The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell
A guild of mages. A guild of mechanics. A history of lies and conspiracies between them. A storm on the horizon with the power to reshape the pillars of reality.
Title: The Dragons of Dorcastle (The Pillars of Reality #1)
Author: Jack Campbell
Publish Date: May 15, 2015
Publisher’s Description: For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her. [Read More]
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Everything I’ve reviewed here on OneBookTwo has been Urban Fantasy or Sci-Fantasy. Today I’m breaking the trend and writing about a more traditional Fantasy novel; a novel which may serve as a bridge between Fantasy and Steampunk, as both are present. Consider my jaw dropped, having just finished The Dragons of Dorcastle, Volume 1 of the Pillars of Reality. The surprises weren’t necessarily in the form of story twists, but rather in the way the story was told. The way the author bridged history with the characters’ views of the present, and with the way he mixed magic and technology without raising the questions and plot holes that often accompany that blend, fascinated me.
Before I dig too deeply into this, let me first say that the author Jack Campbell also wrote what may well be my favorite Science Fiction series to date, The Lost Fleet. He is a retired naval officer and to his credit that shows in how he wrote about battles in space. I was surprised and immediately intrigued to find out he had written a more traditional Fantasy series – but admittedly hesitant toward forming expectations given how different the genres can be. I am so happy I decided to push past that hesitation and start this trilogy.
The Good: Two incredibly strong lead characters – a young man from the Mages Guild who practices a secretive craft built on negating emotions, and a young woman from the Mechanics Guild who proves to be a mechanical prodigy with a rebellious streak. You can probably guess where it’s going immediately, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but thankfully that’s not the main storyline here. It is written from both their perspectives, and done so very well. Both of them are so different in their worldview and skillsets that they complement each other in just the right way that I, as a reader looking to escape for a while, could really appreciate.
The world building is also fantastic. You won’t find the pages upon pages of description for one scene that is often associated with Traditional Fantasy in this novel. Instead, just enough is present to give your imagination what it needs to fill in the blanks. I appreciated this, as many Traditional Fantasy novels leave me skimming entire pages at a time due to the over-descriptive nature that comes with building a world that exists only in our minds. I was very impressed by the casual way the author introduced the history of the world through conversations, and how we know moving into books two and three just how much that history is going to play a role.
The Bad: As you can see by my rating below, I do not find much to fault in this novel. Perhaps it will bother some that the author never really explains how magic works, only that it does. I can see this bothering me as well in other scenarios, but the rest of the novel was so strong that I had no difficulty rolling with everything I was presented with. Those looking for a serious, deep Traditional Fantasy may find this novel lacking and wishing for more. As I mentioned earlier, just enough is provided for our imaginations to fill in the rest and I recognize that style is not for everyone.
The Conclusion: This is now one of my favorite Fantasy novels. The concepts provided for each of the Guild’s worldviews that shape the characters and their culture are that of a guilty pleasure – perhaps nothing truly new, but presented in a way that sucks you in and takes you for a ride. If books two and three follow suit, the entire trilogy will earn a permanent place on my shelves. If you enjoy Traditional Fantasy, or if you want to but are turned off by the verbose nature of their world building, read this book.
If you like this book…