Another beautiful discovery brought about by the Fellowship of Fantasy book club, Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia has become an instant new favorite. Fall into a truly fantastical world full of volcanic islands and airships and dragons. Meet Hualiama “Lia” for short, the royal ward with no knowledge of her parentage, but who secretly dreams of flying with dragons – a major taboo to even think about. When the king is betrayed and dethroned, Lia attempts to defend her adopted family, only to find herself nearly fatally wounded and tossed from an airship to her death. Fortunately for her, a curious little dragonet sees her plummeting to the ground and, uncharacteristically for his kind, seeks to slow her fall and care for her wounds. When she awakes, she must find her way through vast dangers and immense obstacles to not only get off the island she has landed on, but also to free the royal family from their imprisonment so that her adopted father can retake the throne. But there is more to Lia’s story than a simple quest for vengeance, for her own past is about to catch up with her in a meaningful but startling way.
This book captivated me within the first page and kept me reading hungrily, despite being the first ever book I’ve read in e-book format. On my iPad… which is not a recommended experience. I NEED this book and series in paperback so I can enjoy it more thoroughly, but I decided to take advantage of the free e-version so that I could read this with the book club. And despite the e-reading experience, this book was absolutely fantastic.
Not only is the plot fast-paced, enjoyable, and filled with various twists and turns, but the characters are superb. The interactions between the characters is almost more fun than the story itself, and it was fun to simply bask in the sometimes serious, sometimes banter-filled dialogue. The attention to detail in these interactions, and the intricate details that they highlight in various ways in the main character unfolds gently, like someone meticulously unwrapping a present so that the paper can be reused.
I also loved the tiny hints of steampunk flavor throughout the story, mostly in the way of airships. And the complexity of the world… which I look forward to exploring more in later books in the series. I wasn’t quite sure if the islands were floating in the air or separated by water, but I might have missed that simply due to reading on the iPad. Either way, the world was unique and full of surprises.
The author is obviously a lover of enormous words because Dragonfriend is full of them: enough to stretch even my fairly extensive vocabulary, which is always a fun experience for me. And yet, these large vocabulary words are woven so seamlessly into the story that they never felt like they detracted from the tapestry of plot and characters. And they were cleverly placed so that I never felt the need to grab a dictionary. They never seemed “tossed in,” either, but rather chosen with care.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, dragons, and big words.
One tiny little nitpicky niggly thing that detracted from my complete enjoyment of the story… and I do mean “nitpicky” was that there were a few instances where the words “awesome” and “sweet” were used in various moments of dialogue to mean “that is extremely cool.” Because I grew up and went to high school in the 90s, when those words were the preferred slang of the day, every time they showed up these words yanked me straight out of the fantastical world of Fra’anior and plunked me down in the halls of my high school. I know that seems like a minor thing, but these words just seemed starkly out of place in a tome that was otherwise replete with carefully chosen sesquipedalian terms.
I would caution younger readers as there is a lot of violence, some of it described on the moderately graphic side. Lia’s wounds and their description made my skin crawl a bit. Also, there are a few more mature themes that come out in the story: abuse, a very delicately hinted at instance of rape, and some innuendo as Lia tries to teach a dragonet about the differences between human and dragon cultures. Due to those themes, though I would still term this a “clean” book, I would probably hesitate to recommend it to readers younger than 16.
Four Dragon Eggs