Tag Archive: E. E. Knight

Dragon Avenger

It took a year, but I finally found my way back to the Age of Fire series by E. E. Knight. Dragon Avenger follows Dragon Champion, a book that I thought was fantastic and refreshing, despite a few cringe worthy moments near the end that I could have done without. While it’s a sequel, it takes place during the same timeline as the previous book, this time focusing on Auron’s sister, Wistala. The first few chapters follow the exact same story, although from Wistala’s point of view, and I enjoyed seeing how he approached it from her eyes. Once the two are forcefully split up, the adventure becomes officially hers.

I’m still reading the trade paperback editions. They have a great look and feel to them.

Something looks off about her wings.

Something looks off about her wings.

Where Auron’s story rarely gave the reader a chance to breathe, Wistala’s feels more like a meditation. She spends most of her time in the village of Mossbell running errands for the elf, Rainfall, who rescues her after the loss of her father. Wistala begins dead set on avenging him and her family (hence the title) but as she grows up in Mossbell, it feels like the desire dwindles. Perhaps it was because of her focus on other tasks, but it felt like the middle section of the book weakened the tension and drama that the beginning set up. I began to wonder if any avenging would even happen. It finally did and was mostly satisfying, in particular how she took the high road in one case, though overall it felt tacked on more than a necessity after what came prior.The first book suffered from a less than satisfying victory as well. After an enormous set up and wanting nothing but the worst for a certain character, I remember being underwhelmed at what happened.

I would like to be able to say that the slower pace of the novel lends to more character development, but ironically I felt like I knew Auron better at the end of his story. Wistala’s growth often happens off screen, so a page or paragraph later she’s learned something new, often something major, and that’s now how she is. It can be hard to really grasp her character. I would have liked to have seen her pick up the elves’ language more gradually in the narrative, along with “parl,” the universal language used by all of the humanoid races. This particular aspect made me wonder again how I was going to handle a similar situation in my current work, where characters are immersed exclusively in a language and culture that’s foreign to them. The challenge comes from a believable period of learning without plodding down the story.

I’m still confused at the notion that this series is good for younger readers. There is some horrifically cruel and graphic material at times. And while it was far less here compared to the first book, it’s still there. Wistala’s barely harmed, but the worst happens to others, and the world seems filled sociopaths. The worst that happens to Wistala comes in a satisfying moment when she’s needing her wings freed and has someone assist her in cutting them out early. Dragons in this series aren’t born with their wings. They come in like antlers on a deer as they age. But as far as others hurting her, there’s nothing to mention. Her brother seemed to get abused on every page, including losing his tail more than once (it grew back.) That was the tamest of it.

Wistala seems more human than her brother. I credit this to circumstance, since he was on his own in the wild, giving into his true nature, whereas Wistala grew up with elves and took on the demeanor and habits of those around her. She even learns to pull back her lips to simulate a human smile. The way she speaks and her thought process feel more human as well and there were times I could have easily just imagined her as a human (or elf) girl with no real change to how the character felt. This would have been less jarring without memories of Auron’s adventure. Eventually Auron did find a library and began reading and learning and calming a bit, but most of his growth was savage.

There are few dragons this time around. She does find one stray one later, whose mental and physical attributes are described as unappealing as possible and makes one wonder if dragons in this world are even worth saving. She also runs into a small group of them isolated from the rest of the world and with no desire to leave their sanctuary. They try to get her to stay and breed but she soon abandons them, returning to Mossbell. I had fears this location was the same as the final destination of Auron’s tale, a place that disgusted me. Something about it felt familiar, but if it was, Wistala wasn’t there long enough to find out.

E.E. Knight’s writing and world development are still top notch. He immerses the reader, and while I didn’t feel quite “in” the world as much in this book, he’s still far better than most authors I’ve read. He stimulates all of the senses that words on a page (or screen) can. I like the mythologies from the different races, both dragons and hominids. I like the different cultures. And I like how not all of one race is the same. All of this makes his world realistic and organic.

So while Dragon Avenger did feel much different than the previous book, it was still a good read. I look forward to the rest of the series at some point. For now, it’s time for the sequel to one of my favorite books from the past few years. Finally got it.


Dragon Champion

Auron, the lead dragon in E. E. Knight’s first Age of Fire novel, takes more abuse than Jesus in the hands of Mel Gibson. He gets stabbed in the lung, his throat cut, his tail amputated, and other little prickles that after a while must be to him no more than nuisances. His mother warns him about how his scaleless hide leaves him vulnerable, but one has to wonder if these dragons have unnatural healing powers from how much he survives. What he goes through is painful to watch, and by the end I felt like I’d been tied to a pole for days while getting sprayed in the face with a fire hose every few minutes. And yet I enjoyed it enough to finish in less than four days.

That’s quick for me.

Auron’s survival instincts drive much of the violence, a unique angle for fantasy literature. From the beginning Auron hatches and kills his clutch brother, crippling the other before he gets away. This happens in all dragon clutches. The males won’t tolerate another in their presence. I didn’t care for that one bit, and after reading the first chapter, it was enough to send the book back to my shelf for two years, but it does set the tone that these dragons aren’t going to play by our rules. They have their own morality.

(Thankfully, as Auron grows, he believes it to be a problem. In a world where dragons are dwindling, having part of the clutch end up dead from the beginning doesn’t matters.)

Yes, to dive into Auron’s world, you have to accept a different set of rules. These dragons are intelligent, but of a different intelligence brought on by how they’ve evolved in their world. Auron has to kill to eat and he doesn’t discriminate. An unfortunate deer is just as much food as a child who strayed too far from safety. Yes, he eats children. I know that’s put some people off, but I’m glad Knight had the courage to do that.

It’s a joy watching Auron grow and learn about his world. At first all is new and overwhelming; leaving his birth cave for the first time feels so wrong. He’s controlled heavily by his instincts, but as he ages we see more thought and understanding. Reasoning develops. Throughout the book he’s hunted by all forms of humanoids: humans, dwarfs, elves, and blighters, a rather trollish race of the author’s creation. At first it seems all men are the enemy, though once Auron finds the bravery to approach some of them, we realize they’re as varied as in real life.  There’s good and bad all around. Knight has created a mythology explaining why the different races, dragons included, behave to one another as they do, though not everyone subscribes to that.

I enjoyed the friendships he made. This includes some animals. He learns how they speak and even joins a wolf pack for a while, ironically after slaughtering several of them.

Did I mention this book is bloody?

One friendship in particular I enjoyed, though I ended up highly disappointed at what became of it. Knight keeps hinting at something that would have been immensely satisfying, but never lets it go there. For all the stones he has, he dropped them with this plot thread. Auron gets something he wants eventually, but to me it was a let down. Yes, I was happy for him, but it’s like if someone told me we were getting Thai for dinner but at the last second we end up having Chinese instead. Sure, it’ll be good, but disappointing in comparison.

The story moves quickly, and while there is little time to stop and admire the scenery, Knight gives the reader just enough to feel a part of the world. This relates to the environment as well as the characters. When Auron’s wings finally come in, you can feel your own back itching and smell the pus and fluids gushing from his. Your gut’ll hurt when his talons disembowel someone. Crushing a severely burnt man sounds, and even feels like stepping on a cicada husk.

Terrible things happen to good people. It’s emotionally taxing to get attached to anyone.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many good characters brutalized or killed. Knight wins the award for most cringe moments in one novel. As sensitive as I can be, I actually enjoyed his honesty in showing what he did; like in the real world, terrible things can happen to the best of people. The violence excites something deep in the reptile brain; the surrounding action excites and engages. He can do this while still affecting the heart (I’m surprised Auron wasn’t stabbed there . . .)

I handled it all well until a scene near the end that was a bit too much. I was shaking and lost my appetite for a few days and wanted to go out and scream. It was a combination of defenselessness, enjoyed cruelty, unbelievable disrespect, the nature of the character involved, and the fact that Auron’s reaction was so subdued. I know in part he was having to put on an act, but a little rage at the least would have eased the pain. You want your protagonist to feel what you’re feeling. A certain son-of-a-bitch could have had a more satisfying death for that matter, especially after what we had seen up until then. As much of a peacenik as I am, Knight made me want blood. Or worse. All of this was after a prior revelation that had me rather upset. I’ll just say the animosity male dragons have for one other played a big part here. If Knight wanted the final setting to be a nightmare, he succeeded.

After Auron escapes there were two quick scenes that could have worked better in reverse order. It’s like Knight never wanted us to get a chance to relax. Here and there it’s okay to take your foot off the gas. There are a few scenes in the middle that ease up the pace. He had me craving more. Moments of comfort would have made the whole more satisfying. You cherish the ones you get even more when they’re rare. Maybe that’s what he wanted.

Overall I really did enjoy the novel. Even the one shot characters were great, like the sea turtle and vulture. As I wait on the sequel to come in the mail (our Barnes and Noble had the whole series but that one) I’ve picked up another book, but it feels wrong. I need to be back in this story’s world. It seems so much larger than what one book can give you. I might just set it down and wait. My nerves could use a few more days to cool down anyway.

I’m glad this series is published in trade paperbacks. I’m spoiled. I’m getting them all in that format, even though they cost twice as much. It’s a good thing Santa brought me a Barnes and Noble gift card. The covers are excellent too:

Enjoy watching this guy get turned into a pin cushion, you sadists.

It’ll probably be more of the same with his sister in the next book.