Don't forget to check out my interview with Marc over at The Speculative Herald.
When the Heavens Fall, then be prepared for an abrupt change with Dragon Hunters. For the second book of The Chronicle of the Exile, Marc Turner shifts location, characters, and story line. It’s still the same recognizable narrative voice, and the mythology ties the two books together, but it makes for a very different read . . . one that takes on a entirely new flavor. Having said that, if you’ve yet to encounter Turner’s work, then that same shift means this second book is just as accessible to new readers as the first.
Personally, I found this second volume a little more difficult to get into than the first. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my darkened alleys, haunted forests, and subterranean lairs. It’s classic (perhaps even clichéd) epic fantasy, but those elements were largely responsible for me celebrating the first as something of a throwback fantasy. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this second volume, or that it doesn’t grow on you, it just the sunny seaside setting didn’t have the same initial impact - although it does prove to have some very cool, very dark, very underwater secrets.
Senar Sol, Guardian, is our first real POV character in the novel. He’s as much a challenge as he is a mystery, trapped far from home, with rather murky loyalties. In terms of narrative, he allows us to view the events surrounding the Storm Lords with a critical eye, and in terms of character, he slowly emerges to reveal himself as a hero of note. Karmel Flood, Chameleon, is probably the most intriguing character in the novel, a woman who is both a thief and an assassin, with her loyalties divided rather than murky. She has a magical ninja-like quality to her, but she’s also intelligent and witty. Agenta Webb, Gilgamarian sailor, is a bit more of a mystery, but she’s strong-willed, independent, and more powerful than appearances would suggest.
Kempis Parr, Watchman, serves as the moral center of the novel, a good man who is perhaps too aware of his place in the world. He’s self-assured and sarcastic, but he’s also a good leader and an even better investigator. I’m not sure what it is about the kinds of city guards, but they often make for the best, most reliable, most admirable characters. Mazana Creed, Storm Lord, is the exact opposite, but far-and-away the most entertaining character in the book. She struck a chord in me from her first verbal sparring with Imerle Polivar, and I found myself hoping she’d have a significant role to play as the story progressed. She’s also the character who grows and evolves the most, although there were moments I doubted her motives (as I suspect we’re meant to). As was the case in the first novel, it takes a while for their individual stories to merge, but that's part of the charm.
The sea dragons are, of course, the main attraction here, and it’s well worth the wait for them to appear on the scene. They’re brutal killing machines, water-borne monsters who are fully prepared to amass a massive body count. Turner crafts the geography almost as carefully as he does the plot, ensuring that the dragons aren’t just something on which to hinge the story, but a legitimate part of a very water-borne story. Their presence has mythological as well as political implications, and in a book where political schemes are almost as serpentine as the dragons themselves, that leaves them a large role to play.
All in all, Dragon Hunters feels a bit more grounded than the first book, and swaps some of its almost-Gothic horror for pulp-adventure, but it still maintains the same dark sense of humor and epic scope of imagination that made it so enjoyable.
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Tor Books
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.