Review by Adrina Palmer
In the first book in an exciting new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the ‘Age of Fire’ series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of Dragonriders, but her path won’t be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.
I was so excited to pick up this book and start reading about the world of dragon apprentices. This is the dream! Dragons, flying, a school focused on dragons, talking dragons, you get the point, and for the most part, I loved this book. It comes in four sections, of which I thoroughly enjoyed the first two parts. The last two parts need work; actually, the author of ‘Novice Dragoneer’ could delete the third part altogether, and I would be happier with the book. At the very minimum, the second part should have been its own book, which would have improved the pace of this novel.
E.E. Knight clearly loves dragons as he has written multiple books in this genre, which is why I expected to spend more time with dragons instead of viewing pretty scenery and day-to-day monotony. What I can say with complete certainty is Knight knows how to create a rich and diverse world with fascinating characters. I’m not a fan of the main character Illeth, but she comes with a deep level of development… and a stutter. I’m not sure why Knight added this information except to further remove her level against her peers as she is also an orphan. On to the plot.
Illeth meets a dragoneer and dragon as a young girl and sets her sights on trading her life at an orphanage for a life as a dragon rider as soon as she comes of age. She fights uphill all the way into the dragoneer school, the Serpentine Academy, as she stubbornly deals with obstacle after obstacle determined to keep her at the bottom of the pool. Her iron-will gains her a spot as a novice with a small chance of apprenticeship or, more importantly, as a dragon rider. First, though, she has to gut fish, deal with peers who can’t tolerate her no-nonsense personality and get in trouble consistently. Anyone who has been to basic training knows you don’t want the drill sergeant to know your name, yet the principle of this school knew Illeth by sight and name.
The main character gets herself caught up in multiple issues with the other novices and even a few of her seniors but fights to keep her spot in the school. In this world, the talking dragons like the smell and sight of sweaty girls dancing, and it is the perfect place to put novices not cut out for other aspects of dragon care. Illeth ends up learning how to pirouette to keep her new home, but this opportunity gives her a chance to spend more time with her beloved scaled creatures. She is even set to care for a dying dragon whom she won over with her kind, taciturn nature before he helps her in return with his dying breath.
Now we move into the territory I tolerated, at best. Young novice Illeth is sent on a mission to rescue a dragon because she could speak another language. I understand the author’s desire to leave the school and break up the monotony, but this mission bored me to tears. My eyes glazed over for the most part three and didn’t un-gloss until the protagonist returned home to the dragon facility. Part Four, the final section in this almost 500-page book, caught my attention and reeled me back in with open arms as a lady dragon had her eggs stolen. The book ended soon after with little fanfare and an unimpressive upgrade for Illeth.
With an immensely vivid and thorough world, this book should have been downright amazing. I mean it has talking dragons who eat coin! Something was off though. As I said, I will never shout the praises of the main character, but she’s not the reason to avoid the book; I just don’t like whiny characters. It’s also apparent the writer is a guy writing about a girl. A few strange characteristics popped up too; she doesn’t have any interest in men or romance at all. Finally, the other characters don’t warm up much to Illeth either, which should say something. I’m not sure why E.E. Knight would want to make such an unlikeable character.
Beyond section three and Illeth, the book had so much potential to create a vivid world full of dragons. Hopefully, the second book will spend more focused time with the dragons in the air instead of a dying dragon in the cellar of an old castle. We readers need more action! Maybe the sequel will fulfill all the promise the first book lacked, but this book was interesting enough to read the sequel, which makes it a win.
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