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4.5 out of 5 stars
Dreamwalker: The Ballad of Sir Benfro Book One
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2014
This book has many of the elements you would expect in a fantasy novel: feuding royals, political struggles between different orders, magic, magic swords of light (yay!), dragons, love, villains, heroes and sinister forces moving in the background.

Two things set it apart for me. The first is how little fighting there is and I mean that in a good way. I’ve read a lot of books lately that rely on constant combat to provide the thrills but here it is the characters and the story that draw you in.
The second is the pace of the book. It felt gentle, giving time for me to get attached to the characters and their lives before messing with them. And once it had me, I read through to the end in one sitting.

It was also nice to see Welsh names making an appearance.

If you fancy something a bit more enchanting and a little less grim, I’d recommend giving it a look.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
James Oswald may already be known to some of you good folks out there in reader land. He writes crime fiction and I’ve heard enough good things to ensure I will be checking some of it out very soon. In the meantime however, under the pen name J D Oswald, he is embarking on his first foray into the realms of fantasy. Time to check out the opening book in The Ballad of Sir Benfro, Dreamwalker.

Born on the same day, Benfro and Errol are, on the face of it, entirely normal. Okay, Benfro is a dragon, but apart from that, entirely normal. Separated shortly after birth, their parallel lives mirror one another. Most of the plot takes place during their formative years and the reader gets insight into how both young males are in fact far from normal and are destined to be important figures. I enjoyed the uncertainty, the naivety and innocence that exists within them both. Like all youngsters, they dream of adventure and escape, of travelling the land, but neither of them are quite ready to take that leap into the unknown. You do however, get brief glimpses of the adults that they are going to become. It’s always a delight when an author shares the gradual evolution of their characters directly with readers.

Sadly Benfro and Errol’s idyllic childhoods are set to end abruptly. A military order of warriors, and their fanatical leader, have set a diabolical plan into motion. His aim? To deal with the dragon issue once and for all. Using the subtle arts and the ability to dreamwalk, the devilish Inquisitor Melyn is controlling everyone from the royal family to some of the more easily lead dragons in Benfro’s village. I felt the urge to boo him loudly every time he turned up.

One of the highlights of the novel is Oswald’s vivid depictions of the dragons and the structure of their society. Benfro lives in a magically isolated village and the author takes time to give all of the dragons who live there a genuine depth of personality. The writing also drops some tantalizing hints regarding the history of dragon kind throughout the rest of the Twin Kingdoms. The tiny village could easily be viewed as a microcosm of dragon society as a whole.

I’ll be honest, I’m a great believer in going with my gut reaction to any book. In this case my gut tells me that Dreamwalker is something a little bit special, a cut above the norm. Within a handful of pages I was completely engrossed. There are authors who write books, and then there are others who tell tales. It’s those storytellers who are my favourites, they’re the ones who really know how to craft their work. J D Oswald certainly falls squarely into this second category. Dreamwalker is a beautiful story, well told, that has a timeless quality about it. Everything a fantasy fan could ever want is woven into the warp and weft of the narrative. This is the sort of book I want to sit down and read to people on a stormy night in front of a roaring fire. I want to see the look on their faces as each and every listener becomes utterly rapt in the unfolding scenes. This is the sort of fiction that once you’ve read you feel compelled to share. A perfect beginning to what I hope proves to be a perfect series.

I don’t use this term lightly, but in this case I’m extremely happy to, I am in little doubt that Dreamwalker is destined to become a classic. Blending the traditional with the modern to create a wonderfully unique interpretation of dragon mythology, with a distinctly Welsh flavour, I have a sneaking suspicion that Benfro and Oswald are set to become firm fan favorites. I could see myself revisiting this magical little story again and again.

Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It's been quite a while since I read the first book in a series and immediately wanted to start the second. I love it when that happens, but it seems to be occurring less and less these days. Enter Dreamwalker by J.D. Oswald, a book that I knew basically nothing about until an unexpected review copy arrived at my house. As soon as I saw that it was about dragons, I knew it was my kind of thing - I've always been a big fan of dragons and am forever looking for them in fiction. I'm very glad to say that Dreamwalker has exceeded all expectations and completely blown my mind. I'm so excited about it!

Dreamwalker is about the Twin Kingdoms and all that inhabit it. There's young Benfro, a fourteen-year-old dragon kitling living with a settlement of dragons; a young boy called Errol, with a lineage more important than anyone knows, and a royal family with a history steeped in dragon slayings. Everything is changing in the Twin Kingdoms: no-one is safe, the dragons know danger is on the horizon and the men are all too happy to be the cause of it. Benfro and Errol each have a part to play in the coming days, but neither of them know the true extent of their purpose.

There's much, much more to this story, but to talk about it would be to spoil it. It's fantasy fiction at its best, with beautiful writing and some of the most compelling characters I've encountered in all my twenty-seven years of reading. Oswald has brought every single one of them to life within these pages, whether they be dragon or man, good or evil. They have personalities and traits befitting those of reality, with treachery, trust and power all being at the forefront.

Benfro is the best fictional dragon I've met so far, with his inquisitiveness and bravery being his greatest attributes. He's learning how to be a real dragon through magic and pure knowledge, and has some truly wise dragons on his side, teaching him whatever they can. His mother, Morgwm the Green, is another character that stands out high above everyone else, and is another of my favourites. I love the relationship she has with Benfro, which is very much one of a parent and child but with added respect and understanding. Morgwm knows Benfro has an important part to play in the future of their race, and it's her job to ready him for what's to come.

On the other side of the coin, there's Errol, a normal boy who finds himself thrust into a world he doesn't want to belong to. His parentage comes into question, loyalties are tested and yet he still thinks for himself and knows what's right and wrong. He has an affinity with dragons for reasons unbeknownst to him and, like Benfro, he too has an important role in the conflicts between dragons and men.

Oswald has perfectly created a world of magic and fantasy, a world where dragons are hated and live in fear of being found. These noble creatures have so much knowledge and power, which of course men just can't handle. It's fascinating to read about the history and lore of the Twin Kingdoms, especially with extracts at the beginning of each chapter. There's so much backstory to include, and these historical extracts are a brilliant way of supplying all the necessary information without overloading the reader or slowing the narrative. I can't wait to delve deeper and find out more!

It's interesting to note that the first three books in this series were originally self-published a few years ago. Now traditionally published by Penguin, this first book is in shops and on shelves, ready to meet new readers like me. It's YA-friendly even though it's shelved with adult fantasy, and fans of The Inheritance Cycle and Game of Thrones are sure to love it. I'm really glad they're all being published in paperback (The Rose Cord and The Golden Cage follow in November and January), because without that I honestly don't think I would have heard of this series, never mind read it. As it stands, Dreamwalker is one of the best books I've read this year and I'll be buying a finished copy to keep. It looks like the age of dragons has finally arrived, and if anyone wants me in the next few days I'll be reading the second book in the series, The Rose Cord. No disturbances, please.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2014
I enjoyed James Oswald's first crime novel so I knew I was going to get a well written, thoughtfully crafted fantasy story and was looking forward to reading Dreamwalker. I was quickly caught up in the individual stories of the dragons and humans especially Benfro and Errol whose lives intersected briefly at birth and seem destined to again.
The first in a series of five books (the first three are currently available) it is naturally the case that we are only part way through the story of our heroes by the end of the first, however the book delivers plenty of adventure and enchantment in its build up to what will happen next.
Gentle and captivating with a building sense of tension this is a fantastic start to what promises to be a brilliant and delightful series. There are some lovely takes on dragon mythology in here too. Strongly recommend.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2012
I really enjoyed reading this book despite a feeling that I was reading a children's book ... Perhaps it is? Anyway I was drawn into this page turning world that mixes myth and magic with a new twist. An enjoyable read that demands nothing of the reader except to enjoy it!
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on 6 August 2015
The Plot
Dreamwalker is the story of Benfro, a young dragon who lives in a forest village hidden from man who in the past have persecuted them, though most now believe dragons to be merely myth. Alongside the story of Benfro, we follow Errol who wants to learn and initially wants to become a part of the one of the three religious orders, only to find out that there may be more to his story.

My Opinion
I loved this book, I loved the tapestry of characters (good and evil) and how they wove together. I also enjoyed the pace of the book, which for some may feel a bit slow. I felt this only added to the layering of anticipation and building of the characters, especially the dragons, whose nature was reflected in the storytelling aspect. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment and reuniting with my favourite dragon kitling!

This will appeal to Robin Hobb fan especially.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2012
I really enjoyed James Oswalds crime series and was in need of something complely different andthis is wonderful. It is well written and so very unusual in its portrayal of the main characters, no stereo typical dragons here. So pleased I tried this book....many more please.
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A weird and unusual story and one that whilst following some of the many used tropes in the fantasy genre, concentrates more on the characters than on the overall arc, allowing you to get to know them before the adventures really begin. Its definitely something quirky and whilst at times it feels like its poking its tongue at the genre, its one that not only keeps you glued due to caring about the characters but wondering how the tale would end up.

Overall its definitely something different and whilst I wasn’t that enamoured of the “human” characters the dragons filled my imagination enough to see what occurs next for them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2014
[This book was provided to me gratis by the publisher, Penguin, and for that I thank them. I also thank NetGalley, for existing. Without them, I'd have fewer than 80 books in my Kindle's TBR folder. The paperback edition of Dreamwalker is out August 14th 2014, but the ebooks are available now.]

J D Oswald is the evil doppelgänger of crime writer James Oswald, author of the Inspector Tony McClean novels of which I've read the first and don't rule out continuing with. Dreamwalker is the first of his epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro; as with his others, Oswald self-published the series and was picked up by a trade publisher following much solo success.

I'm not a big fantasy reader but I've always suspected that's because I haven't been matched with the right author - I don't care for the po-faced pseudo-mythology of Tolkien, and Game of Thrones' endless chair-wrangling didn't capture me enough to have taken the second one for a whirl yet. Dreamwalker, though, is great.

It opens on a dark and stormy night (yes, I know, it doesn't sound great on paper) with a priest, Father Gideon, hustling an unconscious (and fairly pregnant) princess to a trustworthy healing woman. Who is a dragon. With an egg.

A few pages later and we're one fulfilled prophecy closer to a tale of an Heir Who Doesn't Know It. It's okay though, because while we have that, we mainly have the story of Benfro, occupier of the aforementioned egg.

Initially it's a bit confusing - Benfro is a dragon, he lives with his mother close to a dragon village. He learns to hunt, has a bow, and lives in a house. My logistics circuits struggled. It's only when Benfro meets his first human - in what was one of the best bits of the book for me - that we get any idea of how things work. It's not much of an idea, but once I'd got used to Benfro the character I didn't actually care about being pedantic. Next week, tune in for a wolf eating the sun.

I *loved* Benfro. I don't know why, but I found him tremendously endearing. He's 13 years old (which is *nothing* in dragon years), has magical talents he doesn't understand, and is constantly frustrated that his desire to learn is tempered by his mother's (and the other dragon's) caution. Unlike most books with child-age heroes - for instance, Harry Potter - there's no pantomime emotion from the supporting cast.

The narrative also follows Errol, that human heir who doesn't know it, growing up in a small and rural town thinking himself the son of the village healer. He was only intermittently interesting to me as a character, and I didn't care for his friend Martha, the Girl Who Knows More Than You Do And Calls You By Both Names, Jon Snow. However, what happens *to* Errol *is* interesting thanks to the third storyline, that of Inquisitor Melyn and the heir to the throne Errol doesn't know he's entitled to, Princess Beulah

In Gwlad, men have hunted dragons to the point of extinction. Inquisitor Melyn is the head of the High Frydd, an order of warrior priests whose task it once was to complete this mission. Once Beulah reaches the age of majority, she'll stop keeping her father alive and under her authority, the task can be completed. Melyn and Beulah's story is a mix of intrigue and power games, of magic and gods and a hefty dislike of dragons. I *liked* it.

Something else I like is the Welsh flavour. As Tolkien drew on Norse mythology for his world building, Oswald uses Wales - from using place names for his dragon characters (Sir Benfro is the proper name for Pembroke, Ynys Mon is Anglesey, etc) to appropriating legends like those of Gog and Magog. There are lots of things to spot, and it's slyly clever, nudging you in the ribs to see if you get it.

However, Dreamwalker suffers one great weakness: it's not really a book. It's the first 400-odd pages of a book. There's no particular story for any of the characters - they're all just doing their thing to a greater or lesser degree of interesting until the narrative reaches an excellent point for a cliffhanger. Although Books Two and Three in the series are already available (and, like the first, are in the Amazon UK Kindle Summer Sale until September 1st) and I have seen mention of Book Four as being written, it would be tremendously damaging to Dreamwalker if they weren't. Don't let it put you off, but go into it prepared to get the next one immediately.

For me, Dreamwalker worked. Great characters, great world-building, great details in that world building, and some lovely touches of humour. I'm already 20% into the second and will very likely be buying the third before the Kindle sale is over. I'm quite tempted to knock half a star off for that cliffhanger, but I'm also Welsh so am hopelessly biased: 4 stars.
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on 25 January 2015
This is a well written tale of two characters one a boy and one a dragon. There is evil in the form of humans. There is evil in the form of a dragon. There is a well thought out mythology and world. One of the more interesting aspects for me was what happens with dead dragons and this is the cornerstone of the whole series. The magic is consistent and the characters well realised. The only thing stopping me from giving this story 5 stars is the stupidity of some of the characters. I'm thinking particularly of the villagers but some of the actions of others isn't particularly thought out.
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