A sorcerer summons a dragon to his kingdom to divert the populace’s attention from his other evil schemes. To appease the dragon the people offer him a weekly virgin. When the crown princess is chosen as the sacrifice she is saved by an unlikely champion. The two of them then set off to kill the dragon but when they discover its lair they find it has set up home with its brother and the virgin sacrifices, who are all alive and well and ready to fight to the death to save the dragons.
It becomes apparent that all the sacrifices are from families that have in some way offended the queen or her sorcerer consort. Confirmation of this arrives in the form of an angry sacrifice who had at least six lovers testify to her state of impurity prior to her selection. It seems that the sacrifice of the princess was made to get the restless and increasingly suspicious populace back on side.
The princess and the champion band together with the virgins (including the harlot) and the dragons and return to the city to overthrow the evil sorcerer and set the kingdom to rights.
My copy of this book was poorly edited or proof read. I almost stopped reading in the first chapter when I came across a couple of unwarranted point of view changes. The one part way through a paragraph was confusing enough but when we moved from first to third person mid sentence I was beyond irritated but persevered and although the copy improved I’m not sure my persistence was worth the effort.
The story doesn’t really begin until about a third of the way through the book. I could have possibly overlooked this slow (dull, uneventful) start if the early chapters had been used for effective world building but, alas, they are not. In fact, one of the main problems I had with this as a work of fantasy was the sketchy world building. The story relies heavily on something called The Tradition and though I was eventually able to get a feel for what it probably was at no point is The Tradition defined, neither was it explained how it worked. For something that played such a pivotal role in the story I feel that was a major oversight.
Instead of convincing world building the author takes a number of standard fantasy short cuts. The characters are given outlandish names (in this case reminiscent of early Greek mythology), common objects are given recognisable but slightly odd names (eg, instead of wearing glasses they wear oculars) and a number of fantasy beasts are mentioned but play no part in the story.
Once the story got going there were some funny moments. Credit where it’s due, Lackey does write comedy well. She gets across the humour subtly and moves on before it gets annoying. And just when things seem to be turning a little clichéd she has the characters acknowledge that, defusing the situation. Though blaming the situation on The Tradition didn’t win her any points for world building.
This book is certainly Fantasy Lite. On its own I don’t find that a problem, high fantasy doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have a monopoly on the genre. What I did find to be a problem was the unevenness of the writing. Some passages were very good, the writing flowed beautifully, while in others it was stilted and stuttering using stereotypes instead of developing characters.
Overall a good premise not executed consistently well. I am not sufficiently moved by either the concept or the voice to seek out other works of this author but neither would I avoid a book that had her name on it.-Lynn.