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Book Review: Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner

Title: Dragon Hunters

Author: Marc Turner

Series: The Chronicles of the Exile #2

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass from the Southern Wastes into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles. Alas, this year someone forgot to tell the dragon which is the hunter and which the hunted. Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords. She has no intention of standing down graciously. She instructs an order of priests called the Chameleons to infiltrate a citadel housing the mechanism that controls the Dragon Gate to prevent the gate from being lowered after it has been raised on Dragon Day. Imerle hopes the dozens of dragons thus unleashed on the Sabian Sea will eliminate her rivals while she launches an attack on the Storm Lord capital, Olaire, to secure her grip on power. But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in Olaire in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. When Imerle initiates her coup, that enemy makes use of the chaos created to show its hand. -Goodreads

The Review:

Dragon Hunters delivered all the elements that were missing from book one, with flare (and by flare I mean dragons). Sluggish plot progression wasn’t a problem here. I wouldn’t say Dragon Hunters was a particularly fast-paced book, but the things that happened within each perspective advanced the plot much more sufficiently than in the first book. Same with the plot-transparency – a lot of the devious plots remained shrouded in mystery until the end, which was not the case in book one (and a major component of my dissatisfaction). I said in my review of When the Heavens Fall that Turner had all of the components I look for in a storyteller, he just made some outlining decisions I wasn’t thrilled about. His skill shows itself nicely in this sequel and confirmed my guess that with a different outline, he’d be awesome.

The only thing Dragon Hunters still lacked for me was sufficiently distinct characters. They were all interesting to read about (and had great backstories), Turner just never took the time to give them any introspection or depth (with maybe one exception). There are two main male POVs and two main female POVs, and I had a hard time telling them apart. With each switch I had to consciously wrap my mind around which one had the spotlight. I probably missed a few details early on due to character confusion. Even so, I still enjoyed their basic profiles. But I can also see how improving them would’ve taken this story to the next level.

Since every other aspect was done to my satisfaction, I still value the book highly. I especially loved the setting (costal/island nations centered around pirates, political intrigue, and powers) and the extra bit of subtle world building in the form of a stone-skinned race and people with gills (both of which I’m eager to learn more about). Oh! And the different religions (specifically the Chameleon one) really sparked my interest. So overall, I had a ton of positive takeaways from this book.

Recommendations: Dragon Hunters was a lot stronger than the first book, containing a good mix of action, world building, religion, politics, and sea dragons. The characters probably won’t make you feel a lot of things, but they’re still fun to read about. This series wouldn’t be my pick for new fantasy readers, but is a good pick for Malazan fans looking for something slightly less intense.

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Title: When the Heavens Fall

Author: Marc Turner

Series: The Chronicles of the Exile #1

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering. A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost. -Goodreads

The Review:

Although When the Heavens Fall didn’t knock my socks off, I’m still glad I read it. The elements that didn’t quite work for me were basic plot construction choices, which means the author had all of the world building, characterization, and writing skills, and even executed his vision to my satisfaction, he just didn’t give me a satisfying journey on top of it all. Because of that, I am super excited to dive into his second book and see how a new plot structure with a new cast of characters unfolds. Plus the second book is called Dragon Hunters, which already has my immediate attention. :-)

The first third of When the Heavens Fall was stellar. Turner set a really cool atmosphere with his world building – a rather ominous overtone shrouded with secrets. I knew immediately there was going to be a lot of things to discover about this world, and I couldn’t wait to find out more. He also introduced a handful of POV’s characters, all of whom I really enjoyed reading about (even the “unlikable” ones). He even hinted at several cool magics and gave us a glimpse into some fascinating nonhuman characters.

So, even though he set the stage brilliantly, where he took the story left a little to be desired. The multiple POV’s were actually part of the problem. They were perspectives from each aspect of the mystery surrounding a magical book, and the reader learned very early on what was going on. So it was a case of dramatic irony as the characters slowly got onto the same page as the reader. The use of dramatic irony usually drives me crazy, but I will say at least its use here allowed the reader to dig into the motives of all aspects of the conflict, which in itself is entertaining, I just wish I hadn’t know quite as much upfront.

Another issue that perpetuated this problem was pacing. It’s okay to have all of your characters focused around a single problem, but after the first third of the book, every time the character perspective switched, nothing significant had happened. Everybody just kind of maintained status quo for a good bulk of the book and so at times it felt like we were switching POVs just for the sake of and not because that perspective had something interesting and new to show us. So for that reason, I feel the book could have been stronger had the plot been tightened with a bit more focus within each POV. This is also likely the main reason why it took me a full two weeks to get through.

All that said, I still have an overall positive attitude towards the book and thought the things it did well, it did really well. I love the world and its dynamics and can’t wait to explore more of it, I liked the characters and hope they get a little more depth in the future, and appreciated the writing style and overall voice. This was a buddy read with some friends at Fantasy Buddy Reads, and there were a lot of comments referencing similarities to Erikson’s Malazan series, so chances are if you liked that one this one will give you some kicks.

Recommendations: this is a slow burn fantasy that built a great foundation to this cool world and had a cast of highly interesting characters (even if they were a tad flat). This wouldn’t be the first book I handed to someone if they needed a recommendation for a good fantasy, but it’s definitely one I would talk positively about with someone who is well read in the genre. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start and I can’t wait to see more of what this author can do.

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by Niki Hawkes