Fiction Reviews


The Dragon Lords: Foolís Gold

(2016) Jon Hollins, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, 517pp, ISBN 978-0-356-50765-1

 

Bad things about this book? Well, forgetting extras, itís actually 516 pages long (not 560), a length, or thickness, that makes the heart of a reluctant reader like me sink. Good things about this book? Those 516 pages are spread over 94 chapters, some of which are little more than a few paragraphs long, then we get a plug for the second book in the series Ė False Idols - and an extract from Chasing Embers by James Bennett, billed as something you have to read if youíve enjoyed this first part of The Dragon Lords trilogy.

'Live for gold, die by fire' says the blurb on the cover, above a great illustration by Karl Simon, showing an intrepid, if foolhardy band, making a stand against a pretty disgruntled-looking dragon who looks just about to provide the very fire they will die by. For we are about to enter a world ruled by dragons in a tale billed as 'Oceanís Eleven meets The Hobbit', which pretty much says all you need to know, although Guardians of the Galaxy and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are probably closer to the mark and if you want a book comparison, think of Jen Williams 'Copper Cat' series.

The Dragon Consortium rules the continent of Avarra, and that rule means that once a year they demand tribute from the humans who can barely manage to eek out a living under their tyrannical rule, and to almost quote a line from a Bonnie Tyler song, the downtrodden people are sorely 'in need of some heroes', particularly in the Kondorra valley, but heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and in this case they come in the form of Will, a farmer, who has decided that enough is enough, and he has at least one cunning plan up the sleeve of his tunic to get his revenge on the dragons by hitting them where it hurts Ė in their giant-sized, scaly wallets. But even he isnít foolhardy enough to take the Dragon Lords on his own so he joins forces with Firkin, who used to work on Willís farm, before he decided to crawl inside a bottle when heís not disguising himself as the mouthpiece of 'the Prophet' if it earns him some ale or wine. They are joined by Lette, a mercenary and mistress of swordplay, and her fellow merc, Balur, who is rather tall and lizard-looking. Our gang of five is completed by Quirk, an academic from the Tamathian University who has a bit of a past and a big secret she is struggling to keep hidden.

So what have we got? Well, a bunch of disparate, likeable characters with hidden depths and back stories aplenty. Big action and battle scenes. Multiple viewpoints through the eyes and minds of the lead characters, even from the devious minds of some of the dragons, and with names like Mattrax, Dathrax and Kithrax donít expect too much in the way of subtlety.

All in all TDLFG is great fun, told in big, bold brush strokes with exciting scenes, witty banter and lots of unanswered questions and some hints that Hollinsí world and character building will expand in books two and three, and while billed as a trilogy, I wouldnít be surprised if there is a fourth title in this trilogy and maybe even more. That is, if Hollins can come up with chapter titles the likes of 'The Problem with Dissecting Dragons', 'Nom Nom Prophecy Nom', 'Investigating His Burgeoning Manhood' and 'Weíre Going to Need a Bigger Boat'. Think of Foolís Gold as a snowball running down the slope of a mountain, picking up mass and momentum and readers as it rolls on. Who knows, one of those feet protruding from the snow, might just be yours.

Ian Hunter

 

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a page count disparity and so a word of explanation. The story page count is 516 pages, the story plus author's mini-bio makes it 517, and these together with the extras (unconnected with this title) makes 560 pages.


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