Saturday, April 9, 2016

ARC Review: In The Shadow of the Dragon King

In The Shadow of the Dragon King by J.Keller Ford
Publisher: Month9Books
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
Format: Egalley
Source: copy provided by publisher for review
My Rating: ★★

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD
Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby. 

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte. 

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he's some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He's supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who's too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone. 

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
I initially requested this ARC because I read the synopsis and thought it sounded a lot like Skyrim. I thought to myself, "Dragons, and someone called the Paladin? Sounds an awful lot like the Dragonborn...I'm in!" Since I've been burning through the game I thought it was a perfect book for me to read. And I have to say I did end up really enjoying this one!

What really hooked me in was the world building. From the first chapter we are introduced to Eric's world of Fallhallow, and I was thinking, "Okay, yes, I'm about this." I was a little jarred in the next chapter when we meet David and he's in the modern world, but if you continue to read, that part of the story makes a lot more sense. I thought the political background was pretty interesting. It is really the backstabbing politics of this world that has caused the Dragon King to escape and started a new war. There is also even a mention of churches and religion, which I liked because I feel like we don't get a lot about religion in YA, and I would like to see that explored more. 

I was also intrigued by how the Mages are viewed in this society. At times they refer to "men" as "other" from themselves and are "forbidden to interfere with the lives of men." I found this a little confusing at first because it seemed like that meant all Mages were not human, but I think what Ford is trying to convey here is that the Mages are the "other" in this world and they don't really adhere to the same rules as humans. Although, they do interfere A LOT more than they claim. Sir Trogsdill our knight in the story actually makes a comment about this at the end of the novel, which just made me love him more. 

Although I really enjoyed this one, there were a few things that fell flat for me, but by no means were deal breakers. I had a hard time sympathizing with Eric. He acted childish and I found his quest for glory to be rather selfish. He does realize his mistake towards the end, but I felt like his character development and even the ending of this novel was a little rushed. I found our other hero David to be a little annoying in the beginning of the novel, but I think I understood why. He was a kid that was whisked away to a strange land and told he was supposed to be some sort of dragon slayer. He has to find the strength in himself to rise to the occasion, and I could understand his struggle more than Eric's struggle to be taken seriously. I do like that when these two meet they really don't like each other. They are both strong-willed and determined characters that I thought it would make sense that they wouldn't get along. There was definitely a power struggle between them, and I liked that Keller included that. 

One other thing I want to see in the next book is more of Charlotte. I felt like we got a good sense of who she was in the beginning of the story, but once her and David get sent to Fallhallow I felt like she wasn't that developed as a character. I definitely want to see her fleshed out a little more. I want a real reason for why she needs to be with David in this strange land. I know in this novel it's because she is now a healer, but I didn't see enough of that to really convince me of her purpose in this story.

I think if you love a fantasy world with great world building, or you have an interest in dragons this is good book for you. I also think the author did a good job of making this fantasy world accessible to non-fantasy fans by having the two main characters have non-fantasy sounding names, which I kind of really appreciate. I was intrigued by the land of Fallhallow, and I am excited to see where Keller takes us in her next book!

Happy Reads Everyone!