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Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

Currently reading

Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
The Splintered Eye (The War of Memory Cycle #2)
H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

Baptism of Blood and Fire (Dragon Bond Book 1)

Baptism of Blood and Fire (Dragon Bond Book 1) - Damon J Courtney This is a nice gentle little story, easy to read and much shorter than the average work of fantasy. It has the usual type of magic which can do almost anything, it has elves, goblins and dragons, and a little bit of history, with a war in the past, now ended. This is very much a traditional fantasy, where most people are good-hearted, the villains are evil, and the heroes are required to overcome all adversity so that good will prevail. Not too much gritty realism here, although the goblins do get up to some pretty despicable things.

So, the plot. Fifteen-year-old Elody has just become a dragonmage, by bonding with a newly-hatched dragon, which will power her magic. Her seventeen-year-old brother Rinn failed to bond with a dragon, but has his own innate form of magic. And there are goblins on the rampage, provoked by an elf wizard for his own reasons, who is also killing off dragons. And that’s about it as far as the plot goes. The world-building is fairly sketchy, since we only see one small village and its surroundings, and it’s all rather twee, but the magic system is nice, and very well described.

I’m not sure whether this is meant to be YA or not. The main protagonists are fifteen and seventeen, but in fantasy that doesn’t necessarily mean anything since over the length of a trilogy or more a fifteen-year-old can become seriously mature. However, there is a simplicity to both the story and the writing style which suggest a younger audience. Personally, I prefer something with a little more complexity to it, whether of plot or characterisation, but such things are a matter of taste, and later books may well develop that complexity, as is common in multi-volume works.

My biggest complaint concerns the two main protagonists. As teenagers, a certain amount of petulance and wilfulness is normal, but these two really are downright stupid sometimes. Time after time they get into trouble because they simply won't take advice, or do the obvious sensible thing. Elody does a lot of crying and Rinn rushes around with over-optimistic levels of bravado, they have to be rescued frequently, and both of them whine a lot. It makes them seem a lot younger than their stated ages, and in the type of simple agricultural community where they live, I really think they would both have grown up a lot more than seems apparent here. But when they do display a modicum of common sense and formulate a plan with the help of useful adults, the results are quite effective. I think the author was aiming for a pair of charmingly immature kids who are then forced to grow up rather quickly, but for me the charm got rather lost.

This is not a complicated book, but then it's also quite short. It's straightforward traditional fantasy with some nice dramatic moments and a good climactic encounter, reasonably well written, with few typos, and for those who like this kind of thing, it works fine as a pleasant undemanding story. I found it a little too simplistic for my personal taste, however, and the two protagonists too tiresome by half, which keeps it to two stars for me, but there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, I suspect that later books in the series, if Rinn, Elody and her dragon grow up a bit, might be very much more interesting.