SPFBO 7 Review: A Dragon’s Chains by Robert Vane

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I have had several memorable opening lines or scenes in my batch this year, this book was among them. The opening line? “I want to eat a human.”

Go on.

This story is from the perspective of a dragon named Bayloo, (at least that’s what the humans call him). He’s an ash dragon that recently figured out he’s no longer bound to his “ryder” and has somehow freed himself from the runes carved into his scales that render him a slave to his ryder.

Most of the dragons in this world are enslaved by humans who have used the dragon’s own rune magic used against them. Humans have figured out a way to make them docile, obedient, and ferocious weapons of war. However, Bayloo has figured out how to break this command his ryder has over him but he has to keep it a secret or he could be killed.

One of the more interesting aspects of the writing style is that much of the book takes place inside the dragons head, so there’s not a lot of talking between him and other dragons or humans which means most of the prose is narrative. The internal thoughts and style of narrative prose is pretty modern, but the spoken dialogue is old school and for me that didn’t totally work. The inner narrative was much more engaging to me, so I’m not upset that most of the time was spent inside his head. I liked that this was written in an upbeat tone and that there was a deliberate humor laced throughout the book — most of which landed with me. “Chicken is the vegetable of meats.” LOL, yeah, true that. There were some things missed in the editing process however, there were a few overused words, one of which was used 45 times in a book that’s only 250 pages long. There were also some spelling errors that wouldn’t get picked up with spellcheck eg: solders instead of soldiers.

The inciting incident happened about 50 percent through the book with the first half of the book being used to build the world and introduce character background. This does make it drag until the big picture starts to come into focus later on and the reader gets a clearer view of where the story is heading. I had made it this far despite the slow start because I found the idea of a dragon POV interesting. There was thought put into dragon culture and different aspects of the physiology which made the perspective engaging and believable. I think for people who want a very different kind of POV this could be their kind of read. Since the big push in the plot happens so late in the book I’m not sure if it would be a spoiler to say anything about it, there’s no blurb on goodreads either, so I’ll just air on the side of caution. Things get going halfway through.

The world building was interesting, there are people known as Sculptors that are responsible for carving the runes into young dragons which forces them into compliance. Since their scales harden as they mature it’s not possible to carve the runes into them one they’re adults. Through the link between dragon and ryder certain feelings or mindsets can be passed down, one of his previous ryder’s was bloodthirsty and battle crazed, it made him want to be a killing machine. Wizards are uncommon but they can command the oceans and skies, throw lightening, and a whole lot of high powered don’t-fuck-with-me shit. Female dragons are sought after and it’s believed possible that none are left which leaves the kingdom that depends on them in peril. I do like the thought put into dragon-specific behaviors and communications — they can trill in a pitch that humans can’t hear and it’s how they communicate amongst each other. I also really loved the explanation for their names and how their names change and evolve along a dragon’s lifetime based on their victories and defeats; a very successful dragon will have a long name.

There are also unique creatures in this world which gave an overall surreal effect, the ghastrays were some of my favorites. They are translucent manta ray type things that can tow ships like horse and carriages except they’ve got like six eyes and a crazy mouth.

I liked Bayloo as a character, he was easy enough to root for, because why would you root against a being that’s been enslaved and clearly hates every moment of it? I wouldn’t necessarily call him a relatable character since he’s a dragon that kinda wants to eat people, but he was entertaining and snarky which was a great perk.

This had some good aspects to it and some others that didn’t totally work for me, but I think it’s worth a try if you found this review interesting.

Ratings:

  • Plot: 9.5/15
  • Character: 11.5/15
  • World Building: 11/15
  • Writing: 10/15
  • Pacing: 8/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Enjoyment: 6/10

Final Score: 67/100