Posted on March 10, 2008 by Monica Valentinelli
Book One of the Age of Fire
Written by EE Knight
When I say that I’ve read a lot of fantasy novels over the years, I mean that there was a time in my life where I was reading about the equivalent of a book a day. As a lightning fast reader, I’ve read everything from C.S. Friedman, Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman to Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore, Melanie Rawn and Tad Williams. Included in that bucket of work, were novels I picked based on their size and whether or not there were several books that followed in a series. After a while, I got burnt out on traditional fantasy (with the exception of a few authors) simply because I got tired of the formula. A waif-like character (male or female) ends up saving the world time and time again, but not before becoming ungodly powerful in the way that only fantasy characters can.
If you think about the fantasy genre in general, I draw a line in the ink between “traditional” and “contemporary” fantasy. Traditional defines the tropes and contemporary often redefines them. Dragon Champion is a work that I would consider contemporary fantasy. Told from a dragon named Auron’s point-of-view, the novel begins with an in-depth look into the dragon “race” of this world. Knight takes traditional “tropes” into consideration and re-invents them by blending colors of dragon archetypes into their physiology.
Red, Gold, Bronze and Blue,
To my lord, I shall be true.
Copper, Silver, Black and White,
Who will win my mating flight?
Dragon anatomy, shared “mind-pictures,” parent dragons instructing their dragonelles and other subtle touches open the novel quickly and efficiently. By the end of chapter two, you have a pretty good idea of why it’s so unusual that Auron survived; by chapter five, you wonder if he can. Auron’s plight is not just because he has a thin hide, easily susceptible to arrows and swords or because he’s perceived as weak within his own kind, it’s because his education is cut short by the invasion of his family’s caves through an act of betrayal.
The heart of this story is about how Auron views, interacts with, and changes his unfamiliar world in order to reunite with his own kind or whoever might be left of his family. Between discovering who he is and what he can do, to teaming up with characters like Djer the Dwarf and Heiba, a human girl, Auron’s sense of justice, morality and courage shape the story. I feel that this theme of self-discovery broadens the scope of readers that might be attracted to this book to that ever-elusive “young adult” audience.
There are several things I liked about Dragon Champion, one of which was the fact that there really wasn’t a roving band of adventurers on a quest. I really enjoyed the attention to detail, it felt as if Knight had spent a lot of time developing Auron and his dragon race, so there weren’t really any points where I caught myself thinking, “Would a dragon really feel that way?” I liked the prose; direct, clean, edgy and fresh. As a result, the setting and the additional cast of characters never seemed like an “add-on” to Auron’s plight. When you see the world through Auron’s eyes, it feels familiar and approachable, which is a technique that works for this kind of a story.
The only thing I didn’t like about the novel was the pacing. I’m the type of reader that wants to be sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what is going to happen next. Admittedly, Dragon Champion is not that kind of a book, so my desire for a faster pace would (no doubt) change the plot and scope of the book entirely. Since this is the first book in a series, there was a lot of necessary behind-the-scenes plot building. Beneath the over-arching plot lies a sequence of events, people, and places that I expect will be further fleshed out in the second book entitled, Dragon Avenger.
For those of you who have enjoyed the movie “Dragonheart,” I think you’d really get into Auron’s character because the point-of-view is really well done. I’d like to stress that this is a contemporary fantasy novel that appears to avoid the “epic” reach and traditional structure that we’ve read so many times. So if you’re tired of reading the same, tired fantasy stories over and over again, I would definitely give Dragon Champion a try.
Review by Monica Valentinelli