3 out of 4 stars
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DragonGate by Sam Venstone is an epic fantasy novel featuring a world full of magic, dragons, and places that are very different from anything we have encountered in real life.
The story starts with Sir Ulryc, a fearless warrior, who travels to the mountains to slain what he knows to be the last dragon alive. Next, he removes the dragon’s eyes to keep them as trophies and to prove to the king that, indeed, the last dragon is finally gone. Unbeknown to him, the dragon's spirit still lives on. When Sir Ulryc comes face to face with the spirit, he becomes a different, much better man. Now, instead of giving the eyes to the king, he takes them to a monastery and begs the monks to guard them, for the eyes have an important purpose in the world.
When the king hears about the hidden treasure in the slain dragon's lair, he sends his army to the monastery to learn the secret of the lair’s whereabouts. During the following fight, a young villager, Tercyn, is given the dragon's last remaining eye to keep it safe from falling into enemy hands. Accompanied by a few monks, he escapes through a secret portal just in time to avoid getting caught.
DragonGate is a high-fantasy tale that contains within a coming-of-age story of a young villager, Tercyn, and the hero’s journey of the four monks who travel with him: Brother Lyst, Brother Hyrhen, Brother Tethyr, and Brother Dolry. They all have their own burdens to carry, and they seem rather unlikable and difficult to get along with at first: Brother Dolry is always sick and is complaining too much, Brother Lyst is a heartless bastard who doesn’t care about anyone around him, Brother Tethyr can't accept help from other people, and Brother Hyrhen can't stay away from trying to help others. Finally, Tercyn is still mourning the loss of his father, who has been recently murdered. Together they embark on a journey that would change their lives forever.
While I was unable to put the book down, I found two issues with the story that need mentioning. First, there are too many characters to keep track of, and many of their names are so similar to each other that you can easily get confused. For example, you have characters with names such as Ulryc, Adryc, Odcryc, Helryc, Melyc, Osryc, Venryc, Tethyr, Tercyn, Ardoc, Corloc, Azloc, etc. Second, the women in the book have mostly unimportant, peripheral roles. They are either evil, greedy, and shallow (like some princesses in their castles) or damsels in distress in need of saving. Sam Venstone doesn’t spend enough time developing any of the female characters, which is a shame. DragonGate is truly a male-centric story.
The writing in the book flows smoothly, and each phrase, sentence, and paragraph is building gracefully upon the previous one. If there are any difficult words within the text, a quick peek at the end of the book reveals a section called Appendices that covers all gods, dragons, calendars, monasteries, and languages mentioned in the story.
I came across only a few grammatical and spelling mistakes throughout the 800 pages. For example, the author wrote "under way," "knew to mindful of this," "They monastery boys were," "had not hidden him my cell," or "the means to free from your prison," most of which are word omissions and simple spelling mistakes. I had previously read much shorter books with way more grammatical errors than the handful found in the huge tome that is DragonGate.
I delighted in the book's captivating atmosphere and got attached to the main characters more than I thought I would. However, considering my two main issues mentioned above, I rate DragonGate 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to anyone who likes high-fantasy novels, tales of epic adventures and magic, and stories that reveal a deeper meaning.
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