Bershad stands apart from the world, the most legendary dragonslayer in history, both revered and reviled.
Once, he was Lord Silas Bershad, but after a disastrous failure on the battlefield he was stripped of his titles and sentenced to one violent, perilous hunt after another. Now he lives only to stalk dragons, slaughter them, collect their precious oil, and head back into the treacherous wilds once more. For years, death was his only chance to escape. But that is about to change.
The king who sentenced Bershad to his fate has just given him an unprecedented chance at redemption. Kill a foreign emperor and walk free forever.
The journey will take him across dragon-infested mountains, through a seedy criminal underworld, and into a forbidden city guarded by deadly technology.
But the links of fate bind us all.
I had been putting off reading Brian Naslund’s Dragons of Terra series until it was finished because I was afraid once I started reading it I would not want to stop. I had heard it was absolutely addictive, plus adventure fantasy is my favorite, and also, well, you know, dragons, so I was not interested in waiting a year for book 2, and another year for book 3. And I could not have been more right in that decision. Had I had time between books it would have driven me absolutely bonkers. This is the kind of series that makes me want to shout from the rooftops… *ahem*… let me clear my throat:
READ IT NOW!
Now that the yelling is out of the way, let’s get to the details of what makes this series so good.
As this is character-driven adventure fantasy, the character set is the most important aspect of the series, in my opinion, and I have to say: Naslund absolutely knocks it out of the park. Silas Bershad is the main character, the vaunted hero, a veritable moss-eating Popeye of a warrior. There is literally nothing not to like about him. Bershad is strong, courageous, thoughtful, reckless, and has game with both dragons and lovers. He is the whole package, and he absolutely makes the story what it is. I really enjoy it when character-driven stories have one or two really forceful characters that take the narrative on their shoulders and carry it where it needs to go. Bershad does exactly that.
He is not the only important character, though. I am not going to go through them all here, because what is most significant about these characters is not their names but that each has a very distinct role. The story incorporates princesses, heiresses, assassins, alchemists, unruly kings, and mad scientists. Also mushroom zombies? Oh, and DRAGONS. That is one of my favorite things about well-written adventure fantasy: the cast of characters is diverse and everyone plays their part well. I like how each one is really flawed, too, which speaks to their humanity. The author explores the depth of the characters, inside and out, and I found it so easy to connect to them emotionally.
Second to character set in an adventure fantasy is the…
…that’s right! The adventure! Dragons of Terra is thrilling from beginning to end. Action-packed and often violent, this series puts its characters through the ringer. I do not know how Naslund managed to write so many scenes where characters’ lives were on the line! Every page, every word, every letter was filled with danger. I was constantly on the edge of my seat.
I also loved the progression of the story from book to book. Book 1, Blood of an Exile, does an amazing job of bringing the reader into the fold. First, look at Bershad, he’s so cool with his tattooed, dragon-hunting self. Then introductions all around, a few dragons, some mischief, and a little bit of betrayal. Hook, line, and sinker.
Book 2, though, Sorcery of a Queen, really raises the stakes. I often think of middle books in series as table setters getting everything in position for the stretch run; and, believe you me, Sorcery of a Queen does that in spades. But it also accomplishes so much more! Huge world expansion takes place along with a shit ton of character development. Vast sections of the map are explored, and it feels as though the characters are constantly put in situations of peril and being asked to find a way out. This book also feels extremely chaotic (in a good way). It left me wanting to read the finale so bad.
Book 3, Fury of a Demon, takes the story to 100. It is still a fairly-new release, so I do not want to go into too much detail. Just know this: I flipped my shit so hard and refused to put it down. It contains so much, action, drama, and tension that I would stop reading and realize my jaw was clenched so tight it hurt. I found myself getting unapologetically lost in the words on the page and loving every second of it.
The world building was another incredibly well-written aspect of this series. Not only is the map itself really cool, but the geography plays into the story really well. There were also a lot of little things that demonstrate how much work Naslund put into building this world. Some of it was a bit trope-y, but they are tropes with a twist. An example of this is the tattooing of dragon hunters for each kill they make. The idea of inking up as a way of showing ones prowess is nothing new, but the fact that these are dragon tattoos representing the type of kill ratchets that well-worn fantasy practice to a whole different level. Imagine being able to see not just how many kills one has but the exact thing you killed. This is a great way to show one’s merit and size one another up. Another example I like to think about is the moss-as-healing item. Again, herbs are a tried-and-true purveyor of health in many a fantasy world, but the author’s use of moss in that space is something I have never seen. And it is so versatile, with different types of moss in varying regions and some is more powerful than others (and more rare). These are a couple of things I liked about this world, but there are so many more – many of which are incredibly unique (I say, again: mushroom zombies). The world building is great and adds to the story in many ways.
There is so much to like about the writing itself. The dialogue is witty, playful, and bawdy at times. The conflicts and build up are full of tension, the payoffs incredibly satisfying (if somewhat surprising). Action scenes are fun and entertaining. Honestly, I do not think there was one piece of writing that was so obtuse it took me out of the story, which is quite rare. The writing was so good I am anxiously awaiting whatever it is that Brian Naslund writes next.
All three books in this series get 10 stars from me. Dragons of Terra is phenomenal, edge-of-your-seat, holy shit fantasy. The third and final book, Fury of a Demon, is in the running for book of year, for me. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.