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Dragon Hunters: The Chronicle of the Exile, Book Two (The Chronicles of the Exile) Hardcover – February 9, 2016
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“Plenty of surprises, stunningly inventive magics, witty dialogue, and flashes of bleak humor amid the carnage. A yarn that, with its second novel woes, trips, staggers, and recovers, ultimately to delight and enthrall.” ―Kirkus
“This is a highly original fantasy novel that turns away from the conventional and launches the reader into a beautifully detailed story, full of intrigue and corruption ... It is highly character driven, whilst also ensuring that the world building is of a great quality. This novel has firmly put Marc Turner as one of the best newcomers in fantasy. We look forward to seeing his The Chronicles of the Exile becoming further developed. Marc Turner is what the fantasy genre has been looking for.”―STARBURST Magazine
“Turner’s second Chronicle of the Exile novel features the same wildly imaginative settings, wonderfully empathetic characters, troublesome magic and high-stakes adventures that made his debut such a success. He balances an enormous setting and legendary monsters with flashes of insight and humor that keep the story consistently captivating, all while crafting a battle of wits and determination that builds to a riveting climax. New readers will most likely be able to enjoy this book, but it is definitely worth reading both books in this winning series to appreciate the full scope of Turner’s impressive ingenuity.”―RT Book Reviews
“Turner’s Lands of the Exile rival George R.R. Martin’s Westeros in their depth and complexity. Fans of fantasy will love DRAGON HUNTERS. In fact, it might be the perfect way to whet the appetites of fans waiting for the upcoming Warcraft movie. Turner has truly set the stage for an epic fantasy series that, in only its second volume, is getting hotter and hotter.”―Dark Media Online
“DRAGON HUNTERS is another intricate and fascinating fantasy in The Chronicles of the Exile. While it is somewhat a sequel to WHEN THE HEAVENS FALL, it can easily be read on its own, though you’ll probably then be too addicted to not go back and read book one. If you enjoy addictively readable fantasies with many interweaving points-of-view, this is a series not to miss!”―On Starships and Dragonwings
“The sea dragons are, of course, the main attraction here, and it’s well worth the wait for them to appear on the scene. Their presence has mythological as well as political implications, and in a book where political schemes are almost as serpentine as the dragons themselves, that leaves them a large role to play ... DRAGON HUNTERS maintains the same dark sense of humor and epic scope of imagination that made [the first book] so enjoyable.”―Speculative Herald
For When the Heavens Fall:
“Turner has created a powerful fantasy where mystery and magic pervade each character, each quest, each corner of a vast and vibrant world.... The battles and betrayals that fill the pages of When the Heavens Fallare truly epic in their scope and impact.” ―Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades
“Beautifully imagined and complex...Gritty and dark, the scope of Turner's world will keep readers rapt and nervous--which is the hallmark of great worldbuilding.” ―Elizabeth Haydon, USA Today bestselling author of The Symphony of Ages
“A classic epic fantasy, with a complex world, interesting characters, and plenty of action.” ―Gail Z. Martin, author of Reign of Ash
About the Author
MARC TURNER was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in Law, and subsequently worked at a top-ten law firm in London. After more than ten years in the legal profession he gave in to his lifelong writing addiction and is a full-time writer. When the Heavens Fall is the first book in his Chronicles of the Exile trilogy; Dragon Hunters is the follow-up.
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You do not have to have read book 1 to understand what is going on here as it is a separate storyline. It is implied later in the book that the events of book 1 are going on in parallel in a different part of the world, and there is no character overlap (other than a mention here or there). The only major takeaway you might want to have from book 1 is the conflict between the Emperor of Erin Elal and the Guardians (a group of magic users), although this is touched on in this volume as well.
Please note that based on the character list of book 3, which I started this morning, it looks like the storylines from book 1 and book 2 will merge to some degree, so you will still probably want to read book 1.
As with book 1, there are four main POV characters, two of whom are male and two of whom are female. This time, we have Senar Sol, a Guardian. In a lot of ways, he is very much like Luker from book 1 (another Guardian who also has not so happy feelings as they relate to the Emperor of Erin Elal, where they are from). If Luker hadn't been busy elsewhere, you could've dropped him into this story and he would've fit pretty well. So while Senar is generally sympathetic and also a good proxy for the reader as we try to understand political events in this book, in a part of the world we haven't seen before, he doesn't really stand out. (He mostly follows around a Storm Lord called Mazana -- Storm Lords are powerful water mages who rule this part of the world, the Storm Isles -- but he is unsure of her goals until nearer the end of the book.)
We also have Kempis, a septia (some sort of city watch or police official). His scenes have a bit of humor, in part due to the side characters who accompany him, and in part due to his honest desire for self-preservation instead of blind heroism. (One thing I don't care for is the way that is used to distinguish him as being from the lower classes. In conversation he will use, say, "weren't" when "wasn't" was the appropriate word, but he doesn't do this in his internal monologue. He also internally rails against "bluebloods" perhaps a bit too much, without really ever going into what his particular beef with them is.) He is also generally sympathetic and he is a pretty good investigator.
Then there is Karmel. She is a priestess of the god called the Chameleon. She is sent on a mission that is designed to create mayhem and destabilize the political situation in this part of the world. After thinking about things for awhile, I have decided I like her character arc. She can be a bit whiny and she definitely has a high opinion of herself, but she goes through a lot of conflict as she tries to puzzle out the true purpose of her mission as well as her brother's (a Chameleon high priest) motivation.
And finally, we have Agenta. She is the daughter of a merchant and she is honestly not a nice person. She is constantly trying to avoid people who approach her in social situations, she specifically avoids learning anything about her guards so she can avoid being emotional when they are killed, etc. She is there to expose the reader to another part of the overarching political scheme that Imerle, the current ruler of the Storm Isles, has going on. (Not really a spoiler as speculation on this topic appears pretty early in the book.)
In this book, I really feel like the characters take a backseat to the plot. Agenta is perhaps the most developed but also, for me, the hardest to like. As I wrote the above four or so paragraphs, I realized that each POV character sees one part of the overall picture. It is almost like the plot was developed first and then characters were invented to tell us the details. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't lead to a ton of character development. You will still find people to root for, but I would not call this character-driven fiction.
The villain's motivation in this book makes a lot more sense than in book 1. The attempt to increase political power is a common theme in human history.
I found the writing better in this book as well. Part of that may be the writer getting more into the groove of writing (I think this is his second book). Part of that may be that I preferred the plot of this book to that of book 1 (fighting off armies of the dead, which was much of book 1, has been done over and over again in fantasy...). Part of that may be the lack of the hyphenated phrase "death-magic" every few lines. At any rate, this book was, overall, easier to read than book 1, and I think the writing was part of that. (Also, for what it's worth, I think this was a better book 2 than most trilogies get. It didn't fill like a placeholder or like filler. It actually had a purpose as well as a self-contained plot. So I am giving major points for that.) I also feel like there was less infodumping than in book 1.
And now, although I typically don't have to mention world building in book 2 of a series, I'll talk about that a little here. Because we are in a different part of the world, and we are mostly in a city instead of traveling through the wilderness, and it is a different city from those that appeared in book 1, there are new details here -- a new race of sentient beings who can survive both in water and on land, a throne room that is created in an underwater bubble that relies on water magic to exist, a bit of backstory involving the Titans (who were mentioned in book 1), a new order of priests, dragons, etc. I think everything was pretty well-integrated.
In the end, while the departure of the series from book 1 was a little jarring and made this book harder to get into, and while I would like to see a little more in the way of character development, I thought the writing was a big improvement, this was a great second book for a trilogy, and the world-building and plot worked together nicely. I've already started reading book 3.
He introduces a different part of the world, with a whole new cast, and succeeds in this gamble. I preferred the first book a bit more (Dark woods compared to the beach and a slight edge in characters). I am still giving it five stars because there are such few books that captivate me; I begin far more books than I finish.
World Building: A+
This is the second book in “The Chronicles of the Exile” series—following “When the Heavens Fall”—and though theoretically either can be read first, I think for a bit of extra clarity it would be ever so slightly better to read them in sequential order.
“Dragon Hunters,” by Marc Turner, is an epic darkish fantasy filled with action and antiheroic protagonists. The plot is devious, shadowy, and full of mystery. There are all sorts of puzzling events, and revelations come gradually over time. But the book is as deceptive as claims made during a presidential debate. This is enhanced by the use of third-person multiple points-of-view narration, with each POV character (there are four—two female, two male) having their own (sometimes incorrect) perspectives on what is going on, filled with their individual questions.
Like an Irish wake, there is a good deal of humor present to offset the plot’s many dark happenings. The story is ostensibly about a celebration involving hunting a sea dragon, but there is much more going on in the depths of this serpentine plot, turning ceremony to mummery. It held my attention better than my first kiss, and was as misleading. I mean this as a deep compliment that goes beyond lip service. The only time I became annoyed with things was when one of the characters suddenly appeared to have discovered and instantly mastered the art of artificial respiration; now this was truly lip service and the plot device was more artificial than the technique—hardly a breath of fresh air. But I got over it; however, to avoid spouting spoilers, I won’t tell you if the unconscious victim did.
The four POV protagonists were all enigmatic and interesting to follow, with their own distinct subplots. We learn more about each protagonist as the story progresses. But my favorite character was a secondary one named Mazana, who left me (and at least two characters) breathless.
The worldbuilding has a mythological air about it, with: gods; “titans”; the aforementioned sea dragons (who are not fire-breathers); "people" with all sorts of sorcerous, supernatural, preternatural, and unnatural abilities; and so on. There is much room for expansion in future tales; it really feels like a secondary world with primary appeal.
The prose, though by no means bad, is not as excellent as the rest of the story’s elements. It is too prosaic and repetitive (sometimes with odd word choices) to merit praise. Turner, for example, uses “footfalls” thirty-five times, and offers frequent descriptions of a raised eyebrow; there are other similar idiosyncratic word/phrase iterations. As a caution, I note that other readers (not me) may be disconcerted by the appearance of modern phrases and colloquialisms (like “showtime”); at one point the author even chooses an apparently Australian slang idiom: “spit your dummy out.” He is very inventive in creating nomenclature specific to his story-world, displaying a special predilection for doing this with titles and ranks (e.g., “dutia,” “kalisch,” etc.), though his use of “priest” and “priestess” shows he isn’t wholly invested in this practice. The unusual neologisms have the potential to befuddle some readers, but I found this particular aspect of his prose refreshing. Furthermore, the proofreading was pretty good (I noticed only four typos).
Overall, the plot, characters, and worldbuilding greatly overshadowed everything else that I found less than spectacular. It’s a bedazzling novel, making its Marc.