Book review: Dragonseed by James Maxey
(disclaimer: James Maxey nicely gave me a free ARC of Dragonseed so I could blog about it. Also, this will by necessity contain some spoilers about Dragonforge and Bitterwood.)
Dragonseed is the third book in the Dragon Age sequence, Maxey’s postapocalyptic world where dragons rule over mankind. It takes over from the events in Dragonforge: the humans are now the undisputed masters of Dragonforge, which they plan to use as a powerbase to wage war on the dragons. And they now have a great advantage: their master smith, Burke, has just learnt to make gunpowder, a weapon that could change the face of the war.
Meanwhile, the dragon hierarchy, thrown into chaos by the death of the king, now finds itself leaderless, but the cunning dragon Vulpine is not one to leave power ungrasped–and he will not let himself be encumbered by scruples over the fates of the human slaves.
In the midst of this turmoil, Jandra, the human raised by dragons, still seeks to bring both races to an understanding. However, she finds herself diminished by the theft of her genie, the device which allowed her to wield supernatural powers and gain respect as a witch–and she desperately needs to find it, even if it means going back to a very dangerous place…
Dragonseed sees the return of most of the cast of Dragonforge, and adds a few newcomers such as the escaped slave Shay, and Anza, Burke’s mute daughter (aka killing machine). As always, Maxey handles his cast of diverse characters with great skill, moving from the dark resignation of Bitterwood to Shay’s desperate will to survive, and to Jandra’s ambiguous lust for power.
The world is, as always, fascinating. The post-apocalyptic setting makes it hover on the cusp between science and fantasy: though there are dragons, the magic makes sense, and is not simply used to get out of scrapes. And I was glad to see more of Atlantis, the city of posthumans, which made for an intriguing change when compared with the mostly-medieval setting of the rest of the books.
But what I loved about the previous books, and that I still love about this one, is Maxey’s willingness to handle hard questions about species survival, humanity’s worthiness and the value of faith and religion. Those were themes already explored in Bitterwood and Dragonforge, and I’m glad to see that they’re back, and that Maxey handles them gracefully, without sinking into too much preachiness. Every character has a different view on the matter–and, in the end, it’s only the fanatics such as Prophet Ragnar who might be proved wrong.
If I had one complaint to make, it’s the same one as I made for Dragonforge, ie that there was a little too much going on: with so many point-of-view characters and divergent goals, the novel sometimes felt a bit rushed. I got the feeling it could have been a little longer and still have carried his weight–or pruned to achieve the tight focus of Bitterwood.
Anyway, it was a good read and a welcome return to my favourite characters. Probably best read in sequence, as it’s pretty tightly linked to the previous ones: it will make sense on its own, but not be as rich and fulfilling.
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