Dragon Mound, Richard Knaak‘s first installment in the KNIGHT IN SHADOW trilogy, chronicles Evan Wytherling’s confrontation with long time enemies as he seeks to end his seemingly endless quest.
Evan has been a part of momentous war, nations fighting against nations with magic, dragons and knights all vying on behalf of two master wizards for control of the nation of Rundin. The final battle in that war took place hundreds of years ago, and Evan has been on the road even since. He is worn down, like an old belt that has been tightened so often that the leather has been stretched out of its normal shape and bears permanent marks where the buckle latches on.
In Pretor’s Hill, Mardi is an unusually intelligent, educated young woman with ideas, dreams and hopes that don’t necessarily match up with those of her uncle and the rest of the community. Mardi’s fascination with the writing of the philosopher (and former wizard) Paulo Centurous leads her mind to question and dream beyond the simple life that the little town of Pretor’s Hill would offer.
For Evan, coming to Pretor’s Hill is like a journey back in time. The town itself is unfamiliar to him, but it was built on the site of the last major battle of the great war. In this town lie not only bad memories, but the ghosts of those whom Evan has killed and those who are too powerful to simply die. For Evan there is a mystery that begins to unfold as the quest that he was sent on by Paulo Centurous leads him to confront the forces of the seemingly vanquished Novaris. Magic begins to manifest itself in Pretor’s Hill, and Evan must prepare to fight yet again. Fortunately, he has an ally in Mardi.
A couple of other supporting characters who gradually develop into interesting cast members are the really friendly Arno the Smith, and the King’s Man, Steppenwald, who callously manipulates others to his advantage.
Dragon Mound is a solid, but not spectacular, fantasy novel that would be appropriate for teens (though I don’t know if the sequels will be appropriate — this isn’t marketed as YA). There is some violence and dark imagery, but nothing that most young readers can’t handle.
Knaak’s world and characters are interesting and his descriptions of battle magic and the overwhelming power and awe of facing a dragon in combat are compelling.
I found Dragon Mound to be too slow to be a truly exciting read. Knaak takes a long time to set the stage and much of this is done with dramatic conversation rather than stimulating action. The pace picked up at the end, but it took too long to get going. Readers who don’t mind a slow set-up will probably enjoy Dragon Mound more than I did.