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

3.9 out of 5 stars 145 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

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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 (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,815,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Farina on August 20, 2012
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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WARNING: Review contains spoilers.

I really wanted to like this book. I love dragons and am always curious to see how different authors interpret them, and a book with an entire world ruled by the great beasts, even if they were villainous, promised to be an exciting experience. And I'm a sucker for an epic fantasy, with a hero striving to save the world and restore freedom to the oppressed. (Cliche, I know, but I have my guilty pleasures and my stories I enjoy whether or not they've been done before...)

Sadly, while "Bitterwood" showed great promise, it failed to deliver. It's a mess of a story with unlikable characters and a plot that ultimately left me feeling betrayed.

In a world where dragons reign supreme and humans are merely regarded as slaves, pets, and prey, the sun dragon Albekizan rules with an iron claw, subjugating all humans within his kingdom. But a lone hero stands against him -- Bant Bitterwood, also known as the Ghost Who Kills, a ruthless hunter who slays dragons and somehow never gets caught. When Bitterwood kills Albekizan's son Bodiel, the king vows in his rage and grief to destroy all humans... and he releases a sadistic killer, Blasphet the Murder God, from his prison to aid him in his bloodthirsty quest. It's up to a motley assortment of humans -- including Bitterwood, a young sorceress raised by a sky-dragon, a former pet human to a sun-dragon noble, and a runaway girl and her pet pig -- as well as a traitorous dragon sorcerer and Albekizan's second, exiled son, to stop the bloodshed and save humanity.

This premise held a lot of promise, but in the end it feels like a mess.
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