Novice Dragoneer (A Dragoneer Academy Novel Book 1) by E. E. Knight (book review).

November 27, 2019 | By | Reply More

Ileth grew up in an orphanage where food was short and kindness even shorter, especially for a girl with a stutter. The future was already written for the child, telling of domestic drudgery and toil until an early death. But, one day, Ileth meets a silver dragon and its rider, one of the Republic’s dragoneers and it gives her a spark of a dream. An ambition that will lead her to the Serpentine, the home of the dragons and where all dragoneer hopefuls are trained.

‘Novice Dragoneer’ is the start of a new series, ‘The Dragoneer Academy.’ E. E. Knight is returning to draconic territory with this series after his ‘Age Of Fire’, though not the same world and this time from a human perspective. ‘Novice Dragoneer’ hangs around its namesake, Ileth, the novice dragoneer and her trials to achieve that rank and to keep it.

Two things bothered me with this book, though I rate it highly overall. The first is the abrupt shift in Ileth’s duties that reveals a deep-seated passion that Ileth has always had yet had never come up in the story before then. I can live with that, though it threw off my reading slightly. The other is the amount of attention paid to Ileth’s looks in the first half of the novel when she is starving and subservient fourteen year-old.

As with many a pseudo-medieval setting, this is a world where women are respectable or not and the line between the two very easily crossed with a single misstep and it is always the girl who is at fault, never the boy who helped her trip up.

The way Ileth is depicted is somewhat disturbing in the swift changes between a waif who needs charity and a target for sexual interest. This emphasis on her looks shifts away as the novel progresses to one that is more focused on what she does rather than her person specifically. Nothing untoward occurs and it is true that in medieval society, both the pseudo and real, there was no such thing as a teenager, only children and adults.

Fourteen is old enough for many things in that society. The amount of focus on the risks for poor children early in Ileth’s story does highlight the issue, but perhaps it could have been with a softer hand with less dramatic contrasts.

Ileth is a wonderful heroine. She is determined and stubborn and brave. Her innate kindness and drive leads her to speak out and act, sometimes against all advice. It is these acts she performs with barely a thought that push the plot along and I thoroughly enjoyed following Ileth on her journey.

Do not let the ‘Academy’ part of the series put you off. This is not a magical boarding school romp. There are some darker issues in this world, both political and social, from page one. This is a great book for anyone who enjoyed Tamora Pierce’s ‘Tortall’ series and their determined, real, heroines or the ‘The Enchanted Forest Chronicles’ by Patricia C. Wrede with their realistic fairy tale feel.

LR Richardson

November 2019

(pub: ACE/Penguin, 2019. 512 page paperback. Price: $16.00 (US), £ 9.35 (UK), $22.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-98480-406-8)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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