Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner
The sequel to When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods
Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.
Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism — a feat that has never been accomplished before.
But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.
Time for some fantasy and the latest from Marc Turner. Today I’m taking a look at book two in The Chronicles of the Exile series – Dragon Hunter. Things get off to a promising start. The cover looks pretty damn awesome. There definitely appears to be a dragon and based on the direction the ship is facing the dragon in question is most definitely being hunted.
Imerle Polivar, current head of the Storm Council, is a force of nature. She has risen to the very top, and now that she is there she will do everything she can to stay there. A mistress of manipulation and artful cunning, she delights in playing the political game. Imerle is always thinking five steps ahead of everyone else. She’ll happily sacrifice anyone if it allows her to move forward in her plans. I don’t think she is necessarily evil though; ambitous, without a shadow of a doubt, but evil? I’m not so sure.
Imerle’s main rival is Mazana Creed, another Storm Lady, who is just as keen to gain as much power as she possibly can. As the plot unfolds, the reader gets the opportunity to watch these two go head to head. Also included in the mix are a handful of other Lords and Ladies. Each and every one of them crave power and the rewards that goes with it. It feels almost like some sort of complicated dance or a complex melody. The elements from each plot and counter-plot weave in and out of the main narrative.
There are a whole host of other characters to also enjoy, but my absolute favourite had to be Septia Kempis Parr. Try to imagine a long suffering sergeant in the city watch. Hard done by his superiors, and often mocked by his subordinates, he is more than a little hacked off with the world. He finds himself in the unenviable situation of trying to catch a magical assassin while political power plays are forcing violence to erupt just about everywhere. Parr’s often sardonic tone adds a lightly comical tone to proceedings. The back and forth between Parr and his fellow watchmen, Sniffer in particular, is pitch perfect. You can almost hear Parr groan inwardly every time someone speaks to him.
All these seemingly unconnected elements are deftly drawn together to create a smart and hugely entertaining tale. Politics, power, religion and death is just a typical day in the lives of the Oliairian Court. The final half of Dragon Hunters, which covers the events of Dragon Day itself, devolves into one long fight between all the various factions. It’s great fun watching this all transpire. Like a slightly deranged shell game, Turner flips perspective in each of these chapters from one character to the next. It gives all the action scenes a terrific sense of pace.
Dragon Hunters is a good mix of many things; the political in-fighting gives the old brain cells much to mull over, while the outcome of these power plays means that there is plenty of thrilling spectacle in there as well. There is a delicious moral ambiguity to most of the cast and this makes for a far more satisfying read. There is no good or bad there are only differing shades of grey.
Far too often when it comes to fantasy novels, a story always takes place from a very distinct viewpoint. We only ever find out how events transpire from the hero or heroine’s point of view. I don’t have a massive issue with that, but it is really nice to find a book where an author tries something a bit different. In Dragon Hunters, Marc Turner does precisely that.
I’ve not read this novel’s predecessor, When the Heavens Fall, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t normally enjoy jumping into a series if I have missed out on the first book. This novel appears to be the exception to the rule however. This is a cracking fantasy read. The world building does a great job of being genuinely evocative, and there are enough twists and turns to keep any reader on their toes. What with all the different races and factions, I got the impression I had only seen the smallest glimpse of a much larger world. By the time I got to the end, I was still hungry for more. All of that great stuff to enjoy AND there are some kick-ass dragons as well. I ask you, what more could you possibly want?
Dragon Hunters is published by Titan Books and is available now.