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  • Posted March 31, 2013

    It started a bit slow but had a strong finish. It took me a lit

    It started a bit slow but had a strong finish.

    It took me a little while to get sucked into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The approach of using four different first person points of view was a bit unsettling at first, but the voices of the characters were quite distinctive and they all had interesting character arcs. The story takes place in Volstov, a fictitious empire that bears some resemblance to czarist Russia and seems to have roughly mid to late 19th century level of social organization, but with magically assisted technologies. Volstov has been at war with its neighbor, the KeHan empire, which has a sort of Mongolian, or possibly even Japanese feel to it, for the past 100 years. Volstov has gained the upper hand in the war through the use of its dragon corps. The "dragons" are magically animated mechanicals, but they are intelligent and form a strong bond with their pilots. Nonetheless, the dragons' magical fuel does not allow them to reach the KeHan capitol, which is why the war has been dragging on for so long.

    The four point of view characters Royston, Hal, Rook and Thom are all very different. There are two storylines, one involving Royston and Hal, and one involving Rook and Thom, and they don't really converge until about midway through the novel. I don't want to disclose too much of the plot, but I will say that of the four characters, I took the longest to warm up to Rook (the dragon corps pilot who flies the dragon Havemercy), as he is a bit of a stereotyped arrogant macho "Top Gun" kind of character. He does become more and more interesting, as the nuances of his relationship with Havemercy and with Thom emerge.

    The two biggest complaints I had were that it took a while for me to get a sense of where the novel was going and how the story lines would converge. It never bored me, however, and the characters were intriguing, even if it took me a while to figure out what each of them wanted to accomplish. I'd say that Hal was probably the weakest of the four. I liked him, but he was the one where I never really felt much of a transformation/change.

    The other complaint was the near complete lack of interesting female characters or perspectives (unless you count Havemercy, who was referred to as "she" in spite of being a machine). In fact, the only women who made any kind of appearance in the first 1/2 or so of the novel were the diplomat's wife (whom Rook had smacked on the butt and called a whore) and Royston's extremely vapid and unsympathetic sister in law. At first I kind of assumed that the authors were trying to present a 19th century level of social organization where women were often simply invisible and pretty much despised by men (and since the pov characters were all male, we were seeing the insignificance of women through their eyes). But later in the book, it came out that women could be university students and magicians too. Perhaps there will be some more interesting women in some of their future books. I hope so.

    I will say that the authors created an interesting world. There were a few small questions I had, like why oh why were books called "Romans." That strikes me a bit of the old "calling a rabbit a 'smeel' thing you see sometimes in fantasy. Not sure what books have to do with Rome, and since this was a fantasy world, there wouldn't necessarily even be a Rome in their history anyway. I also wondered why the dragons were intelligent, since they were essentially machines that had been animated/fueled by magic. But if they were intelligent (because their creators imbued them with a bit of their own souls), why they needed pilots. But it was a cool enough premise, I was able to suspend disbelief there for the most part. I would have liked a little more description of the dragons (what they looked like).

    But overall, the book was a lot of fun and I want to read more by these authors.

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    Posted January 31, 2011

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    Posted November 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

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