Hey, all! It’s Alexa, and today, I have the pleasure of hosting a blog tour and book review for striking new fantasy, In The Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford.
Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.
Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.
Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he’s some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He’s supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who’s too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.
With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Release Date: May 31, 2016
While I did a spend a good portion of this book without a super-clear idea of what was going on, for once, that actually didn’t bother me too much. What I mean is, since the book was mostly in deep third POV, I only knew what the POV character, either Eric or David, knew and often, that wasn’t a lot. People spent a lot of time keeping these two in the dark, feeding them only the information they ABSOLUTELY NEEDED to know—and frankly, sometimes not even that much.
But even with that, even when I wasn’t exactly sure who the bad guys were or why Eric and David were so important for defeating them or even precisely what we were fighting for, this novel was still exciting and enjoyable, gripping my interest with the spellbinding storytelling. In fact, my favorite part about the plot became watching all the pieces come together, and then as I reread a few favorite sections to prepare for this review, finding all the places where the clues first popped up and realizing anew what they actually meant. Truth be told, not everything was explained, but it was still really cool to watch all the clues dropped, the half-overheard conversations, the puzzle pieces I just couldn’t quite connect all come together to create the full story at the end.
Plot: 4 stars out of 5
As I said in the title, the sass is strong with this one. The narrative itself isn’t super sarcastic, but the characters’ dialogue often is because emotions run high in a lot of situations, and instead of people falling all over the place with their feelings, EVERYBODY sasses EVERYBODY at some point. And it’s not just being rude or being dumb; the sarcasm actually made sense for the situations and a lot of it was really funny. It showed their emotions without seeming overly emotional, which I found very refreshing and very amusing.
To actually discuss the characters, there are a lot that I’m kind of on the fence about because, while I understand why they did what they did and I understand the high-pressure situation they were in… I don’t think I like the way they handled it. Maybe it’s the same in all fantasies and they just made more of a point of it in this book, but the whole dragging-a-kid-out-of-his-normal-life-to-fight-his-battles-for-you-because-he-is-supposedly-some-kind-of-chosen-one deal is actually kind of wrong. And this book doesn’t hesitate to bring up questions like that, about being forced to fight battles that might not be yours or whether or not we’re any better than the enemy if we kill the same way they kill us. There’s actually a lot of deeper questions that come up, which made the story a lot more complex and thought-provoking than many of the YA fantasies I’ve come across. So yeah. All that to say, I haven’t come to a complete conclusion about any of these things, but it was interesting to see them examined from the perspectives of several different people.
I stopped talking about the characters, didn’t I? Whoops.
Anyways, there were a lot of higher powers that may have played God too much—which irked me—but I also understood their actions… and maybe they didn’t think they could afford act any different? I don’t know. Like I said, it’s something I shall have to consider.
Okay, I’m actually gonna talk about the main characters now.
Eric and David: These boys both go through such emotional trauma but what I like about the portrayal of it is that, even when their feelings were bursting out of them and they were lashing out and making poor decisions based off of their feels, it made sense. Eric especially did some things that—quite frankly—would normally drive me up the wall, but because I could see where he was coming from and understand why he was making those decisions, the pain and desperation that was actually driving them, I felt more compassion than annoyance. Even at their most irrational moments, there was a seemingly-to-them rational reason behind their actions, and that was something I really appreciated.
Plus, the rest of time, they were pretty smart. Also, funny. And David was kind of adorable.
Charlotte: I like Charlotte because she truly was not a useless heroine: yes, she cried—kind of a lot, actually—and no, she was not a “strong female character” in the kickbutt sense. But she just radiated this steadfast, stable, enduring personality. She encouraged David and stood by him, she brought up a lot of the deeper questions, and when necessary, yes, she delivered her own punch of sarcasm. I can’t think of any scenes where they would have been strictly dead without her, but she supports David when he needs her most—and accepts his support when she needs it—and she’s the biggest reasons he was even able to make it through this. He was there for her and she was there for him, their strength upon strength, guiding each other through the scary, painful times. Yeah. It was really pretty cute. <3
Characters: 4 stars out of 5
The descriptions in this book were A plus. Whether of people, places, or whatever else, they were always powerful and vivid, like a brushstroke on a master’s canvas.
A landscape of rolling green hills stretched out before them. Winding narrow paths of glowing lapis lazuli wandered off in several directions leading to pastures, gardens, and round huts made of stones and thatched roofs. To the southeast, looming against a thick forest, stood a resplendent white palace, complete with domed turrets and minarets.
My only complaint is that I wish some of the worldbuilding had been a little bit clearer. There were several new creatures—the shime, for example—and normal fantasy dynamics that seemed very different in this story. And even though I could garner a basic idea of what they were and what they might mean, I was hoping to read some more details just because they were so different. Still, I got enough to understand, and as you might have guessed from the rest of this review, I enjoyed it anyway. 😉
Writing Style/Setting: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
And so we come in right around 4 stars out of 5. In The Shadow of the Dragon King is a great series start; the characters and story really seized my interest and I am definitely curious to see how all of this is going to unfold. If you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can check the purchase links above or the giveaway down below.
So have you read any books with dragons lately? Fantasies that probed deeper issues? Leave me a comment and let me know what’s on your reading list; I can’t wait to talk with all of you!
~ Love, Alexa <3
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J. Keller Ford (known to all as Jenny) is a scribbler of Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction. As a young Army brat, she traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights and wondrous magic that permeated her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind and oozes out in sweeping tales of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.
When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, screaming on roller coasters and traveling. Jenny is a mom to four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a quirky knight who was silly enough to marry her, and a menagerie of royal pets. Published works include short stories, The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson. IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING is her debut novel and the first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow Trilogy.
Note: I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.