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Review of King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott

King's DragonThis is the first book in the Crown of Stars series and was first published back in 1997 – a few years after Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series got started.

The story is pretty standard fantasy fare: two young adults (in separate locations) embark on journeys that take them away from their homes and thrust them into the affairs of kings and sorcerers. With the one character, Alain (there is a French theme to some of the names), there is a sort of messianic overtone: he is chosen by the Lady of Battles for some purpose she can’t be bothered to explain. With the other, Liath, there is a rather darker plot: she taken as a slave by a churchman of noble blood, unsuccessfully seduced by him, then brutalised when she refuses to give him what he wants.

These two lives don’t meet until the end of the book (and even then not quite), but the events that transpire around them are interlinked to form the overall story. There are two other viewpoint characters, but Liath and Alain are the main protagonists. The book’s title, King’s Dragon, refers to the king’s bastard son and leader of an elite band of warriors – the Dragons. He is clearly central to the series’ plot, but he isn’t a viewpoint character.

The writing is pretty mediocre. There’s lots of telling instead of showing, and providing interpretation for the reader. The world is not the most inspiring, being a simulacrum of mediaeval Europe, but it is enlivened by the centrality of the religion to people’s lives (a facet often absent from fantasy) and the preponderance of bastards and concubines – at least among the nobility.

Despite its mediocrity in almost every aspect, King’s Dragon is reasonably engaging. I would say it’s better than Magician by Raymond E Feist, but not as good as the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. And I would further say that it’s not good enough for me to want to read the second book, Prince of Dogs.

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