Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars richly detailed fantasy that explores new ground, 27 Jan 2009
This review is from: Dragon in Chains (Paperback)
This gorgeously written book is the first part of a new fantasy trilogy which draws on medieval China for its inspiration. It's an alternate universe China, of course, and one of the ways in which it's alternate is that magic is real, if largely subtle. Subtle enough that some characters do not realise that the magic is there. Even the dragon of the title is a background menace in this first book, thought of as myth by the people who don't live in her territory, although she's a key part of one of the main plot threads.

That's plot threads, plural. One of the joys of the book is that there are multiple plot threads, skillfully balanced by a writer who knows how to use them to create a complex story with several distinctive characters. All of these threads converge on Taishu, a remote island on the edge of empire. On the physical edge, at least. Taishu may seem remote and insignificant to most, but it is the source of the jade that underpins the power of the Jade Throne and the Emperor who sits on it. He who holds Taishu holds the empire, in a very real sense, and Taishu is about to become the centre of more than one conflict.

These could all easily become a cliched story, but here they are in the hands of a master storyteller. Fox weaves them together to make a multi-layered story where subtle clues are laid well in advance, creating an "oh, of course!" as the hints finally slot together to make the full picture. It's no surprise that this works so well, as "Daniel Fox" is the pseudonym of an award-winning writer with a depth of experience in both crime fiction and fantasy. The world he has created is strongly grounded in reality, but has magic added, and the consequences of that are woven into the world he shows, rather than the magic being thrown in with no thought for how it might affect things. This world and its characters are described in beautiful and beautifully controlled prose. The result is a richly detailed fantasy that explores new ground rather than treading well-worn paths.

Dragon in Chains is quite definitely the first part of a single story, but there is enough plot, and intermediate resolution of various plot threads, to make the book a satisfying read in its own right rather than merely a cliffhanger designed to get you to keep buying the series. This is a complex and enticing dark fantasy that is well worth the wait for the next part
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