Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: The Dragon Hunters by Paul Genesse

The Dragon Hunters is the sequel to Paul Genesse's surprising hit The Golden Cord and the second book in his Iron Dragon series. It follows Drake and his two Drobin companions, Thor and Bellor, as they continue their journey to find Bellor's lost brethren and destroy Draglune, an ancient and dangerous dragon foe, once and for all. But as they travel they discover that some parts of the world are not as they should be: Drobin cities are responding to resistance against their rule with genocide while cultists who worship Draglune and his dragon servant Verkahna as gods sacrifice themselves for a cause that seems right, but is fraught with lies and deceit. The farther Drake and his companions travel away from the comparative safety of the Thornclaw forest, the more they realize that Draglune's influence is rapidly expanding, creating more enemies to hinder their journey and to threaten the stability of the Drobin empire and even Drake's home and family. The Dragon Hunters takes off right after the end of The Golden Cord and drags us through a troubled world of demonic monsters and collapsing society. Perhaps what is most interesting about this particularly installment is that Genesse has taken us into new arenas to meet cultures previously unknown to us, displaying his excellent worldbuilding skills. Moving from a dangerous forest to an equally dangerous desert, Genesse takes us on a wild journey of magic, dragons, questionable characters, and inner turmoil. And that, perhaps, is what is so striking about this novel in comparison to the last. While The Golden Cord certainly touched on the emotional and ethical questions Drake had to ask himself while aiding Thor and Bellor, this novel shatters Drake's connection to his home with brutal directness. The golden cord between he and Jaena--his wife-to-be--is weakened and ripped away by forces both within and outside of Drake's control. As a result, we get the sense that Drake is not and never was fully aware of himself as a person, that there are things even he is learning about himself, and that his journey is not just one to do the right thing, but to discover more about himself and his destiny. Of course, Drake isn't the only one that experiences a rupture of this sort. Thor and Bellor equally share in the burden of cultural splitting. Here the connection to the characters is stronger, more impacting, because the reader is so invested in Drake and his companions that we cannot help but be affected by the emotional roller coaster that they experience. The Dragon Hunters isn't a perfect book. While I loved the world, parts of the novel seemed to be overly drawn out. This may be personal preference in adventurous fantasy, but I wanted things to move quicker, particularly in the middle. Of course, I am willing to acknowledge that this is simply a factor that is present in all middle novels and perhaps something that is unavoidable when one expects the same speed and vision of a previous book. Certainly The Dragon Hunters is an action packed novel--the title itself should be an indicator--and I expect that the action and intrigue of Genesse's world will continue to grow and develop over the course of the next few books. One of my favorite parts of this novel has to be how Genesse created a particularly terrifying character out of Verkahna--a dragon we met in the previous book who certainly had her physical appeal as a horrifying creature, but never quite had that emotional terror working for her. Through her we learn not only about how the dragons of Genesse's world operate--culturally and psychologically--but also how cunning they can be, so much so that even I began to question whether my preconceived notions about his dragons that I adopted from the first book were valid. Even at the end I wondered whether dragons were evil or good, and maybe this question will be answered in the next book. It's hard to say. All in all, The Dragon Hunters was a wonderful read. I loved the action, the characters, and the world, as I did with the first book. While this novel isn't without flaws, it is certainly worth reading, and if you are a fan of adventurous fantasy, this series is perfect for you. I've called his work "fun fantasy," because it's the kind of work that doesn't allow itself to be bogged down by the trappings of the genre or by negative storytelling. The story is meant to be exciting and interesting because of its characters and action. As with the first book, the cover art for The Dragon Hunters is absolutely gorgeous and I suspect that the novels that follow will continue in this trend. Hopefully Genesse will have as much success with The Dragon Hunters as he did with The Golden Cord. If you'd like to learn more about Paul Genesse, you can check out his website here. You can find The Dragon Hunters here at Five Star Press (or on Amazon, or anywhere else, most likely) and the previous book, The Golden Cord, here. (Note: I avoided commenting on the writing itself in this review because I read an advanced uncorrected proof. It would be wrong of me to complain about things that most likely were changed in the editing process.)

2 comments:

Ares Vista said...

I just got my hands on this book and am now on Chapter 2. I can't wait to read each day, just to see what happens. I can't find enough time in the day, I'm devoting hours to it. Thinking about quitting my job.

S.M.D. said...

Haha. It is good stuff, that's for sure. Don't quit your job, though. I don't think Paul would appreciate that :P.