fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe King’s Dragon by Scott Chantler

Though The King’s Dragon is the fourth book Scott Chantler’s THREE THIEVES series, and I have not read the first three, I had no problem picking up the story already in progress. In fact, if I hadn’t been given that information, I would have guessed it was the first volume of a great new series of comic book adventure stories for young readers. 

The basic story in this book focuses on Captain Drake, a member of The King’s Dragons. Due to some previous misfortune, a deep scar runs across his face and is long enough to show on either side of his eye-patch. He is in pursuit of the Three Thieves referred to in the series title and has with him a younger, idealistic man who is new to the order — a man who reminds him of his younger self when he first joined the Order of The King’s Dragons.

I like how the book starts: We are shown a young Captain Drake taking his Oath in front of the king. It’s the knighting we love to see in all great fairy tales. However, by page nine, we turn the page and the story shifts to color from black-and-white. We go from a young Drake with both eyes still working, to the older, weathered Drake with a patch over his right eye.

As the story shifts to color, the young man next to him attempts to get the mature Drake’s attention, and we are visually cued that all black-and-white scenes in the book take place in the past and for the most part will be Drake’s memories of the past. I don’t know if these flashback scenes are part of the previous books or just part of the current story. It doesn’t really matter: They are perfectly integrated just the way they would be in a movie or stand-alone novel.

I like the way the author focuses on Drake’s crisis of faith in his Order and loss of idealism. He doesn’t want to trespass on the sacred grounds of a House of Healing where the three thieves may be hiding; however, he knows his motives to do so are pure and honest. We are led to believe that he is an unusual member of the Order: He hints to his young companion that the rest of the Order isn’t trustworthy and that merely being a part of their company will corrupt him. We are then given the flashback that reveals why Drake feels the way he does.

As a fan of detective fiction and police procedurals, I enjoy the basic set-up and conflict: Those who enforce the law of the land and who are supposed to protect and serve the people often are the ones who become corrupt. And if one isn’t corrupt when he goes in, he will be soon, as we all know from reading police procedurals or watching police shows. Rare is the police detective — the Captain Drake — who can maintain his ideals, follow them, and live to see another day. He is the man who takes his oath of office seriously and knows the likely fate of most idealistic men who will join the Order after him. He knows he is the rare one. It does not make him self-righteous. It isolates him; it leaves scars; it makes him world-weary. But he trudges on.

Captain Drake’s story is a good one, and I wish I had books five and after to read right now. If it keeps going at this quality, this series has incredible potential to become a mainstay in elementary and middle school libraries. The book reads very fast for an adult, so I think children will enjoy the fast pace. There’s also plenty to think about visually and thematically; therefore, it will hold up to multiple reads. I highly recommend this book for parents of young readers and librarians with that demographic. Or if you are an adult who just enjoys reading a good story that’s not overly complex, you’ll get a kick out of it too.

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  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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