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review 2017-03-14 07:59
The Dragon Engine
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

The Dragon Engine was my first book by Andy Remic, so I was completely unfamiliar with the world presented in The Blood Dragon Empire. However, since it had a nice old fantasy feel to it, it didn't feel like it was a great loss, or that you should have read the previous series (as I also understood that it features other characters).

Here, we are introduced to a band of war veterans, coming together one final time to steal that one final, huge, treasure. What they don't know is that the Dwarves who said treasure belongs to are not quite as extinct as expected, and they are headed by the main villain Skalg, Cardinal of the Church of Hate.

Indeed, it has been done before, and most certainly, there were some cringe worthy, eye-rolling scenes for sure, but still I mostly enjoyed reading The Dragon Engine. The dynamics between the heroes of the stories was nice, as they felt like old friends. The story was very raw, very dark, which is why I think it will not appeal to everyone. But I for one, am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2015-09-04 22:01
A Grimdark Series That Slaps You Right in the Face!!!
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

If J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin had gotten together to write a grimdark interpretation of The Hobbit, The Dragon Engine would have been what they came up with. Centered upon a quest to dwarven halls filled with mounds of gold and once inhabited by mighty dragons, it is a tale filled with pulse pounding combat, explicit sex, cringe worthy torture, and plenty of vulgar language. Literally, it is a story that gets your attention the simple, old-fashioned way.



For lovers of Andy Remic’s The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, this is a continuation of that series in that The Dragon Engine takes place in the same world several years after those stories. The mad King Yoon is still in control, swimming in absolute depravity and allowing the whole Kingdom of Vagandrak to go to hell. Meanwhile, a group of war heroes from the time of Orlana the Changer have grow bored of their fame and riches and determine to set out on one last, grand adventure together. Their destination the frigid, nearly inaccessible Karamakkos, where legends hold that the ancient Dwarven Lords ruled the Five Havens under the mountains, hoarding untold wealth as well as the three Dragon Heads — jewels claimed to grant everlasting life and great power to those who wield them!


Immediately upon starting this one, a long time reader will see that the main characters here are a bit different than those from the Rage of Kings series. Where Kiki and her friends were some of the most despicable pieces of human filth to ever grace the pages of a grimdark, Remic’s latest group isn’t quite so repugnant. Sure, they are still disgruntled war veterans, even though they are wealthy heroes, and they each have their own issues, but not one of them rivals the drug addicted, serial killer excesses of their predecessors. Rather Beetrax the Axe-Man and his friends struggle with more ordinary issues like growing old, loved one dying, relationships ending, and losing the zest for life.


Since this is begins as a classic quest tale, each of the Beetrax’s group seems designed to fill typical dungeon crawler roles. Beetrax is the damage dealer; Lillith is the healer; Talon is an archer; Dake and Jonti experts with the blade . . . You get the point. But it really isn’t the roles they play that makes Beetrax’s gang so fun to read about. Nope, unlike the Iron Wolves, these guys actually seem like old friends. There is plenty of playful banter. Occasionally their conversations will sparkle with feelings, revealing their past history together and the fragile sides of their nature. Old sorrows from romantic splits or new problems from being together will arise and be explored. Each interaction slowly revealing how close, how devoted these old friends are to one another, no matter the danger to themselves.


Every hero needs a villain however. And in today’s literature, it isn’t satisfactory to have nameless enemies or the shadowy of a dragon lying over the horizon. Nope, readers want to get to know their heroes’ nemesis, experience their evilness, and decide for themselves whether they love or hate this person. And so Andy Remic quickly splits the narrative into Beetrax and his friends quest and the life of one Cardinal Skalg of the Church of Hate, religious leader of the Harborym dwarves.


As you’d expect, the dwarves here are fairly standard fantasy versions: strong, stoic, and prejudiced against outsiders. (Beetrax’s group also believes they are long-extinct, which is why they are on their way to collect their long used and forgotten treasures.) Skalg, however, is an especially vile avatar of his race. Maybe, his maiming, torturing, and killing doesn’t reach Orlana the Changer levels, but he is still a fairly disgusting dwarf, no way around it, willing to rape innocent girls or do anything else to get what he wants. And his bad qualities only grow as the political struggle between himself and King Irlax of the dwarves grow. For, you see, in this kingdom under the mountains, king and cardinal are equal; each tasked with different things, but fated to eternally clash about everything. Skalg and Irlax’s constant bickering and machinations quickly growing into a societal revolution that will see either the crown or the church consumed in its flames.


Once our heroes arrive under the mountains and encounter Skalg’s dwarves is where the grimdark really shows up in our grimdark story, for the initial encounters are graphic, brutal affairs. Cruel, painful, cringe worthy even. In fact, many readers might believe Remic has gone too far in some cases, that these episodes are merely for shock value alone. I can understand why some would feel that way (even if I saw the horrible events fitting into the narrative), and I felt I should, at least, warn prospective readers about this section.


Thereafter follows a deluge of death, destruction, and betrayal as Remic concludes this opening chapter of The Blood Dragon Empire in classic grimdark style. Climatic clashes occur. Combat rages. Characters and civilizations end. And the real meaning of the dragon engine comes into focus, ending this first installment with a cliffhanger that will make grimdark lovers begin clamoring for the next book.


Since beginning to read Andy Remic, I’ve come to appreciate two things about his writing. One, he has a raw, visceral style that slaps you right in the face. No sugar coating the vulgar nature of humanity and the horrors of combat and war. No, they are vividly portrayed upon the pages, daring you to look away. Curse words abound. Buckets of blood and gore are tossed around indiscriminately. And, two, he creates vivid characters that never bore. I don’t always like these guys. Many times I actually despise them and want to personally decapitate them, but they definitely evoke a deep emotional cord with me, which means it is never a chore to flip to the next page.


I’d love to be able to sum The Dragon Engine up into a nice paragraph, but I really can’t. (Hey, I did try at the beginning, right?) This book dug its claws into me on so many levels it is hard to isolate what exactly made it a 4 star novel. Perhaps it was the complex but flawed heroes. Maybe the familiar Hobbit-esque quest morphing into a grimdark nightmare did it. The wonderfully paced story and realistic action definitely entertained. No matter the ingredients though, Remic casted a spell with this one, and if you haven’t experienced his take on grimdark, you really should give this one a try.


Angry Robot and Netgalley provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.

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review 2015-08-25 20:18
Fantasy Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

Although it shares the same world as The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, Andy Remic's first book in The Blood Dragon Empire is an entirely different. While those books were very much high-stakes epic fantasies, complete with massive battles and bloodshed, The Dragon Engine is more of a traditional quest tale - albeit one that subverts the usual tropes.

For starters, our heroes seem to be the typical gang of adventurers - complete with barbarian, archer, cleric, assassin, and more - but they're actually retired war veterans whose quest days are comfortably behind them. As it turns out, one of them is dying of cancer, one is drinking his sorrows away, and several are nursing broken hearts. While all but one would have turned down an adventure based solely on greed, they find a common purpose in seeking out a magical cure for their dying companion.

While you don't need any prior knowledge of the two Rage of Kings novels to enjoy this, fans will be pleased to discover that King Yoon is still in control, and as debauched as ever. He has serious competition for the most over-the-top, scene-chewing villain however, in the form of First Cardinal Skalg, High Priest of the Church of Hate. While the Dwarves here are hearty and stoic, as you'd expect, they're also sadistically prejudiced against the surface, exceptionally cruel, and on the brink of civil war. They're also presumed long-extinct, which poses a challenge for our heroes, who intend to help themselves to their forgotten treasures.

Where the story takes a sharp left turn in terms of both plot and tone is in the second half of the novel, following the heroes arrival beneath the mountain. What began a fun adventures becomes very dark, very quickly, as our heroes are taken captive. Without saying too much, the torture they endure at the hands of the Dwarves is not for the squeamish - it's cruel, it's painful, and it crosses lines that will make some readers very uncomfortable. What's important is that it's not done merely for shock value. Remic has established his heroes, exposed their faults and their flaws, and also pointed out their all-too-human weaknesses. It's important that they be tested, if not broken, if they're to shake off the complacency of retirement and become the heroes that the world needs once again.

The final chapters are some of the most powerful Remic has ever written, with the core conflicts coming together in a climactic clash. It is here that the true significance of the The Dragon Engine comes clear, leaving us with a cliffhanger that poses a dire threat for the world above. It is a very different story arc than the Rage of Kings, but readers who appreciate a more mature, more adult, no-hold-barred kind of fantasy that rivals any big screen R-rated action flick will once again find a lot to enjoy here.

Bring on Twilight of the Dragons!

ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.


Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/08/fantasy-review-dragon-engine-by-andy.html
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review 2015-08-05 23:53
Dungeon crawlin'
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

A copy of this was received from Netgally in return for an honest review.


Everyone who knows D&D-style gaming knows the scenario - the group of adventurers gathering around a table in a tavern, learning about the latest quest that they'll all eventually agree to go on, in search of mysteries, money and fabulous magical items. The only difference is that instead of a young group of adventurers out to make a name for themselves, the crew in The Dragon Engine are already famous, their exploits beginning to drift into history books and awed legend.


Beetrax The Axeman has a map said to lead to the five fabled abandoned dwarven cities in the mountains - a place with lakes of molten silver, heaps of gems and - because sheer money would not be enough for avowed heroes of the realm - three jewels known as The Dragon Heads, rumored to have healing properties and grant immortality. So they're off - the band coming back together for one last grand hurrah before time takes the chance away from them.


I think the fact that this is a set of older heroes, of retired heroes taking one last grand adventure, is one of the things that really made this book sparkle for me. The world is full of strapping teenagers fulfilling their destiny through bravery and perhaps a bit if stupidity. And this book itself sort of pays a compliment to the way the younger generation must come up, and how the older generation can shape them. But the fact that these are adults, full-fledged adults in a fantasy world dealing with personal lives that are looking for more stability, made it stand out.


Our main character, more or less, is the previously mentioned Beetrax, also called Axeman by his friends. He's joined by his best friend Dake (a swordsman), Dake's wife Jonti, aka The Ghost (also a swordsman I believe), Lillith (some sort of magic used, mainly a healer), Sakora (a melee fighter) and Talon (an archer). And the interactions between these characters are one of the best parts of this book. They are people with history, some stated outright and some implied in more subtle ways. To take Beetrax as an example, his friendship with Dake is painted in the way the latter knows when to push the former and when to leave him alone; his history with Lillith is spelled out pretty explicitly; and his past with Talon, I don't even know because they are apparently friends and also apparently kind of hate one another. So who knows, maybe it's just how two very different characters end up finding a common ground, or maybe it's that they already have a common ground. After all, when it comes time to stand and fight, they're the two most likely to do it, the martial heart of an incredibly martial group.


Oh, and speaking of explicitly, just be warned - there's a lot of references to groins in this book. Groins are constantly being grabbed, punched, stabbed, squished or used in more violent or more... pleasurable ways. Lots of groins. You have been warned.


But much as I like the characters, the plot also kept me moving along. It's high-action stuff-never-goes-right stress at its best. By the time the group gets up into the mountains, I had a hard time putting the story down because stuff just kept happening, and I had to know how they would deal with the new stuff, and as they dealt with it, more stuff would happen. Situations get to the point where all seems hopeless, and the solutions, incomplete as they sometimes are (in a good way), never feel cheap.


I also have to give a shout out to the descriptions - all of them, but especially the dwarven cities, painted in a dark cast with their fire pots illuminating the deep delvings, the streets lined with metal trees. The fight scenes are also created to be crystal clear and splashed with gore, so you understand every stab and slash, every lopped off head and split spleen.


There were times I really wanted to give this five stars, but there's a few things that hindered it, for me.


First and biggest is that this isn't really a complete book. I understand that it's part of a series, but it's a pet peeve of mine when an individual book in a series doesn't have its own arc. It almost was - it could have been. There's a decision made nearly at the end which could have wrapped things up nicely, but since the decision had already been discussed and essentially made earlier in the book, it felt like they simply started the next phase of the story and then the book just stopped.


Also, every character pretty much gets a little bit of a backstory flashback. However, some of these feel more integral than others. For instance, when Dake was first introduced, I sort of expected him to be the group's leader, and his flashback, in addition to explaining some of his previous actions, also helped me understand why his bearing made him feel like the leader at first. But for other characters, it doesn't seem to have that much impact or connection to what's going on. Maybe it'll prove more important to later books.


Finally, there's this phenomenon in fanfic called "pair the spares." It's just what it sounds like - the author puts together the characters who have chemistry (in their eyes) and then, if there's two extras, they sort of end up together without having many scenes or showing terribly much chemistry. Others may disagree, but there was a couple in this who seemed to be together out of obligation. Again, I hope later books will justify it more.


Still, this was a highly enjoyable book, well worth reading. It's unapologetically fantasy - The good guys are our heroes, the bad guys are unabashedly evil, and there's adventures and fights and sneaking into people's homes while they're presumably out to take all their stuff. :D I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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