Sailor Kestern is a fine banker in an unenviable position. His former client, a nobleman by the name of Brackwaldt, has it out for him and that’s made business difficult. So difficult in fact, Sailor’s prospects in the capital of Borreos are looking increasingly forlorn. Gates are shut in his face, trade routes are blocked for him, human shipmasters refuse to work with businesses that so much as associate themselves with the Kestern banking house.
Even with this one major issue at hand, it’s an exciting time to be a financier and Sailor isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. The Royal Mint is driving a major initiative on behalf of the Crown, introducing paper currency and hammering it into the economy with all the strength an institution has in wielding hardcore monetary policy. Adam Smith’s invisible hand? Pfft, please, Borreos has one Darrez Issa, financier extraordinaire, who looks over the interests of the Crown with an eye sharp enough to make even an eagle jealous. A man like Sailor has a healthy dose of awe for the queen’s financial advisor, and the good sense to stay away from him after the last time the two crossed paths.
But this is called The Dragon’s Banker and not The Adventures of Sailor Kestern: Merchant Banker. There is, of course, a dragon – and what a dragon he is! The dragon has a daughter, too, and she is far more integral to this novel, the mysterious figure through whose actions Sailor becomes embroidered in the most ambitious venture he has ever helmed. Success is difficult, and failure? Let’s just say, the wrath of even the most morally bankrupt nobleman is like a fleck of dust in comparison to the rage of dragons.
As a reader with a bachelor’s degree in economics, I was the perfect audience for The Dragon’s Banker. The economics made sense and Warren seems to have a good grasp of how demand and supply work; he’s thought through all sorts of issues that the reader could’ve picked up on and works them in the story seamlessly and just at the right time. Some of Sailor’s most minor actions, at first, see great pay-off by the end of this 255-page read and in ways I didn’t necessarily expect.
The world was well enough distinguished from your average mish-mash of fantasy races; elves, in particular, struck me as a memorable lot, coming across less as a perfect, immortal version of humans and as more alien, as fickle as any creature as I’ve read about. There are quite a few memorable characters, as well – Sailor’s assistant, his banking partners, several dragons (in my mind, I call them Greedy, Arsy and Tiny-but-Not), and more. I will say, I thought a few of the dragons would have benefitted of a further appearance or two.
One aspect of this novel won me over, and it’s a specific reading of the novel that I will now expand on:
At one level of The Dragon’s Banker, there’s a critique of capitalism’s ceaseless chase of profit maximization. Though avaricious, Sailor never has the amassing of riches as his personal goal. For him, money is most valuable for what it can do for people. In that way, what could’ve been a cynical take on banking is instead a subversive work of fantasy well worth the read for that angle alone.
Sailor Kestern is a humanist – and that, I think, is the greatest triumph of The Dragon’s Banker. This banker, the only one worthy of representing the interests of the most avaricious creature of all, the dragon, ultimately differs from his cold-blooded patron in the following way – money isn’t an end goal for him. It is merely a tool.
To me, The Dragon’s Banker is a 4.5/5 star read. I enjoyed it immensely, partially because of my background, partially because of my reading of it as a critique on some of the woes of capitalism. It’s my firm belief that you’ll find plenty to love within these pages.
As for me, I am curious to see what else Scott Warren is capable of.
You'll enjoy this novel if:
- You like to see dragons evolving with the new financial times;
- You're looking for an atypical fantasy protagonist, one who relies on his smarts rather than on his fists;
- You're in for an adventure that deals with trade, the economy and a world in the early stages of the Industrial revolution;
- You are looking for a critique of capitalism, now with dragons!
- And More! Prob'ly.