- The Dragon’s Legacy.
- Deborah A. Wolf.
- 486 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Sand & Sorcery.
- My Rating: 4.5 stars.
The last Aturan King is dying, and as his strength fades so does his hold on sa and ka. Control of this power is a deadly lure; the Emperor stirs in his Forbidden City to the East, while deep in the Seared Lands, the whispering voices of Eth bring secret death. Eight men and women take their first steps along the paths to war, barely realizing that their world will soon face a much greater threat; at the heart of the world, the Dragon stirs in her sleep. A warrior would become Queen, a Queen would become a monster, and a young boy plays his bird-skull flute to keep the shadows of death at bay.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
After the prologue, the story focuses mainly around Sulema, an outlander to the Zeera, raised from a young child, now on the verge of womanhood, we find her in the last stages of her training to become a Ja’ Akari, following through to the subsequent culmination and her acceptance into the Ja’ Akari. Not long after a mysterious stranger appears in Aish Kalumm, complete with a shocking revelation regarding her parentage that will irrevocably alter Sulema’s world, finding that unfortunately, you can’t outrun your birthright or your past, somehow it always catches up to you in the end.
Along with Sulema’s story arc, you also have that of the Daeborn Jian taking place within Khanbul (the Forbidden City) in the land of Sindan and home to the Sindanese emperor. The Dae are a race who live in the Twilight lands and who on occasion procreate with the Sindanese, the resulting spawn are referred to as ‘Daeborn’ and if they are born at the right time, they are then sent for brutal training to become Daechen (warrior). This is my only niggle with the book, not much time was spent on this part of the story, and I personally really enjoyed it, finding Jian’s arc to be a good counterpoint to that of Sulema, but we only got around 6 chapters interspersed throughout the entire book. Saying that however, the chapters move Jian’s story along nicely, and the end of his final chapter leaves you expectant of what’s next to come from both Jian and the Sindanese.
If she had a heart, it would have broken. If she had tears, she would have wept. But she was dead, ash and dust, and had none of these things.
A large part of the story takes place in the Zeera, a vast desert landscape, the zeerani fortress of Aish Kalumm and the surrounding area, but it’s not just simply ‘the location‘ where most of The Dragon’s Legacy is set. No, Wolf does a great job of making it feel like a living and breathing integral piece of the pie, and it’s as much a part of the tale being told as both the characters and story. After The Sundering (a cataclysmic event that took place approximately 1,000 years prior to The Dragon’s Legacy) life is hard in the Zeera, every year fewer children are born to the tribes, more people die and less vash’ai choose to bond with the zeeranim (people of the desert). Wolf makes the Zeera feel alive and dangerous.
This was no small hatchling, but a red-wattled old bitch of a grandmother snake. The tattered and faded crest of plumes stiffened and shook, and venom-sacs along her jaw swelled. She drew breath in a long, rattling hiss, and shrieked.
The vash’ai are a fantastic creation, very large intelligent cats with very large tusks, not your average house cat, simply put, they are pretty fucking cool! With members of the zeeranim who they deem worthy they bond, becoming zeeravashini (a zeerani who has bonded with a vash’ai) kithren to each other, aiding in protecting the Zeera. The vash’ai can converse telepathically, as a member of the kin (descendents of the first races also including wyverns and mymyc) they are intelligent creatures capable of cognizant thoughts, awareness and some quality lines. Aahhh who’s a clever kitty, but be warned, while the vash’ai have that same proud and self-centred aloofness that most cats have, these aren’t purring furrballs of fun!
When the story moves to Atualon, the seat of power for Wyvernus (Ka Atu, the Dragon King) and sole wielder of the atulfah (sa and ka combined to create the song of creation). Sa and Ka are the magic in The Dragon’s Legacy, two sides of the same coin. Sa, the female half, offering an amplified sense of harmony and Ka, the male half, offering an amplified awareness of your surroundings. You have a city locale making for a more standard setting and part of the book, but the change in location works well, giving the zeerani who travelled there a fish out of water vibe, and is a nice change of pace to the harsh desert.
The Dragon King, in particular the atulfah he commands is an integral part of the story, Ka Atsu is the only man capable of keeping the dormant dragon within the world quiescent. If the dragon awakes, then the world would crack open like an egg, or if you prefer the grimdark version, like a cleaved skull! 😉
While we have Wyvernus in Atualon and the Sindanese their emperor in Khanbul, both are males in predominant roles. In the Zeera the roles are reversed, you find the females the dominant sex and fighters, with the Umm Nurati (first mother) being in charge. In the culture the men are relegated to husbands and farmers, with some becoming Ja’ Sajani, the wardens of the Zeera, but the Ja’ Akari, the protectors of the Zeera are all ferocious female warriors, and it works really well, making for a refreshing change and giving you a bountiful abundance of strong female characters.
The Dragon’s Legacy is a very character driven read, featuring an ambitious list of characters, some major, some minor, with some who you will love, some who you will hate, some who play far more pivotal roles than others and some who you will question their actions, including, Sulema, Hannei, Hafsa Azeina, Daru, Leviathus, Jian, Char, Mattu Halfmask, Ismai, Istaza Ani and Askander to name amongst others. My favourite character would have to be Hafsa Azeina, the former Queen consort of Atualon, current dreamshifter (means she can kill people in their sleep, how cool) of the Zeeranim and Sulema’s mother, she’s such a complex, intriguing, fascinating and slightly scary character who ran from her previous life, changed herself, and went down dark paths all in aid of protecting her daughter. While not all of the main characters are instantly likeable, they are all fully fleshed out, believable and given distinct personalities adding to the story.
When those legs gave a twitch and began to uncurl, Leviathus did what any proud soldier-trained son of a king would do.
He flung the fucking thing as far as he could, arrow and all, and screamed like a little girl.
Wolf has a descriptive and detailed writing style that flows well with great pacing, there’s enough action to satisfy and it’s never overly visceral or bloody, politics, intrigue, betrayal, humour, dark times, some lighter times and emotion are all added to the mix, she sure knows how to spin a good yarn – I used yarn instead of tale or story, due to ‘yarn‘ as in a ‘ball of yarn‘ that cats play with, as the vash’ai are cats, it’s the obligatory bad humour you often find in my reviews! 🙂
With a broad overarching narrative that is epic in nature The Dragon’s Legacy, particularly for Sulema and Hafsa Azeina is also a very personal story. The world and the subsequent world building found within the pages is intricate, vast and fully realised. Wolf has made the lands luxuriantly rich in culture, history and lore. Luckily she largely manages to avoid the trope of ‘info dumping‘ on you as she weaves her exquisite tapestry that is The Dragon’s Legacy, evoking vivid imagery in your mind, immersing you in her setting and the story being told thanks to her writing.
With The Dragon’s Legacy Wolf has created an elaborate read and a sprawling fantasy, as such isn’t the easiest of books to get into when you first open it up. In a similar vein to the beginning of Gardens of the Moon (Malazan book of the fallen #1) by Steven Erikson and other suck ilk found within the fantasy genre, you are thrust straight into the action and story, and at times it can be slightly confusing as there are a lot of various different names and places for you to remember. Wolf doesn’t hold your hand or comfort you like a mewling babe, you’re expected to find your own way and the glossary (luckily located at the front of the book) will on occasion be needed, but as you progress, becoming accustomed to the plethora of names, you become invested in the characters and story, finding that you are losing yourself in the book.
The Dragon’s Legacy is the first book in the series, due to this a few aspects of the story and locations are only vaguely visited and alluded to throughout. I’ll be looking forward to delving deeper in the next installment, after all you have to keep a little something back for the following books. 🙂
This was my first foray into what I’ve recently seen as being dubbed the ‘sand and sorcery‘ genre of fantasy and I absolutely loved it. Finding The Dragon’s Legacy to have everything that a great fantasy book needs, add in a conclusion that leaves you questioning both what happens next and wanting more, and you find yourself with an exceptional debut and a top quality book that deserves to be read.
The Dragon’s Legacy (released 18th April US & 21st April UK).
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