No, this isn’t the Narnia book, despite my last post. I’m talking about Chris Bunch’s novel, though I could understand the confusion. Both are the final volumes of a series and both are about battles that are . . .last? But seriously, they have little in common.

I had strong feelings about this novel as I read it that were turned upside after the final page. It turns out that Bunch wrote this at the end of his life and passed away a year before its publication in 2006. It greatly affected how I interpreted the final line of the series. I won’t spoil it, but I will say our hero’s final wish may have mirrored the author’s after a lifetime of writing fantasy series and for television.

Again, I dislike beginning a series anywhere other than the beginning, but I found it in a bargain bin at Books-a-Million for 75% off, so I said, eh, why not? Getting a cheap book from a series that I had no prior plans to read was worth starting late. My copy is the trade paperback that I so love; as I learned last week, that’s the term for larger format paperbacks. If I can ever get published I’d love to have my work printed this way. It’s so much easier to hold and see the text.

Nice cover art. And since you’re wondering, yes, that’s part of why I picked it up.

The story features Hal, the dragon master, and his dragon, Storm. Hal’s grown bored with life with the wars over and begins looking for his own action. Eventually a nightmare leads him to a distant land covered in demons who are taking the form of dragons. It doesn’t help that they’re killing real dragons.

The dragons in these books are intelligent, but not quite on our level. They seem more like a border collie or parrot upstairs. There’s no talking sadly, though even without being on the level of a human, Storm has plenty of personality. The other real dragons aren’t seen enough to get to know, but I’m sure they’re just lovely (and bitey.)

I get the feeling that most of the character development was done in the first two books. Understandable, and part of why I dislike starting late. Here the action takes off and then ends three hundred pages later without much growth or background for the characters. Hal does reevaluate what he wants in life, and at the end he does change (considering Bunch may be speaking through him, it was rather sad.) It’d be nice to see how he and the others initially developed though.

My initial criticism of the book was that the paragraphs were so short. I remember pages where they were single sentences and at times only a few words. I’m not saying I need an author to go on and on and on, but it takes simplicity to an extreme. That can work well for an affect at times, but while reading I felt Bunch had nothing to say and was hurrying to the end. I began to wonder if a picky editor did this, but after reading of his passing, I also wondered if he truly was trying to get it finished quickly. I have to let it slide here.

Bunch was retired military and reviews of this series have mentioned that he used historical battle strategies throughout. The three kingdoms also represent England, France, and Germany. That may be of interest to history buffs, though I admittedly don’t remember too much of my war history. Now I wish I did. The faux dragon battles at the end were rather enjoyable.

The Last Battle was forgettable from a story standpoint, but remember from the shock after the book had ended. It’d certainly be best to begin this series from the beginning. I think I would have gotten more out of the characters if I knew them better. I might read the first two sometime. We’ll see.

For now I wish everyone a happy new year. I look forward to new adventures and bringing my experiences to everyone. I’ll be sure to get to some movies this coming year too.