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The Dragon Throne (The Four Kingdoms Book 1) Kindle Edition
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The Land is divided into four kingdoms. The First Kingdom is a land of unicorns, guardians of truth; the Second that of dragons, beings of outward appearance and illusion; and the Third and Fourth are human lands, each owing fealty to one of the aforementioned. Beneath the feet of all, "the Land" itself is a living thing and the source of all magic in their world.
While still a child, Princess Fianna of the Fourth Kingdom runs away when her widowed father the king remarries, taking shelter with her estranged (and politically ambitious) aunt in the countryside. Her only friend there is the young pig-herder Deian, born with a strong connection to the Land and telepathy with its animals. Years pass, and as the now-teenaged Fianna settles into a rustic life and grows closer to Deian, word arrives suddenly that her father is dead and his widow pregnant. Fianna's aunt has raised her to covet the throne above all else, so she returns to solidify her claim; even while refusing to admit to herself that she's uncertain she wants it.
In the First Kingdom of the unicorns, the son of the lead stallion is the Prancer -- so called because he was born with the markings of both a Dancer and a Painter (in human parlance, a judge and a healer), leaving his future in either role uncertain. When his adoptive brother Storm is killed defending him from a dragon, he swears to track it down to retrieve the portion of Storm's horn embedded in its eye. This quest takes him through both human kingdoms.
I always appreciate a well-done depiction of a nonhumanoid society, and I particularly liked the story's depiction of an intelligent animal interacting with humans who never dispute that he is a civilized being. Indeed, because of the unicorns' magical abilities and invulnerability to mundane weapons, humans of the Third Kingdom regard them with awe, while those of the Fourth see them as enemies of their draconic patrons.
Fianna is a well-rounded depiction of someone who is clearly intelligent but not yet wise, and I like that so many issues are presented from her point of view without the author immediately stepping forward to indicate that she is wrong about something; her reaction to her father's remarriage is understandable for a child, and we initially see it entirely through her eyes -- and unfortunately for Fianna, she runs directly to her aunt, the one person who would actively encourage that viewpoint for her own ends. By mid-book, Fianna has put herself in a position where she can trust scarcely anyone around her -- until she crosses paths with the Prancer, prince of an enemy kingdom, and the two strike up a comradery, though one based in Fianna's part on false pretenses.
Looming over all is the fact that the Land's magical power is slowly dying. The only one with an inkling of why is the Third Kingdom's misanthropic King Anton, who has dedicated himself to studying and repairing strange mechanical artifacts from before the founding of the Four Kingdoms -- a time when legend says the three races were new to this world.
The most interesting thing about the dragons is that they appear to have the ability to casually travel through time at will, though they are restricted in what use they can make of this ability. No doubt this will be expanded upon in the sequel.
This is the first book in a duology, and I look forward to starting the second volume, The Unicorn Throne.
I expect fans of Anne McCaffery's Pern series would greatly enjoy this.
The characters are young, their moral compasses vacillating between what their societies expect and who they are inside. Their decisions are sometimes petty, sometimes noble, but always burdened with the knowledge that “…of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
I could quibble with some departures from equine physiology for the unicorn prince called The Prancer, but then, I’ve only known horses, and as The Prancer often remarks, “I am not a horse!” I could also wonder why a high-profile murder didn’t immediately launch a full-out search for the perpetrator. I’ll let those issues slide because I’m far more interested in how the story will progress. The final chapters of volume one of the series allude to tantalizing secrets yet to be revealed. I’m eager to read on.
For starters, the author writes very well. There was a great flow from page to page in the writing, and descriptive scenes helping the reader get into the world. However, there was too little action for my tastes, and lots of filler that seemed unimportant to the story. This book is already on the shorter side for fantasy, but I feel almost half could be cut out and not hamper the main story at all. The chapters seemed outrageously long, only 13 in the book. I believe the story could have been cut up better into smaller sections, especially given the low level of action. At times it was an effort to get through a chapter, as they seemed to drag on. And where were the dragons? I would have expected more involvement with the dragons. Perhaps in the next book? Their place in the book seemed unimportant and strange with very little interaction and a lot of questions left about who and what they really are.
The world building was good, the clash between kingdoms, and dragon and unicorns was interesting in itself, and had promise, but unfortunately the story did not deliver. There are a lot of plot lines left unresolved as this book came to a close. Too many for my liking. Nothing was resolved at the conclusion of the book. It felt like I finished part 1 of a book and not an entire novel. There was little action, not much of a rising action, and certainly no climax or resolution. I do not know how book 2 goes, and what is revealed, but I feel like much of this book could be cut, and then combined with book 2 in order to make one story that would potentially flow better than this as a stand alone novel.
I will not spoil one of the "twists," but I found it unexciting and overdone in this genre. And little was done with it other than simply mentioning it. It did nothing for me, not adding anything to the story (though I'm sure will down the road later in the series) but it seemed so out of place and took away from the read.
I wanted to like the book, the potential was there, there were fun engaging characters, a great flow in narrative, and the world building was down pretty well, but the book seemed incomplete at best. For that main reason, and the lack of action and loads of filler, I did not enjoy it, and find myself not really caring what happens in the rest of the series. I'm sure many lovers of fantasy could get behind this book and enjoy the series, but it's not for me.
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This was a slow moving book that really didn't take off until the 80% mark, just in time to try and hook readers for the...Read more
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