Gods and Dragons (Wake The Dragon #3) by Kevin J. Anderson (book review).

March 2, 2022 | By | Reply More

Gods And Dragons’ is book three in the ‘Wake The Dragon’ series, so you need to read ‘Spine Of The Dragon’ and ‘Vengewar’ before getting on to this one or it will make no sense. This is the dramatic conclusion that brings all the various plot threads to a head and gives you that cathartic resolution you need.

Some background information first. The god Kur created the planet ages ago and also made the wreths, a race of powerful warriors and sorcerers. Then he discovered a flaw in his creation and put all the hate and evil into the form of a dragon called Ossus, which he buried under a chain of mountains, though there still seems to be quite enough hatred and evil left in his world. The god Kur then commanded the wreth to destroy the dragon and left, promising to come back when they had done it. The wreth split into two factions, desert sandwreths and northern frostwreths, then warred among themselves. During this war, the sandwreths created humans to be servants, soldiers and slaves. After a great battle, all the wreths vanished for two thousand years, so the humans left behind assumed they had just wiped each other out. They and the dragon were legends when the story began in book one.

Meanwhile, humans have risen to create a mediaeval civilisation with castles and cities, trade and tariffs, warriors and war. Among the best warriors are Bravas with half-wreth blood, carefully conserved by breeding, who have some magical ability. They all dress in dashing black outfits and have a warrior code, strictly enforced. There are also Utauks, a tribe of wandering traders who are accepted everywhere and have good information networks.

The wreth wars drained the land of magic, but intrepid settlers went to another continent a while back and founded a new nation, Ishara. There is still magic in Ishara and, by blood and belief, they can create powerful godlings and, unfortunately, a priesthood to organise the process.

In book one, Priestlord Klovus took control of Ishara and launched a war against the Commonwealth. His evil counterpart is Utho, a Brava who successfully schemes to make the Commonwealth make war on Ishara. Meanwhile, sensible good guys King Adan Starfall of Suderra and King Kollanan of Norterra are concerned with stopping the wreths. But the Konag of the Commonwealth is a weakling dominated by Utho and doesn’t believe in wreths, not having seen them. He is gathering all his forces to attack Ishara. Meanwhile, one wreth queen is determined to wake the dragon Ossuss and kill him, fulfilling the task demanded by the god Kur long ago. Of course, the great dragon might destroy the whole world. What a mess!

There’s a lot of movement with armies marching everywhere. The frostwreths in the north are heading south to force the desert sandwreths to join them in fighting Ossus. King Kollanan marches south to join Aden Starfall, king of Suderra, on a raid to rescue human prisoners enslaved by the sandwreths . His army marches east to Ostrerra to depose Konag Mandan. Utho sets off with a large fleet to attack Ishara and the Isharans have sent a large fleet to attack the Commonwealth.

Apart from military matters, there is magic. Thon is a powerful creature who looks like a wreth. He was found in a mountain, left there in suspended animation for centuries, but can’t remember who he is or his purpose. Is he the god Kur? Then there are ska, reptilian birds who usually hunt alone but some are bonded with Utauks. They are behaving strangely. What are they really?

Anderson’s characters are not subtly drawn, being either heroes or villains. The good guys are King Aden Starfall, his uncle King Kollanan, his Utauk wife Penda, her father Hale Orr and their various friends and relatives. The bad guys are Priestlord Klovus in Ishara, Konag Mandan and Utho in the Commonwealth. The wreths are nasty but have their own agenda and aren’t very interested in humans, except to step on them if they don’t cooperate.

Minor criticisms: characters do foolish things just to keep the plot moving. There is no earthly reason why Queen Penda should accompany her troops on a mission against the sandwreths, let alone take her new-born baby along. King Kollanan goes off single-handedly to confront a giant wreth army to rescue his grandson, which in normal circumstances would just mean a futile death. The wreths have been built up as powerful, dangerous warriors but turn out to be pretty useless, chopped down as easily as any human enemy, admittedly with magic enhanced weapons. Bravas are half-breed wreth/humans but seem able to knock down pureblood wreths like ninepins. The wreths are disappointing villains.

Anderson’s prose is workmanlike and does the job. A character strokes his black beard and fondles his mighty war hammer and stretches his muscular arms so you get a description of him built into the scene. A simile may be added. I get the impression of a painting by numbers approach but it works. No single character is explored in depth because they don’t have any but there are so many of them charging about that action sustains the narrative. Anderson uses the classic multiple viewpoints changing every chapter approach to leave one in a crisis and go on to another then come back later. It keeps you reading.

Literary types may groan but this is what the people want. Bestsellers have strong stories, straightforward characters and clear, plain prose. Anderson has all that and, as Brandon Sanderson says in a back of the book blurb, he is ‘one of the best plotters in the business’. That talent and the sheer amount of organisation and day-to-day slog that goes into making these 500-page blockbusters makes him worthy of respect. What’s more, I enjoyed it. ‘Gods And Dragons’ is a neat conclusion to the trilogy with everything you could want from such a book and will distract you pleasantly for several days from the woes of the real world.

Eamonn Murphy

March 2022

(pub: www.tor.com, 2022. 469 page hardcover. Price: $29.99 (US), $39.99 (CAN), £23.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-25030-220-5)

check out website: www.tor.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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