by J.D. Oswald
The book starts out with rather flowery language (but done well) in the Prologue and soon sets up an almost cliché fantasy story; There's a priest, a dying princess and the birth of a prince who must be hidden among common people in true Arthurian fashion. It is very atmospheric and the Welsh basis for names of both people and places as well as for some story elements, including Grym lines and the story of Gog and Magog from Welsh folklore.
However, on the same day is the birth of a dragon. Some of the characters in the story are talking dragons who have a magical secret village. One of them is a healer whom the human characters go to. Oh and let's not forget that there was an eclipse on the day of these two births.
So having set up a human-dragon symbiosis, the story goes on with the death of an old dragon and a brilliant quote about the meaning of death, which you'll have to read to find out. There is slow world building and a little confusion in the early chapters where it isn't entirely clear about the relationship between the humans and the dragons, but this is soon rectified and fully explained. I did have the constant feeling that I'd missed something or should know who someone is when I didn't.
From there the story bounces between the exploits of Errol, the secret prince, and Benfro, the young dragon that men must not know about because it is forbidden for dragons to breed. Young dragons actually have games to practice learning how to avoid detection by humans, much of it based in magic.
We also get warrior priests and a little info dumping at the beginning of chapters. Overall I didn't think the flow was very good, yet the story held my interest anyway. My review copy still had a few typos jumping out, but presumably these will be corrected before the final release as well as some over use of commas that made some of the prose jerky.
In some ways the story line seemed contrived, yet there were some original elements like the dragons' spiritual essence being retained in their jewels. I had mixed feelings about the story. In some ways it was child-like with anthropomorphic dragons who hunt with bows and arrows and eat bread and cheese for lunch, in other ways it was a good fantasy story that an older fantasy fan could enjoy with a lot of magic and a set up that, well, could have led to an interesting connection between the prince and the young dragon had the story gone that far.
There were a few niggles; a country accent that wasn't quite right and a lack of mystery about who poisoned the princess, which is suddenly revealed in the story with no preliminary build up. The biggest one though is that it stops suddenly with the story unfinished. Obviously we are meant to buy the next book to continue.
I much prefer series stories to have resolution at the end of each story, but the writing was good for the most part and despite the niggles, I did enjoy it.