I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Dragon Engine – see my review here. It was a rip-roaring, if often dark and violent adventure where our band of heroes are flawed and all too vulnerable. Remic successfully balanced the grimdark elements with a vibrant charm that made this a memorable read – would Twilight of the Dragons continue the magic?
During a recent dwarf civil-war deep under the Karamakkos Mountains, the magick-enslaved dragonlords have broken free from centuries of imprisonment and slaughtered tens of thousands throughout the Five Havens before exploding from the mountain and heading in fire and vengeance for the lands of Vagandrak. Two once-noble war heroes of Vagandrak – Dakeroth and his wife Jonti Tal, an archer and scholar, the Axeman, the White Witch and a Kaalesh combat expert find themselves in a unique position: for they have discovered the ancient dragon city of Wyrmblood, and a thousand unhatched dragon eggs. Dakeroth and his companions must work with their enemies, Skalg and the Church of Hate, in order to bring down the dragonlords and save the world of men and dwarves. But there is no bartering with these ancient dragons; for they seek to hatch their eggs and rebuild the cruel Wyrmblood Empire of legend.
Actually, there are two sets of heroes – our original band of plucky adventurers, roaming around in the underworld domain of the dwarves and another set of equally violent adventurers who find themselves pitted against the lethal dragons. Is it confusing? Yes. The narrative is fractured with a fair amount of flashback as our hapless protagonists ricochet from one nasty situation to another – and Remic has not allowed for any bonding moment, providing a chance for us to reconnect with the protagonists who featured in The Dragon Engine, other than a few scattered recollections. I would have liked more than a hurried nod to the lovely scene at the start of the first book, where the whole hare-brained scheme is hatched out, reminding us why we care about these characters and their initial reasons for getting into this mess. As it was, I struggled to recall my connection with the original band of marauders – apart from anything else, those dragons are far too distracting.
The destructiveness and sheer power of Remic’s dragons is vividly described – to the extent that we are in the head of a small girl moments before she is crunched into small pieces. Far more enjoyable is one of our fighting band’s frantic efforts to injure or at least slow down on of the dragons by engaging her in conversation in an attempt to divert her before launching an attack. For me, that single storyline managed to recapture some of the charisma evident throughout The Dragon Engine. It’s not that this is a bad book – but that was a really exceptional adventure romp. While this one has plenty mayhem and violence, featuring many of the characters established in the first book, the humour and charm isn’t so evident. For me, this meant the constant swearing graunched and I winced at some of the more bloodily graphic battle scenes. The writing isn’t as smooth or accomplished, either.
That said, do I still want to know what happens next? Oh yes – Remic once more manages to take the story off into a completely different direction right at the end, leaving me fascinated as to what happens next. I just hope that in the next book he manages to find the rhythm that made The Dragon Engine such an exciting, memorable read.