Book 1 of The Age of Fire
Published by Roc Books December 2005
E.E. Knight has been building a solid reputation with his Vampire Earth saga, an entertaining, pulpy, character-driven sf storyline. In those books Knight took the Vampire legend in a new direction. With Dragon Champion, the first installment of his new Age of Fire saga, Knight turns his pen to High Fantasy. Typically enough, the young protagonist grows under the warm care of his mother, strong arm of his father, and alongside his sisters. After a few short years together, the protagonist’s family is wiped out, with his mother fighting the enemies so her son can live. Live he does, as the young protagonist ventures forth into the world with his remaining sister. He comes to learn of the wider world, beyond the soft embrace of his mother and protective power of his father. The young protagonist must be careful though, those who destroyed his family are not willing to stop just there. The young protagonist learns of the dangers of the world, he is captured and treated as a slave. His captors are harsh and unyielding, yet they fear him. This all sounds rather familiar, almost cliché, doesn’t it? Well the familiarity is thrown for a curve when your point-of-view character, the protagonist Auron, is a dragon. In addition to his orphanage at the hands of humans, something else sets Auron apart from his Dragon brethren – he is a rare gray dragon. Almost out of the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, the dragons in Knight’s world come in a variety of colors. Grays, such as Auron, are scaleless, the rarest, the smallest, and are often perceived to be the weakest of the dragons.
The early scenes depicting Auron’s emergence from his shell were very strong, giving an immediate feel for the life of the dragon. Auron’s initial dragon education from his parents was also very well-done. Knight evokes some very strong images here, particularly Auron busting from his shell and his interactions with his parents. Here, Knight did a great job of hooking me into the story. Auron’s plight is indeed a familiar one, but this makes it no less entertaining to experience. As Auron matures and learns of the world, he is captured and eventually freed by Hazeleye, an elf who has gathered a great deal of information about dragons. Much of Hazeleye’s knowledge pertains to an almost legendary, elder black dragon, NooMoahk, who may hold the key to the fate of Dragons.
Soon after Auron is freed, he becomes part of a wolf pack. This may sound somewhat corny and odd, put in those simplistic terms, but again, Knight manages to make this work very effectively and plausibly. As strong as Knight built the dragon society and culture in this book, his wolf society shows as much care and detail. Seemingly modeled after the Norse society, the wolves gather in what they call Thing (much like the Norse/Germanic All Thing) to induct Auron into their society. This concern and attention do the details illustrates how strong the overall feel of the book is – Knight clearly is building something more in this world and the amount of back-story to the characters and creatures is very impressive.
Knight did a very good job structuring this book, too. Each of the three ‘books’ contains nine chapters, with each ‘book’ title referring to a stage in the Dragon’s growth – Hatchling, Drake, and Dragon. The story progressed pretty naturally after Auron is inducted into the wolf pack, and there were a few times Knight surprised me. A few instances towards the end where he could have went with a predictable event and didn’t, and this is the key with much of fiction, particularly a fiction known so much for adhering to a formula. The only negative I can bring up is that Knight’s authorial voice doesn’t seem as comfortable as it did in his Vampire Earth novels. However, the story on the whole was very entertaining, the characters were genuine and the world full of depth. With the ending Knight gave us, I am very interested to see where he takes these characters next.
© 2005 Rob H. Bedford
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