Title: Dragon Mage
Author: Ava Richardson
Publisher: Relay Publishing
Synopsis:To unite a fractured kingdom, a reluctant hero must rise.
Neill has been charged with the impossible task of bringing the Middle Kingdom together to fight the burgeoning threat posed by the rogue sorcerer Ansall and his dragon Zaxx. Neill longs for his old life as a mere foot soldier for his father responsible only for his family’s well being, and is unsure about whether he is fit to lead an army. Neill’s contemplative nature forces him to consider every aspect of the problems he faces, but often makes it difficult for him to take action—and failure to act could mean the deaths of many.
Now, echoing Char and their dragon Paxala, his duty beckons him to lead the Dragon Riders—and take his rightful place as king—but with doubt and new enemies creeping in, his resolve will be tested. When the mysterious Dark Prince arrives with an offer, Neill will have to make a decision that could change the course of history. As Ansall grows in strength by harnessing black magic, Neill must choose between his own desires and the welfare of the entire kingdom. Can he rise to the challenge before it’s too late?
Dragon Mage brings The First Dragon Rider trilogy to a close. As with the others, I found this an innocent, engaging and enjoyable read. I always feel I’m slightly too old for these books, so I would aim them at teen-readers? They’re an ideal introduction to fantasy because they are a classic ‘good-v-evil’ scenario and easy reads, just with some dragons and magic thrown in.
Dragon Mage effectively increases the tension as the final battle looms closer. Will the monastery survive, or is the damage too extreme, rife with arguments and confliction? As Neill takes it on himself to save his friends, he realises that letting go is perhaps the best way to move forward. The monastery changes and we start to seethe beginnings of the Dragon Academy that we know and love from Return of the Darkening trilogy.
Neill has been my favourite character throughout and I enjoyed seeing him in the spotlight this time. His sense of duty and responsibility shape his life as he refuses to let his friends fall into chaos when he could help, despite the offering from his uncle to take ‘his dragon and his girl’ and get away from the politics.
Our heroes are flesh and blood, real people, they swear and they spit and they pull off great deeds. They are not lofty lords and knights whom we bow and scrap to.
This time, however, we don’t just see Neill come into his own as a dragon rider. We see him as a leader, one who makes tough choices and has to deal with scenarios that he never thought would fall to the third son of Lord Torvald.
While Neill steals it for me, the other characters also grew and developed. Char truly embraces her connection with Pax and is a strong rider. She has a hilarious moment of disregarding social restraints and makes her feelings known by cutting down a prince’s tent while his men are still inside. Those small moments not only made me laugh but connect you to the characters; they’re prepared to fight for their home in any shape or form.
Despite the Abbot and Zaxx being the bad guys, they feature very little. There is a tense and exciting final fight against Zaxx, but even though the Abbot is present, he doesn’t actually do a lot. The characters still see him as dangerous, but from a reader’s perspective, he doesn’t appear as much of a threat.
I can’t write this without mentioning the dragons themselves. You see their personalities develop more in this final book. Paxala obviously is the main dragon, but others now have names and are more part of the plot than just a nameless herd as they had been. Having read the books out of chronological order, it’s always fun to see the beginning of something that becomes so important.
These books aren’t a piece of amazing literature. What they are, however, is charming, fun and feel-good reads that draw you in and help you to connect and engage with the characters. The characters are loveable, the dragons are awesome and while I wish the magic had more of a role, it’s a great blend!