Review of BONES OF THE DRAGON by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
DRAGONSHIPS OF VINDRAS
Tor, January 2009
Food has been scarce, hunting rough, and plunder non-existant for the Vindrasi raiders. Cocky Skylan Ivorson manages to kill a boar but when before he can bring it home, ogres arrive in his town, bringing news that a great battle was fought in the heavens and that the gods worshiped by the ogres defeated the gods worshiped by the Vindrasi. Unfortunately, the Vindrasi priestesses can't dispute this fact (although they do deny that their gods are completely dead. Skylan learns that his village was targeted because the chief of the Vindrasi bought them off at the price of Skylan's clan and decides to seek his revenge. The gods, however, have their own plans and Skylan's revenge gets twisted up in plots and lies.
Skylan's life becomes more complicated when he lets greed (or maybe a god's words) take control and claims the title of chief-of-chiefs for himself. Skylan is strong and impetuous but not necessarily clever or wise. He didn't even know that chief-of-chiefs came with a built-in wife, in this case a woman far older than he who doesn't bother concealing her secret...she poisoned the former chief to allow Skylan to win.
With its battling gods, dragon-based ships (these associated with actual dragons who will, under certain conditions, respond to the priestesses and fight alongside the Vindrasi), raid-based economy, and blond-barbarian warriors, BONES OF THE DRAGON owes a lot to the historical Vikings of the European dark ages. Skylan himself is a tough character to like. He doesn't notice that the girl he's in love with actually loves his best friend, offends his new wife without a thought, never bothers to question his cousin who sets him on countless paths to destruction, ignores the words of his own dragon when he wants to set sail, and breaks his own oath to his father and his god. Still, he has the bumbling good intentions that suit a hero well and his bad luck with women (or lack of sense with women) makes him human. Still, he has a lot of growing up to do, and barely gets started with that in this novel.
Authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman create an intriguing fantasy world, don't mind killing off key characters even though they're setting up a series, and give us a protagonist who has plenty of growth and change ahead of him. I would have liked to see a little less setup, a bit less of Draya whom, it seems, the authors quickly tired of, and perhaps an occasional bit of common sense out of Skylar. I'm interested enough that I'll be looking for more in this series.
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