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The Shadow of Black Wings (The Year of the Dragon, Book 1) Kindle Edition
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So you have Bran, whom we first meet as a student who is virtually finished on his course to be a dragon rider. We have a fairly boring interaction with a bully and then Bran graduates from his class and then has the summer to work out what he intends to do with his life. He reads the logs of his grandfathers journey to the orient (Japan under a different name) and this is part of the set up to what Bran will be doing in the future.
Sato is a Japanese girl trained as a samurai. She is extremely good with blade and elemental magic. She finds Bran and hides him from the authorities. It is clear that when the story actually starts that these two are going to be the hero and heroine.
However this story stops just about there. We have no idea what the problem that will trouble these two actually is. Another review called this a massive cliffhanger, I would rather say that the whole book is just a tantaliser hoping to draw you far enough into the world that you will ignore that you have just read a whole book and the story doesn't really start. This annoys me. Having just read a really good series where each book is a proper enclosed story underneath a whole series arc I find that a single story over several books which is just abruptly stopped is less likely to make me want to buy the next book and more likely to make me disparage the author.
Don't get me wrong. The book is well written as far as it goes. However this book is not a story, it is just part of the story. Don't read this if you like to come away from a book even partially emotionally fulfilled.
If there was one drawback to this exciting story of Bran the young dragon rider's first voyage to the East, it's that it ends on such a powerful cliffhanger. Fast-paced and fun, I can't wait to see how this story develops. Beg, steal or borrow a copy. Or, you know, download it. It's all good.
Its an alternate Victorian history story with magic and dragons and steampunk technology.
Let's start with the not so good:
- There are some occasions where the wrong words have been used. To be fair to the author, this book is written in English but he's from Poland and there are only a few (probably about half a dozen). It's a minor niggle really but it is one of the things that stopped this being a 5 star review. These sort of mistakes really pull me out of the story... so I had to mention it.
- There is a large break in the tale, or at least that's what it feels like to me, between the time something that occurs to the protagonist and him reappearing in the story. However, and this is the bit I didn't like, I get the impression that the gap between the event and his reappearance is meant to be instantaneous. It feels disjointed to me so I struggled with it for a spell.
- There are so many words to learn. I found myself repeating character and place names - a lot - to get them into my head. And that was every time I saw the words written.
What did I like:
Solid world building. I can relate to the world but I know its not where I am from, even though really it is. I can see where the inspiration for each country, and their associated populace came from.
Great characters that I could visualise every time they were focused upon in the story.
Intriguing take on a magic system with solid mechanics behind it.
Dragons! (that's all I'll say on the matter)
I really enjoyed reading this book and I have already recommended it to friends.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Calbraith has researched and incorporated actual historical detail, integrating it so neatly into the narration and story that it is a near seamless transition between familiar, actual and fantastical. This daunting yet necessary task could detract from the well-crafted world we are immersed in, yet the details only serve to further the story and character development. Multi-layered characters, with Bran particularly well balanced: cockiness and brashness of youth counterbalanced with his realization that he doesn't have all the answers, and perhaps is not invincible. When he moves forward, despite his doubts, readers are left with the understanding that his decisions are well thought through, mostly.
The book is a terrific start for a series, giving us plenty of untouched upon elements early in the first that are not addressed again, and a bit of an open end for Bran. It has the flavor of other high-fantasy books that I have read, engaging and unique with characters that you can find likable and interesting, and just enough of a mysterious twist to keep you wondering what next. I'm curious (and excited) to see the next in the series.
I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review for Full Moon Bites tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
In addition, while the political intrigue was interesting, as well as the historical throwbacks, I really wasn't impressed with the magic system(s?). I cannot honestly tell you how magic works in this book, just that apparently there is magic and there are different traditions of magic that only work well in some places.
And (this isn't too much of a spoiler since you pick up on it within the first chapter) why is Bran so loyal to Emrys? I really saw nothing that would lead me into a greater understanding of this dynamic--not to mention it wasn't made clear immediately why that is so abnormal. I honestly thought at first he was ridiculously loyal to Emrys because that was the dragon he'd been stuck with and the only dragon he'd ever have, so they needed to back each other up.
Overall, I was a bit dissatisfied with this book and likely will not read the second, unless I find it for free.