Dreamwalker by J D Oswald
In a small village, miles from the great cities of the Twin Kingdoms, a young boy called Errol tries to find his way in the world. He’s an outsider – he looks different from other children and has never known his father. No one, not even himself, has any knowledge of his true lineage.
Deep in the forest, Benfro, the young male dragon begins his training in the subtle arts. Like his mother, Morgwm the Green, he is destined to be a great Mage.
No one could imagine that the future of all life in the Twin Kingdoms rests in the hands of these two unlikely heroes.
But it is a destiny that will change the lives of boy and dragon forever …
James Oswald may already be known to some of you good folks out there in reader land. He writes crime fiction and I’ve heard enough good things to ensure I will be checking some of it out very soon. In the meantime however, under the pen name J D Oswald, he is embarking on his first foray into the realms of fantasy. Time to check out the opening book in The Ballad of Sir Benfro, Dreamwalker.
Born on the same day, Benfro and Errol are, on the face of it, entirely normal. Okay, Benfro is a dragon, but apart from that, entirely normal. Separated shortly after birth, their parallel lives mirror one another. Most of the plot takes place during their formative years and the reader gets insight into how both young males are in fact far from normal and are destined to be important figures. I enjoyed the uncertainty, the naivety and innocence that exists within them both. Like all youngsters, they dream of adventure and escape, of travelling the land, but neither of them are quite ready to take that leap into the unknown. You do however, get brief glimpses of the adults that they are going to become. It’s always a delight when an author shares the gradual evolution of their characters directly with readers.
Sadly Benfro and Errol’s idyllic childhoods are set to end abruptly. A military order of warriors, and their fanatical leader, have set a diabolical plan into motion. His aim? To deal with the dragon issue once and for all. Using the subtle arts and the ability to dreamwalk, the devilish Inquisitor Melyn is controlling everyone from the royal family to some of the more easily lead dragons in Benfro’s village. I felt the urge to boo him loudly every time he turned up.
One of the highlights of the novel is Oswald’s vivid depictions of the dragons and the structure of their society. Benfro lives in a magically isolated village and the author takes time to give all of the dragons who live there a genuine depth of personality. The writing also drops some tantalizing hints regarding the history of dragon kind throughout the rest of the Twin Kingdoms. The tiny village could easily be viewed as a microcosm of dragon society as a whole.
I’ll be honest, I’m a great believer in going with my gut reaction to any book. In this case my gut tells me that Dreamwalker is something a little bit special, a cut above the norm. Within a handful of pages I was completely engrossed. There are authors who write books, and then there are others who tell tales. It’s those storytellers who are my favourites, they’re the ones who really know how to craft their work. J D Oswald certainly falls squarely into this second category. Dreamwalker is a beautiful story, well told, that has a timeless quality about it. Everything a fantasy fan could ever want is woven into the warp and weft of the narrative. This is the sort of book I want to sit down and read to people on a stormy night in front of a roaring fire. I want to see the look on their faces as each and every listener becomes utterly rapt in the unfolding scenes. This is the sort of fiction that once you’ve read you feel compelled to share. A perfect beginning to what I hope proves to be a perfect series.
I don’t use this term lightly, but in this case I’m extremely happy to, I am in little doubt that Dreamwalker is destined to become a classic. Blending the traditional with the modern to create a wonderfully unique interpretation of dragon mythology, with a distinctly Welsh flavour, I have a sneaking suspicion that Benfro and Oswald are set to become firm fan favorites. I could see myself revisiting this magical little story again and again.
Dreamwalker is already available as an e-book and will be published by Penguin on 14th August. The Rose Cord and The Gold Cage, books two and three of The Ballad of Sir Benfro, will follow. Highly recommended.