I really enjoyed the opening. It did an excellent job of painting a vivid picture, laying the foundations of the plot, and introducing likeable characters. You can tell right off the bat that Lindsay Buroker knows what she’s doing.
The story of Kingdoms at War revolves around the quest to open the fabled dragon gate, an artifact that leads to the Dragon homeworld. Once Jak and Jadora unearth the legendary artifact the powers that be converge to try to control it and the possibility of allying with dragons on the other side of the portal.
I enjoyed most of the characters in the story. They have a quirkiness that makes them endearing without going too far and making them silly. The storyline goes back and forth from the archeologists to a crew of mercenaries whose paths cross in a couple of spots. Both sections are enjoyable and neither really stood out as a weak link. All the characters definitely have their own personalities and feel fleshed out and believable. I think that’s one of the strengths of Buroker‘s writing.
The setting is familiar with a few unusual elements. Wizards rule the world. In fact, they are so powerful that at first it seems impossible that any of the characters could stand against them. There is the magical equivalent of gun powder and other technological advances that allow mundane humans to fight against the wizards. There are also flying ships and floating cities. A fair amount of the story is set in one of the flying wizard cities which makes for a high Magic setting over all that I found consistent but not particularly unique.
The plot of this novel dragged a bit from time to time. When I take a step back and look at the bird's eye view of the different things that happened in the story, it certainly was not very economical for a 500 to 600 page epic fantasy novel. Every complication is dealt with in multiple scenes, some of which felt like they didn’t accomplish very much. A lot of the time I felt like we were kind of treading water where we get a tiny bit of progress but not very much for how many pages were devoted to said complication.
Luckily, Buroker writes in a easy to digest and engaging prose style. Her dialogue and banter were quite good, and she did a fine job of painting vivid scenes. Her action was also very visual and engaging, even if it was teased out more than I would normally enjoy.
All in all this was a pretty good book. I like the characters a lot and everything else about it was solid.