A book with dragons! 😊 Since completing Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series, Emily at Embuhleeliest (my buddy-reader in all things Hobb) and I have been searching for a long, chunky fantasy series to get stuck in. Dragon Wing was the first book we decided to try in our search for a new series to read. But although it started out pretty good, it fell flat for me toward the end.
Death Gate Cycle, book 1
Ages ago, sorcerers of unmatched power sundered a world into four realms — sky, stone, fire, and water — then vanished. Over time, magicians learned to work spells only in their own realms and forgot the others. Now only the few who have survived the Labyrinth and crossed the Death Gate know of the presence of all four realms — and even they have yet to unravel the mysteries of their severed world…
In Arianus, Realm of Sky, humans, elves, and dwarves battle for control of precious water — traversing a world of airborne islands on currents of elven magic and the backs of mammoth dragons. But soon great magical forces will begin to rend the fabric of this delicate land. An assassin will be hired to kill a royal prince — by the king himself. A dwarf will challenge the beliefs of his people–and lead them in rebellion. And a sinister wizard will enact his plan to rule Arianus–a plan that may be felt far beyond the Realm of Sky and into the Death Gate itself. (Goodreads)
I didn’t expect much when I picked this up. I was just looking for a good series to get stuck in, preferably one with dragons, which the cover of this book promises.
The story takes place in the realms of Arianus, where lands float in the air and people travel from one island to another either on dragons, which are ensorcelled to do their rider’s bidding, or on dragonships, which are made using dragon skin. Water is scarce in the mid and high realms of Arianus. It hardly rains in those realms, and whatever water there is quickly soaks into the peculiar stone the land is made up of called coralite.
Both humans and elves, who are often at battle against each other, live in the mid realm. Elves travel on their dragonships through the constant storms of the lower realm to collect water from the odd Gegs (dwarves) who live on the island Drevlin and manage a peculiar machine called the Kicksey-winsey, a constantly working machine so noisy and loud that the Gegs fear silences. The Gegs think of the elves as gods. However, humans sometimes attack the elves’ dragonships to steal water. In the high realm resides the human wizards, who ascended there after the Sartans (powerful beings) left. Many in the mid realm think of the high realm as some sort of heavenly place.
The first character we spend substantial time with is Hugh the Hand, a human and a notorious assassin who was brought up amongst an order of monks who serve the dead (I guess). He’s saved from a public death and hired by the human king, Stephen, to assassinate the prince, a little kid called Bane. Hugh can’t help wondering why the king would want his own kid dead, but he doesn’t mind doing the job, although Bane quickly grows on him making the job a lot harder than Hugh expected. Later, Bane’s chamberlain, the clumsy but mysterious Alfred, pops up and joins them.
Through a series of hiccups and mistrust, the three crash-land on Drevlin and meet up with Limbeck, an odd Geg who questions his people’s peculiar beliefs, and Haplo, a mysterious fellow who has a dog. The characters all work together to escape the lower realm and answer a call from the high realm.
Overall, Dragon Wing was an interesting read. It took a while for me to get into it because I wasn’t feeling the tone of Hugh’s parts early on, but Limbeck’s parts easily hooked me. The humor and slight silliness in them had a charm that reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.
I’ve never before encountered a fantasy world like this with floating islands and all that, so I was drawn in by the world too. And although the story doesn’t focus much on the dragons, they fascinated me as well. Apparently, these dragons are ensorcelled into being tame enough to ride, so they aren’t often allowed to sleep unless a powerful wizard is close by to reinforce the spell since it can wear off while the beast sleeps. These dragons are treated as mere beasts when ensorcelled into tameness, but they are intelligent creatures. I’d have liked to learn more about them.
Of the characters, Limbeck and Alfred interested me the most. Limbeck because of his innocence, curiosity, and optimism which made him endearing, and Alfred because of his mysteriousness. By the end of the story, I was made even more curious about Alfred due to what we learn about him. Limbeck became a favorite by the end, but I didn’t like who Haplo said he became in the epilogue. A side character who really stood out to me as well was Limbeck’s wife/girlfriend, Jarre, who pushed Limbeck to start a revolution among the Gegs and helped to sustain it.
Although I enjoyed reading much of the story (mostly the parts about the Gegs or from a Geg’s POV), the later parts went a bit downhill for me before falling flat. I think it starts when the characters get to the high realm and meet up with the evil wizard Sinistrad and his wife Iridal, who were both weak characters to me. There were some inconsistencies in those later chapters that threw me off, and sometimes there was a weird tone shift. I just didn’t like those last chapters much.
Chances are Emily and I will continue on with this series. This first book wasn’t bad, but the way it ended didn’t make me optimistic or excited for how the next book in the series might be.
Started out fine, got interesting, but weakened and fell flat by the end.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass