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Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Dragon Soul" by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Jones&Bennett Website
Order Dragon Soul HERE
Read FBC Review of Havemercy HERE
Read FBC review of Shadow Magic HERE


INTRODUCTION: After taking a bit of a (successful) gamble in following "Havemercy" with "Shadow Magic" that kept the four narrator structure but changed all narrators, the location from Volstov to Ke Han, the theme from metal dragons and war to diplomacy and treachery and alternated the perspective of the "good guys" from the series debut with the one of their long time enemies, the authors return to the magical dragons and the odd duo of Thom and Rook from Havemercy, so Dragon Soul can be looked at as a direct sequel to it also.

As the other series novels, Dragon Soul was a book that once I opened, it just took me in and I could not stop reading it until the end. There is something "magical" about these books, so despite their switching theme, location, narrators - and all the 10 narrators so far when adding the two new ones from Dragon Soul have quite distinctive voices - I need only to browse them to be entranced again and again...

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: Dragon Soul stands at 400 pages divided into seventeen numbered chapters and keeping the series structure of alternating four narrators. This time in addition to the aforementioned two, there are two women pov's which are the first such in the series as it happens.

Malahide is a young magician and secret agent of the Esar of Volkov who traded her voice for an enhanced magical sense of smell that she uses to track her "prey".

Madoka is a Ke-Han scavenger/treasure hunter from an impoverished village who finds an unexpected magical artifact that may turn to be her downfall.

When remnants of the famous war dragons of Volkov - who were assumed destroyed at the end of the war while being banned to be reconstructed by the peace treaty that followed - turn out on the black market and rumors that a true "dragon soul" has also been found, Malahide is provided with an artificial voice box by the Esar and sent to investigate, while of course Rook will drag Thom anywhere to achieve closure with his beloved Havemercy.

Dragon Soul is adventure fantasy on the border with epic fantasy and it reads as a standalone with a definite ending.

ANALYSIS: While reading "Havemercy" will give you a grounding into its world, as well as getting you acquainted with Thom and Rook on their home turf, "Dragon Soul" does not need the previous volumes in an essential way and it can be read as an introduction to the authors' wonderful universe.

On the other hand keeping the same structure, the same narrative style and the authors' approach to storytelling means that your degree of enjoyment of "Dragon Soul" will strongly correlate to the other two.

Malahide and Rook are clearly the movers and shakers pov's and their actions power the novel, but Madoka's story adds a necessary piece of the puzzle as well as providing a complementary view from the Ke Han perspective. Thom plays more the role of an observer and he even tries to write down his "adventures" with Rook, to the disgust of the latter. On the other hand I thought that structurally Thom is the most important pov since his narration serves as an authorial voice that grounds the rest of the story.

Geographically Dragon Soul leaves the familiar territory of the two empires which are nominally at peace now and ventures into the southern desert, home of supposedly savage tribes, but also of treasure hunters and exile place of powerful magicians that annoyed the Esar. This "universe expansion" is another wonderful feature of the book and the world building is as good as in the previous volumes, while being quite distinct too.

There is new magic of the desert, while several more powerful characters appear of which the tribal leader Kalim is the most impressive; his first encounter with Rook is one for the ages.

If there is a niggle, the ending is a bit rushed like in the previous volumes for that matter with lots of things happening suddenly in the last 15-20 pages.

Overall Dragon Soul (strong A) by expanding the universe of the series beyond Volstov and Ke-Han and introducing quite a few more fascinating characters while keeping the "magic" of the earlier volumes is a superb addition to a series that I hope will keep going since I want to read more about its universe.

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