This enjoyable fantasy romp doesn’t pretend to break any moulds, concentrating as it does on dragonkind and their rule of Tasmarin, a plane cut off from all other worlds, where dragons can be dragons and humans can be dinner. It’s a place of islands, forests, mountains and wild oceans, filled with magical denizens. Fionn—the black dragon—calmly tells anyone who will listen that he’s going to destroy the place. Of course he’s a joker, a troublemaker and a dragon of no fixed abode. No one ever believes him—but he’s dead serious.
Others strive to refresh the magics that built this place. However, to be successful they need the combined magical forces of all the intelligent species, to renew the ancient balance and compact. There is just one problem. They need a human mage and dragons systematically eliminated those centuries ago. Their augury has revealed that there is one, and they seek her desperately. Unfortunately, she’s fallen in with Fionn, who really doesn’t want them to succeed. He has his own reasons and dark designs.
The part he hasn’t worked out is that she will affect his plans, too. Chaos, roguery, heroism, theft, love, kidnapping, magic and war follow. And more chaos.
If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones or K.E. Mills, then you’ll enjoy Freer’s brand of adventure and humour. Although, it’s highly likely that you’re already familiar with his writing, as Dave Freer is no newbie. Since his first publication, The Forlorn, in 1999, Freer has co-authored a slew of books with the likes of Eric Flint and Mercedes Lackey.
His experience certainly shows in the slickness of the writing and deft handling of a fairly convoluted plot. The world building is adequate and Freer’s unfussy writing style stands him in good stead during the numerous action scenes, but his strength is in his depiction of Fionn. This character is certainly not a clear-cut ‘good guy’ and I appreciated the ambivalence that the reader shares with the human mage, as she tries to understand exactly what is going on. Although I wasn’t laughing out loud, I certainly smiled and chuckled at the sharp-edged exchanges that give the fantastic adventures an extra dimension. This was, overall, a pleasurable read with plenty of tension that had me reading far into the night to find out what happened.
Any grizzles? My one niggle is that I found the beginning of the book rather confused, with a lot of characters swiftly introduced. My husband had read it first and highly recommended it. Otherwise, I might not have persisted to the point where Meb’s story pulled me in. Given how strongly the plot develops, I do feel that Freer could have ironed out this crinkle. I so nearly didn’t get to complete this engaging book, which would have been a real shame.