Sunday, April 17, 2011

DRAGON CHAMPION

Review of DRAGON CHAMPION by E.E. KNIGHT
(first in the AGE OF FIRE series)

I never thought a fantasy epic about a dragon could feel so real! Especially one told through the dragon's perspective. Yet I always sympathized with Auron even (or perhaps particularly) when he acted more on animal instincts than humanized emotions and morals.

From the unexpected, gory opening that sets a tone of survival, this is a fast paced and quite unpredictable book. Dragons are nearing extinction, and much of this story will reverberate with a too true realism regarding endangered species. Action abounds as the young dragon Auron finds himself attacked by humans, elves, dwarves, and even a pack of wolves. The dragon is no persecuted innocent, though, and I often felt torn between two understandable perspectives: Auron's simple and reasonable desire to live and his attackers' fear of an intimidating predator. Be warned that this book has its share of gore. Auron has to fight for his life with fresh ferocity in almost every chapter, and Knight describes these altercations in vivid detail - some battles more unpleasant than others. A few lines made me cringe and look away from the page as though that might clear the picture in my mind. I'm no fan of violence but I still relished this book, probably because the gore wasn't gratuitous. The many brawls and their striking description seem more intentioned to emphasize how cruel the world can be to an animal (or any outsider).

Much of fantasy builds atop previously existing legends and folklore. Knight certainly cannot claim to have created the dragon, but what an author can claim is a unique take on a favorite theme. I'm always intrigued to see how writers incorporate or twist the already established understandings of fantastical creatures. Knight touches on all of the main assumptions about dragons that come to mind. Early on, the reader learns that dragons hoard gold and gems, because eating such minerals is necessary for the growth and strengthening of their scales. Later, dragons' tendency to kidnap and hold maidens hostage is addressed in a way that is both simple and convoluted at the same time.

I enjoyed the entire book, but found the ending distinctly exceptional, and endings are high up on my list of what I value most about a book. Without specific spoilers, Auron comes to the realization that dragons, so rooted in instinct and tradition, must adapt. This is a humans’ (and elves' and dwarves') world now, and the choices are: adapt or die.

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