“Dragon Wing” by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

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.

Genre

Fantasy

Series

Death Gate Cycle, book 1

Pubbed

1990

From Goodreads

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)

My thoughts

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.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

Started out fine, got interesting, but weakened and fell flat by the end.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

(I’M CURRENTLY HOSTING A GIVEAWAY!! ENTER TO WIN A FANTASY NOVEL OF UP TO $30USD.)

17 thoughts on ““Dragon Wing” by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

  1. In one of those odd coincidences I got given the first four books in this series just before I saw your post on this first volume. Handy for me, as now I know not to go in too excited, but this sounds hopeful, nonetheless. Great review! 😄

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  2. I’ve not read this series, but Mr BIP says it’s best to expect your enjoyment to remain about the same (in other words, it doesn’t get any better LOL).

    What are some of your favourite dragon series, if this isn’t one of them?

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    1. Lol! Aww man. I was hoping this one would improve.
      So far, my fav dragon series are Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.

      Like

  3. The aerostat city “havo” in the clouds of venus is “out of this world”
    (literally)
    There’s 20 modules that make up the 1290m by 68m of havo.
    The launcher and receiver take up 590m, but it’s surprisingly spacious in the “city” proper.

    A hive of activity ”
    Apparently,
    at the moment, readying for the transformation down below.

    Like

  4. You know me, I’m always up for some dragons! I like the sound of this but it’s a shame that it fell flat for you. Elements such as the world has me intrigued so maybe one if I see it in the library more than anything else. Great review!

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  5. This sounds pretty interesting. I’ve actually read a couple of books with floating cities, but maybe they got that idea from this book since it’s pretty old!

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  6. It’s always tough when a book ends on a lower note. That’s the last thing we remember about it… If you’re interested in more floating world stories but of a more science fictional nature try Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring. It’s been a long time since I read them, so I don’t know how they’ll hold up, but I really enjoyed them both back then.

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