Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Dragonswarm by Aaron Pogue

This engaging sequel to Taming Fire mostly lives up to the promise of its predecessor.  I recommend it for anyone who read the first book, and recommend the series in general for anyone who's looking for a good heroic high fantasy.

The Dragonswarm, by Aaron Pogue, is a straight-forward high fantasy adventure that's tightly focused on the protagonist.  The first book was a really good coming-of-age of a hero sort of book, and this one continued by not only upping the ante in terms of magic and impact on the world, but also having him continue to grow emotionally.

The premise is that Daven, the main character, gets some dragon blood in him through an accident that happens in the first book.  This gives him crazy powers that other humans don't have.  He's also street-wise and an accomplished swordfighter with an intellectual bent.  No small-minded anti-heroes here!  Unfortunately, he's wanted by a tyrannical king (where wanted = wants to kill him), hated by powerful wizards, in love with a beautiful girl, but is mostly concentrating on the imminent dragonswarm apocalypse.  A guy has to have his priorities, after all.

This is not one of those gritty fantasies that have gotten so popular.   It reminds me more of some of the classics I read in the eighties, like Pug's part of the Riftwar Saga or, to a lesser extent, the Belgariad.  It feels mythic, with the protagonist being larger than life and so full of determination that he makes John Mcclane look like a quitter.  Plus, you have death by dragons!

It's really focused on the hero though.  There's really only one plot arc, it's single POV, and all important events in the world revolve around the main character.  The action is fun, I think he did a great job developing the protagonist, and I really loved the secondary characters in this.  He ends up with some surprising second-in-commands, and the relationships between them were fascinating.  The scale of the magic and impact on the world is fairly epic, but style-wise it's more the labors of Hercules rather than the Illiad.   For the most, part I didn't mind this.  Having him be the focus of everything didn't break suspension of disbelief, and I don't require all books to be copies of Sanderson, Martin, and Jordan, et al.

I have only one nit, and that's that, after the first book, I expected there to be more of a romantic arc.  I really liked Isabelle, and I like what he did with the relationship between them in general, but it felt more implied than explicit to me, and I missed the opportunity to see them interact more.  She's omniresent as a motivation, and I can infer how the relationship between them develops from through the two books, but that development is mostly off-screen.  I think there was an opportunity to wrench up the emotional investment for me if that arc was more on-screen.  But, maybe it would have slowed down the pace of the book if he added it in though, I don't know.

To Aaron Pogue, should you ever read this: I'd pay money and/or chocolate for scenes between Daven and Isabelle.  Maybe a novella set in the six weeks between the books where they really get to know each other and fall in love?  I mean, it would essentially be a romance in a fantasy setting rather a true fantasy than the rest of the series is in, so you'd be really limiting your audience to fans of your series who are also romance nuts, but we'd be such happy nuts if you'd only consider it.  Anyway, just saying.

The Dragonprince Trilogy:
  1. Taming Fire - really great.
  2. Dragonswarm
  3. Dragon Prince - coming sometime in 2012

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