Book Review: The Summer Dragon
The Summer Dragon
(The First Book of the Evertide)
by Todd Lockwood
Popular fantasy illustrator Todd Lockwood has been drawing dragons of one taxonomy or another for decades, drawing them for role-playing game guides and the covers of fantasy novels. So it feels both unsurprising and somehow cumulative that his debut fantasy novels should feature generous helpings of his own artwork – and center around dragons.
The story of The Summer Dragon (the first in a projected series) centers around a smart and headstrong young woman named Maia, whose family has for many generations bred and trained dragons for the Dragonry of the Emperor in the kingdom of Gurvaan, a kingdom complexly dependent on dragons as instruments of war and policing and also as guidance for the state. The dragons in the latter case, the rare and mysterious Avar, are known as the High Dragons, “mystical creatures of spirit and magic,” Maia thinks, “Not like the mountain dragons we bred, mere animals by comparison.”
In addition to craft and kingship. Gurvaan’s dragons are also the crux of its mytho-history, the memory of which has frittered away to myth and ruin in the high outskirts where Maia grew up, although even those ruins have always snagged her curiosity:
We knew the tales were important, of course, and that someone had put great effort into this ancient shrine. I liked to study the crumbling walls and the stumps of marble columns, all covered with remnants of carvings that suggested a story long lost. A statue made of two different colors of stone dominated the center of the patio. It showed two dragons, a black one carved out of dark stone below and a white one made of marble above, locked in combat. They didn’t look like our dragons.
If the tone of all this sounds familiar, it should; The Summer Dragon, though remarkably fluidly written and confidently imagined, is very faithful to the standard fantasy-novel template – rough-hewn boy (or in this case far more interesting girl) from the provinces is catapulted into world-shaking events and revealed as somehow key to their unfolding, etc. Fans of that template will find Lockwood’s work here immediately comfortable in its concepts, and the book’s many action sequences (which commence on the first page and crop up very frequently until the last page) read with a satisfyingly fast-paced momentum:
A roar behind me turned my head. Malik galloped after me. I dodged around a stalagmite, stumbled, scrambled back. Malik accelerated, nose wrinkled, eyes dark with fury. I passed a group of men sitting upright in bedrolls, crossbows leveled, wrapped in bloodied bandages. They looked past me at Malik, their faces contorted with fear. When he charged, they loosed as a group. He paused to rip them from their beds. Then a volley of crossbow bolts stung his rear legs and tail.
The book indulges in the luxury of having an artist as its author: in addition to the stunning painted cover, there are black-and-white illustrations throughout. And the combined result is an epic fantasy debut of more than enough promise to have readers looking forward to more.