Kalisch Rethel Webb, first speaker of the Gilgamarian Ruling Council. They are not here for Dragon Day, but for a personal issue. The reason the Storm Lords rule, and other rulers pay a fee to the Storm Lords, is for protection again pirates. Rethell’s ship was recently attacked, and he is here for his compensation. Emira is reluctant, and doubts that it was even robbed, and demands some proof they are not lying. Agenta and her father are both suspicion about Emira, and Agenta takes it on her self to investigate further, what the Emira has been up to – financially.
I want to call her the Cersei of the story. I hated this women, and wanted nothing more than to see her die – but man, was she a compelling character! To me, she felt like she always had to be right; it had to be her ways; she knew what was correct. Extremely cold-hearted; knows no empathy; and when another one of out POV characters meets her, they describe her as “… there was a sharpness to the women’s gaze that could cut.”
Those are the four POV characters, and their main plot lines that makes up the overall plot line – which is Emria trying continue her rule. Then, as with all epic fantasy, within each of these plot lines, there are also other side plots going.
I want to get back to earlier where I said that characters felt completely flushed out, and it felt like I was in the middle of already established plots: I loved it and hated it. Those four plots I briefly outlined, they really are their own separate plots that could have easily been from another book, and they felt like that. It was awesome, because the character’s personalities and mannerisms, and how other characters interacted with them, was already established – but felt like I missed a whole bunch of characters development, because they were already flushed out! It was bad, because the characters have all this background story that they talk about as if I should know it, and starting with plots that felt like it was well underway (Sempar in prison; Kempis looking for his ex-partner murder; Karmel is her test), I did feel a little lost (and not reading book 1, did not help to ease my worries that I missed something).
However, I came to appreciate that in a certain way. We do get answers, albeit slowly, for where the characters were before this, and though they are not answered in full, I think it helped to show how massive this world is and how much else outside of Dragon Day is going on, and has happened in this world. It gave the characters more depth too; they weren’t characters exclusive to this novel, but clearly all have separate stories of their own, that made them the flawed persons and unique personalities that they are for when this novel happens. Same for supporting characters too – like Sniffer, Farrell, and Iqral and Jayle. Each character we meet, felt like they had a story to tell.
And speaking about how massive this world felt, when I used to think of Marc Tuner, I would think of all the guest posts I saw him write that had to do with world-building. And now that I have read Dragon Hunters, the first thing that comes to mind about Marc Turner is his world-building. The is so much to this world that we know nothing about!!!! We only briefly touch on the different types of magic in the world and how they work; other dimensions the lead to a demon-world is a real thing; there is this executioner you will meet; a bunch of Gods (that might be real?); all the other stuff that is happening in other kingdoms; whatever happened to all our POV character before this book happened (and what could happened once this books is done); and the Spider too! There is also a ton more that is mentioned in the story that shows you how EPIC this world is, but I can’t say, due to spoilers.
This book feels 100% epic fantasy! Story scope; multiple POVs; complex and layered plots; large cast of characters (and there is a character list at the front of the book – which is smartest idea, ever); unique characters; and a massively detailed map! There are so many areas that Marc could choose to explore!
The only complains I have are, surprisingly, with the plot and the characters. Yes, the plot is complex and layered, but I felt it have had even more depth, and twisting, and looping around. Yes, the characters were complex and developemt, but they could ahve been even mroe developoed and unqiuq (remeber how I described them as “this type” and “that type” or person?). The solution for all this: longer book! I think this book could easily have been over 600 maybe 700 pages long – with the same exact story. In doing that, we will get more page time and scenarios with our characters, and stetching the story out, will enable us to see more details of the world, and the finer workings of the plot. This is me super nip-picking, but I see a lot of potential here.
Having not read the first book, and each book being a stand-alone, yet, all being part of the same series – I can’t help but wonder how are they all connected?! I have some theories, but cannot share here. Tell you one thing: kicking my self in the butt right now for not having read When Heavens Fall, and you can be sure I will read it soon!
My favorite series of all-time is A Song of Ice and Fire. The scope of that story, its complexity, the characters – you know, all the good stuff. I have yet to come across a book that has given the same feeling that A Game of Thrones did when I first read it (no, I have not read WoT, Malazan, or Stromlight Archive), but Dragon Hunters is closest I have found. Still miles upon miles short of A Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin, but still, the closest book to it I have read.
I’m not saying The Chronicles of the Exiles is the next ASOIAF, or that Marc Tuner is the next GRRM, but what I am saying is that I willing to bet that Marc Tuner will end up writing on hell of a series someday that will be on many “best of” lists for many years to come.
Date Read: 04/03/2016 - 04/14/2016 Review Written: 04/16/2016 - 04/23/2016