As with my other three SPFBO reviews, I have tried my best to avoid summaries, reviews, and blurbs so I can have as much of an unbiased opinion as I can. I’ve tried to base my initial impressions on cover art, title, and design while leaving the rest up to the story and storytelling. That said I was fully expecting to dislike this book. I really, really dislike the cover art. It reminds me of a 1990’s generic fantasy coloring book page. The outer trimming is fine, but the picture itself does not strike me as professional. Similarly, I really dislike the title. Even if it is perfectly suited to its contents, it struck me as generic. The name Edgewhen also never appears in the actual story.
I listed all of the negatives first because once I started reading The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying it.
The story begins with a prologue explaining the origin of the various shades (yes, I mean that literally) of people in this world. These different groups of people have been shaded by one of nine different gods who are more or less uninvolved with their creation other than to maybe (?) fight back some demons who don’t enter into this story. Unfortunately, there are elemental creatures breaking into the world and the gods can’t help without cosmic destruction. So the goddess of luck decides to let the people go up against these elementals (dragons).
The story REALLY begins with Danwell and Kethwin, who would like to get married because they like each other and they’ve already had sex. Problem is Danwell’s clan doesn’t have enough clan coins left to make the thing official except for the wealthiest or most important members of the clan. So when an underground dragon begins terrorizing their town, Danwell and Kethwin set off at different times to locate a guy who claims to be a dragonslayer. In this way, they hope to become important enough to earn a clan coin so they can marry.
Meanwhile, Dawnracer is a member of a nomadic horseclan and loves adventure. Her people are also assaulted by a dragon, and so she sets off looking for the very same Dragonslayer.
All of their paths cross, and they go after the dragons.
And spoiler everything goes almost exactly how you would expect.
Heroes are heroic.
Bards are quippy.
Elements are elemental.
Neat magic system is neat (think genetic editing but with magic).
For how straight forward Dragonslayer is, it possesses a fair bit of charm. It hearkens back to a simpler time in a quaint way. The writing is serviceable without being distracting, and while not being all that memorable, it isn’t bad. The characters have interesting relationships and cultures, and their conflicts arise out of those differences. But they discover the things that unite them are greater than the things dividing them (more related to cultural differences and personalities than skin-color).
As I mentioned above, I found the magic system to be pretty cool. It fits in well with the world, and changing an animal’s coloring in utero seems like a far less barbaric form of branding.
The world does feel pretty small, which after the prologue, I was expecting. It kind of feels a little like sand-box fantasy where a bunch of gods got together and brought their favorites toys to play with but not share.
I do think there is a bit of an antagonist problem. I get that the focus is on the character relationships, but the two dragons serve more as a rallying point than a true opposing force. This leads to a bit of a crisis of stakes where no one ever really feels in danger. Maybe there’s a fantasy version of dragon PETA in the sequels?
In conclusion, The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen is an imperfect but fun little story. If it had had the same cover art as Lies of Descent by Troy Carrol Butcher (it resembles it already) and a different title, I would have been intrigued from the very beginning. But that’s just me. Another reader may have zero problems with it, and I’m not docking it for those items because the story and worldbuilding are there.
So if you’re itching for an old fashioned tale of magic, heroism, and elemental dragons give the Dragonslayer of Edgewhen a shot.