4 out of 4 stars
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The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley is the first book in the Death Sworn series. It falls within the Fantasy genre. There are four other books in the series that are currently published. The novel follows a group of heroes on a quest to find a dragon. A map and list of main characters with bio information are also included.
Saul Karza, a licensed wizard, is commissioned by Empress Jade to find and kill an ancient, near invulnerable dragon known as Draconis Nobilus. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of warriors, archers, and mages because of an Orc problem. Saul is forced to find others to help him on his quest. He enlists two Silavarians that find the bounty for killing the fabled beast too attractive to decline. He also finds a homeless Dwarf, Votrex Vaughn, who has been locked out of his home by magic. Along the way the party is joined by the last living person to slay a dragon, a dark elf, and a mischievous elf. Can this collection of warriors and mystical races come together long enough to find and kill the Draconis Nobilus or will their differences make this band of heroes fall apart?
Stanley does a wonderful job creating a world that is not bogged down with too many new concepts or details. The entire novel takes place in Torea, a place very similar to medieval Europe. The Empire rules and protects the majority of Torea and governs through the use of Bergers. Humans are the main inhabitants of Torea, while dwarves, dark elves, sky elves, and dragons are all considered rare to the point of being fabled. There is a common language that everyone speaks and a common religion.
From the very beginning, the world is introduced through an immersion of action and dialogue. New characters are seamlessly introduced with enough backstory and information to understand their importance to the story. The action scenes are very well done and utilize each character to their full potential. The dialogue is well thought out and stays true to each character. There is an easy back and forth among the characters that is at times laugh-out-loud funny. Stanley elevates this novel with a thoughtful approach to the issues facing the characters-- for example, morality, nature vs. nurture, philosophical concepts, and the meaning of magic. Stanley makes it clear that, even though there is a one-sided attraction between two characters, there is not going to be a romance in this novel. The way it is dealt with is layered and it is rewarding to see the relationship morph into something more profound than a romance.
Stanley masterfully takes clichéd events and turns them on their heads to create a new and interesting series of events; this often leads to additional insight into the characters and the world. There is also a wonderful amount of critique on humanity done through the eyes of the fabled races. It allows for a new and fresh way to say something about the current state of things without being overbearing or preachy.
The only criticism I have is that there is too much focus on the mischievous elf and her elven abilities. She is a fantastic character and a lot of fun, but there is not a lot of information on Saul’s magical abilities or dark elf culture.
I rate this novel 4 out of 4 stars. This is not just a story about a quest to kill a dragon. There are many interesting and intense themes that are discussed. The anticipation-building action scenes are vivid and the characters are likable and relatable. Overall the book is filled with universal truths that make it fascinating and exciting to read. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fun and funny heroic quests in new worlds or a deeper read that deals with morality and philosophical questions.
Deathsworn Arc: The Last Dragon Slayer
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