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Bitterwood (Dragon Age) Mass Market Paperback – June 26, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Dragon Age Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the distant future—year 1070 of the Dragon Age, to be exact—Earth has been commandeered by dragons, who subject their human inferiors to lives of misery and squalor, either as slaves or pets. Human Bant Bitterwood, consumed with thoughts of vengeance against the dragons he believes murdered his family, goes on a dragon-killing spree that makes him a folk hero among the oppressed human populace. When Bitterwood slays the dragons' crown prince, Bodiel, their king vows to exterminate humankind—the only way he can be certain of victory over Bitterwood. To that end, the king enlists his murderous brother Blasphiel to build a city that will serve as humanity's abattoir. Maxey's world is stunningly imaginative, a landscape both familiar and alien, and packed with thoughtful treats for readers. Skillfully examining themes of faith, martyrdom and heroism, Maxey maintains an unflagging believability even while borrowing some of the most generic elements from science fiction and fantasy. The dragons are wonderfully written, as is the tormented hero; it is almost a shame that the story is so self-contained, as many readers will pine for a whole series of Dragon Age titles. (July)
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About the Author

James Maxey is winner of the Phobos Writing Contest and author of Nobody Gets The Girl. He has attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp, and studied under Harlan Ellison. He lives in Chapel Hill, NC

Product Details

  • Series: Dragon Age
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris; 1 edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184416487X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844164875
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,942,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My mother always said if I kept reading all those comic books novels, they'd warp my brain. She was right! Now I'm an adult who can't stop daydreaming. I eke out a living writing down my demented fantasies of dragons, bulletproof women, talking monkeys, and circus freaks. Write what you know, they say.

I live in Hillsborough, NC with my wife Cheryl. I'm a graduate of Orson Scott Card's Writing Boot Camp and the Odyssey Writing Workshop. In 2015, I was awarded the title of Piedmont Laureate.

My works to date are:


BAD WIZARD. A grown up Dorothy Gale pursues the villainous Wizard across a magical landscape to keep him from conquering the Emerald City once more. It's zeppelins and lightning guns in the Land of Oz!

Superhero novels:
Nobody Gets the Girl (2003): A tale on an invisible man and the women who dig him.
Burn Baby Burn (2011): A love story about two supervillians on a crime spree.
Coming Soon: Cut-Up Girl!: A young girl with the power to create duplicates of herself by cutting off body parts gets swept up into a war between the Lawful Legion (the only superhero team authorized by the government) and Red Line, a team of super-powered vigilantes fighting to save a world that fears them.

My Dragon Age novels:
Bitterwood (2007): In a world where dragons rule over men, the mysterious hunter Bitterwood wages war against the beasts from the shadows.
Dragonforge (2008): When all out war breaks out between dragons and men, the human forces stage a daring attack on the heart of the dragons' military might--the fortress town of Dragon Forge.
Dragonseed (2009): As war takes its toll on both mankind and the dragons, disease and famine threaten to sweep the land. Does salvation lie in the talons of dragon claiming mystical healing powers, who feeds his followers the miraculous dragonseed?
Dawn of Dragons (2013): A prequel to Bitterwood, set 1000 years before the first book, telling the story of Morningstar, the first dragon, as he escapes his creators and makes his way through a world falling apart in the aftermath of the rise of Atlantis.
The Complete Bitterwood. An ebook collection that collects the three core Dragon Age novels, plus Dawn of Dragons, plus the bonus short story "Tornado of Sparks/"

My Dragon Apocalypse novels:
A more lighthearted take on fantasy than my Dragon Age novels, the Dragon Apocalypse novels blend my love of epic fantasy and my love of superheroes. In each book, superpowered adventurers pit themselves against the primal dragons, elemental beings who are manifestations of aspects of nature.
Greatshadow (2012): Twelve superpowered adventurers band together to slay Greatshadow, the primal dragon of fire. But, before they fight the beast, can they first survive each other?
Hush (2012): When the warrior woman known as Infidel journeys to the frozen north in order to fulfil a promise made to a dying friend, she winds up swept into a plot by Hush, the primal dragon of cold, who plans to murder the sun and plunge the world into permanent winter.
Witchbreaker (2012): Centuries ago, the knight known as the Witchbreaker nearly wiped out the cult of witches. Now, a young witch named Sorrow seeks to launch a new golden age of witchcraft by seeking out the legendary queen of witches, Avaris. She's joined on her quest by an amnesiatic warrior who seems to have come from a different time. Could her new closest ally secretly be the long lost Witchbreaker?
Coming in 2016: At long last, the final Dragon Apocalypse novel! Tentatively titled Cinder, Infidel and Stagger must reunite to save their daughter, Wylde. Conceived in the spirit world, Wylde possesses the power to slip between the realms of the living and the dead. When Wylde is told by a hellbound spirit of living men who have wound up trapped in hell, she leads a party gathered by the Church of the Book to rescue the trapped innocents. But one member of her party has a hidden agenda, and seeks the destruction of all reality, that it might be rewritten in accordance with Divine Truth. When the primal dragons unite to destroy mankind to save themselves. Will Stagger and Sorrow rescue their daughter from hell only to return to a world scoured of humanity?

Short story collections:
There is No Wheel (2011): Ten critically acclaimed short stories collected from the pages of Asimov's, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and various anthologies. Dark, weird, funny, and truthful.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a trilogy review, because I found that Bitterwood and Dragonforge did not end satisfactorily on their own. So, if you are going to read one, you should read all three books.

The Pros:
* The book is a fun read. I didn't want my life back when I finished. The prose is clear, easy to follow, and concise, but descriptive.
* The series concluded with an ending that wrapped things up.

The Cons:
* This series is preachy. By that, I mean that it takes an idea and rams it down your throat. It's very clear where Maxey stands in his beliefs because I felt like I'd been hit with an agenda hammer.
* Where other books added twists, this took wild turns. I found myself thinking, over and over again that the series jumped the shark.
* The characters are a bit 2-dimensional and often incredibly close-minded. This is a series about concepts, not about character growth.

I'm giving it a 3 out of 5 simply for how much I enjoyed the prose of this author, not for the story.
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I love dragons, and I also love anthropomorphic dragons, such as the battle-dragons in Christopher Rowley's Bazil Broketail series, the Draconians in the Dragonlance novel The Doom Brigade, and, most especially, in Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw, my favorite novel. I'm always dying to read more such fantasy featuring dragons in a more human light so I had to give this novel a try.

Bitterwood features anthropomorphic dragons but cast in a villainous light as the rulers of an oppressive kingdom that keeps humans as slaves or pets. Some dragons do not like the treatment of humans however and rebel against the status-quo. At the same time, the main character, Bitterwood is a human fighting against the dragons as a rough and tumble guerilla-fighter. Sounds like an interesting set up, right? But unfortunately this is a poorly written novel that makes me wonder how it even got published in the first place.

The story begins with a prologue. The titular Bant Bitterwood is a teenager at this point. His village is holding a yearly ritual in which, in order to appease their goddess, everyone gets naked and all the women are required to have intercourse with any man who desires it. Yep, you heard right. The book opens with a pagan orgy and Bitterwood is a horny teenager. Naturally, he and his girlfriend Recanna try to hook up however their love is forbidden (as all great fantasy romances are required by law to be) because he's not of age. Nevermind the fact she too is still a teenager but apparently only "men" (18 and older) are permitted to have intercourse. Next thing you know, Bitterwood's vicious older brother comes and beats him up and the book explains him as always having been a bully to his younger brother. He then decides to have sex with Recanna, whether she wants it or not.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bitterwood is book 1 in the "Bitterwood" series by James Maxey. The basic premise is humans are enslaved/ruled by a race of powerful dragon-men (whom I basically pictured as the Draconians from the Dragonlance series). The main character is a man named Bant Bitterwood who is striking out against the oppression by killing the dragon-men wherever and whenever he can. He's a ghostly and legendary figure among both the human and dragon races. Renknown for his ferocity, tenacity and cunning against the dragon race. Here are my thoughts on the book;

Pros <Contains Spoilers>

+ Plenty of interesting and likable characters, mostly the dragons however. Every dragon has their own unique personality and Maxey's writing is perfect at describing these characters. Favorites included Shandrazel (the king's scholarly son), Vendevorex (a wizard), Zanzeroth (a grizzled veteran hunter), and Blasphet (the king's murderous brother). I even enjoyed the character of Zeeky (a little girl) and her pet pig. I normally dislike children in fantasy books but her character had an enduring quality. I did also really enjoy Bitterwood's character however was a bit disappointed that he was nearing the end of his life. You want him to be the hero of the book but in actuality he's become nothing more than a bitter old man (pun intended).

+ Well written and fast paced combat scenes.

+ Well described world. Maxey writes the locales with great description making it very easy to picture the story. Although the world starts out rather small you learn through the story that there is much more beyond the boundaries of the initial story.
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A Kid's Review on November 23, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Maxey has an interesting idea for Fantasy. Dragons rule the planet and humans are they slaves. These dragons are not your average Fantasy dragons because they have formed a culture/community and are ruled by a kind. Not your typical fire-breathing, treasure hoarding dragon, right?

The premise for the book is good, but the writing just felt uneven. There were times when the characters felt too contrived and the storyline seemed to be out of control. Too many highs and lows.

Maxey does a good job of explaining events after they have happened, so that you get a larger perspective. I just didn't enjoy the character themselves very much. They just didn't seem to come alive for me because to often their reactions felt canned---like they had to do something a certain way because that's the type fo character they are.

It was not a bad book, but as Fantasy goes it's a medium level product.
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