Goodreads’ Synopsis: High-born Agathea Flamma intends to bring honor to her family by following in her brothers’ footsteps and taking her rightful place as a Dragon Rider. With her only other option being marriage, Thea will not accept failure. She’s not thrilled at her awkward, scruffy partner, Seb, but their dragon has chosen, and now the unlikely duo must learn to work as a team.
Seventeen-year-old Sebastian has long been ashamed of his drunken father and poor upbringing, but then he’s chosen to train as a Dragon Rider at the prestigious academy. Thrust into a world where he doesn’t fit in, Seb finds a connection with his dragon that is even more powerful than he imagined. Soon, he’s doing all he can to succeed and not embarrass his new partner, Thea.
When Seb hears rumors that an old danger is reemerging, he and Thea begin to investigate. Armed only with their determination and the dragon they both ride, Thea and Seb may be the only defense against the Darkening that threatens to sweep the land. Together, they will have to learn to work together to save their kingdom…or die trying.
Author: Ava Richardson
Title: Dragon Trials (Return of the Darkening)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Put the word `dragon` in the title of a book and that’s it, I’m sold, normally without reading the synopsis. That’s definitely the case with Dragon Trials (Return of the Darkening). I actually had the first and second books before I had opened the first. I had my fingers crossed they were good!
I was optimistic with the opening pages. Two dragon riders are picked by a dragon to train to become either a protector or a navigator. It is the dragons that do the picking, and no one can argue with them. It was refreshing to see the relationship this way around rather than humans dominating.
It meant that our two main characters, however, come from very different backgrounds. Most dragon riders – Thea included – come from a noble background and have been trained for this very moment their entire lives. Then there is Seb – the blacksmith’s boy, with no friends and no money, but an affinity to connect with the dragons on a deeper level than anyone else.
With her golden hair, she looked a true noble, and she sounded confident and resolute as she spoke. Not like I would. Worlds tangled my tongue. I stumbled over them wherever I had tried to speak out loud in a large group. And I knew what my clothes looked like – like they didn’t fit me and had once been my father’s.
Sebastian was an instant favourite character! He has a personable personality and the ability to make friends with anyone, from the academy’s bully to his shared dragon, Kalax. He is friendly, honest and in over his head – but is determined to succeed, even if it is for Thea’s sake.
Thea, however, took me a lot longer to warm up to. For the majority of the book, she is a complete snob. She won’t connect with Seb because of his status and scolds him for following his heart. She socialises with those who bully her supposed `partner` and does nothing to defend him. Sebastian refuses to quit because of Thea, and she brushes him off.
In fact, it is only when it is revealed that Seb is a little special himself despite his common background that Thea starts to trust him. By the end, she is a likeable enough character, but it took a very long time to start liking her. Hopefully, in the second book, I will like her from the offset.
The majority of the plot involves the dragon riders training to become the protectors of the realm. There are hints throughout of a darkness that is brewing. I have to admit, when that darkness was revealed, it felt like such an anti-climax. Especially since his name was Vincent. I’m not sure why, but a villain called Vincent in this sort of fantasy story made me laugh – not exactly the right reaction, I’m sure.
I found Dragon Trials easy to read. It definitely focuses on a YA audience, especially given the immature behaviour of the riders. I do, however, believe these characters will develop in the second book once they start taking their responsibilities seriously.
An enjoyable tale if you can get yourself past finding one of the main characters a whining snob. There is courage and adventure, magic and dragons in all the right doses and it made for an entertaining read. A good way to spend an afternoon.