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Fantasy Review: ‘Orlind’ by Charlotte E English

This is the third and final part of the Draykon trilogy. I very much enjoyed the first two parts, ‘Draykon’ and ‘Lokant’, and this continues in the same vein, a wonderfully eccentric mixture of unique world-building, believable characters and an action-packed story. In the first book, I was very nervous that Llandry, one of the main characters, a diminutive person with wings, might actually be a fairy. In fact, I can safely say she is nothing at all like a fairy, and not in the least twee. During the course of the three books, Llandry transforms herself from a shy child-like girl who suffers from panic attacks into a self-reliant and formidable person. And by person, I mean draykon (more or less a dragon), of course.

The setting for the story is one of the most inventive I’ve ever encountered. I’m not going to attempt to describe it, but it’s a truly magical array of places, populated with some bizarre creatures and plants. Some of the animal life is, not unexpectedly, tending to the fearsome and toothy kind of monster, but there are also some charming little beasties. I love the way the upper and lower realms change dramatically in moments, so that the landscape is constantly roiling and flowing unpredictably. This book explains a great deal of why this happens. I love, too, that some parts are in constant daylight and some in constant night light, kept that way magically. That’s a really ingenious and (possibly) unique approach to world-building.

The plot continues without a pause from where book 2 left off. The draykoni are attacking Llandry’s home in Glinnery, and villain Krays is cooking up some vague but evil scheme. There is high drama and action right from the start as everyone scrambles to find some way to protect themselves. The humans are trying mechanical weaponry. Llandry and her fellow friendly draykoni are exploring their new powers in the hope of finding alternative defences. And Eva and Tren are – well, this was the point for me where the plot lurched into implausibility. Eva dreams up a scheme so downright dangerous and with so little likelihood of success that, honestly, I don’t know what she was thinking. It’s not unusual in fantasy for characters to be set some impossible task, in order to accomplish some worthy outcome, but it’s never very convincing, frankly, and in this case, it’s not imposed on them, they decide to attempt it themselves. So I just had to switch off the logical part of my brain and go with the flow. This isn’t so difficult, fortunately, since the story rattles along at unstoppable and unputdownable pace.

The second clunky moment is the transition from chasing around after villain Krays to haring off to investigate the mysterious seventh realm, Orlind. Since this is the title of the book, it’s not unexpected that this turns out to be the key to everything, but the way the characters are led there by the nose feels a bit contrived. But it really doesn’t matter. This is the book where everything boils to its dramatic conclusion, and there’s not a dull moment in it. The true nature of the Lokants is revealed in all its duplicitous glory, and the final confrontation is a wondrous explosion of creative magic and whimsy (believe it or not). I’ve never read a book before which so successfully blends together powerful magic, dragons, steampunk, sentient furry insects and multi-coloured mushrooms. It all makes sense, too. And there’s humour, even at the tensest moments. A thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced read, with some memorable characters, absolutely fizzing with brilliant ideas. Only the slightly not-quite-believable plot contrivances let it down. A good four stars.


Fantasy Review: ‘Lokant’ by Charlotte E English

Warning: contains major spoilers for book 1 of the series, ‘Draykon’.

I really enjoyed the first book of the Draykon series. It had interesting characters, an unusual world and magic system, and that just-one-more-chapter style that makes even such a long book flow past very easily. This one, the second in the series, picks up not long after its predecessor ended, and is largely concerned with the fall-out from events in that book. Eva and Tren are trying to work out just what is going on, Llandry’s father is trying to find her, and Llandry herself – well, more on Llandry in a moment.

I was a bit hazy on the details of the story so far, but there’s enough information given to get even the most casual reader up to speed without infodumping. The setting is quite complicated – a series of seven realms, some of which are in permanent daylight, some in permanent night, and one is half and half, comprise a ‘middle’ world, and there are upper and lower worlds as well, which in some way occupy the same space as the middle world, but are very different. We don’t see quite as much of the enchanting light-filled upper and threatening lower worlds in this book, which is a shame. Their constantly changing aspects and bizarre life forms fascinate me.

As always, it’s the characters who make or break a book for me, and there’s a particularly fine collection of them here. Llandry and her parents were a highlight of the first book, but the stars here are Eva and Tren, who provide both romantic interest and comic relief, as well as much of the action. Eva was difficult to like in the first book, being a little too composed, too competent, too contained for sympathy, and Tren seemed like a minor character, but both of them blossom here, and are a delightful pair. An honourable mention, too, for Rheas, Llandry’s grandfather, who combines stubborn eccentricity with family affection in a delightfully unusual way. There are several new characters, too, amongst the Lokants of the title, about which I will say no more, to avoid spoilers. As before, the odd creatures from the upper and lower worlds prove to have their own quirky charms, although we see less of them in this book.

OK, here comes the big spoiler from book 1: at the end of it, Llandry was transformed into a draykon (a dragon, basically), and her delight in her new form, the contrast with her timid and all too human self, and her relationship with Pensould, the draykon revived at the end of book 1, are wonderful to read. Both of them have adjustments to make which are clearly not easy for them. She shows at one point that she’s capable of very draykon anger, while he becomes noticeably more human as the book progresses. I am very much looking forward to finding out the conclusion of their story in book 3, to see where on the draykon/human spectrum they end up, and whether they end up together or not.

The story opens out a great deal in this book, and many things which mystified me in book 1 are explained, such as the full importance of the strange ‘istore’ material which Llandry found, and something of Llandry’s own nature and the significance of it. We learned a lot about Eva, too. I found the Lokants and their abilities a little too convenient, but the explanation for it, and the way it relates to the known forms of magic (the split into sorcery and summoning abilities, for instance) is very clever, and elegantly done.

The pace seemed to be quite slow for much of the time – there was a great deal of Eva and Tren researching, for instance, and a certain amount of sitting around while one of the Lokants explains the backstory – but things hot up dramatically at the end and suddenly there’s the threat of full-scale war looming. And then, rather abruptly, it ends. I suppose that’s the sign of an enjoyable book, when you’re so absorbed that the end comes as a surprise. I liked the way that, despite the action (and actually, there’s plenty), the book is largely about people and their relationships. Llandry and Pensould, Llandry and her parents, her parents and her grandfather, Eva and Tren – all of these relationships are believable, and most of the characters are likeable, in their various ways, even the grumpy Rheas and the unevolved Pensould. I loved that Tren and Eva have only the slightest qualm about their age difference (she’s thirteen years older than him); the difficulty is far more subtle and more unusual than that.

If I have a grumble, it’s that the names are difficult to remember – people have first names, surnames and diminutives; there are multiple names for places, too. And none of the names are meaningful (to me, that is), which makes them hard to remember. But I’m at last beginning to get the hang of the seven realms (the wonderful map helped here), the daylands and darklands, and the upper and lower worlds, which I found confusing initially. As the second book in the series, it naturally loses a little freshness and originality, but it gains in the greater depth in the characters and in revealing more of the overall story. I enjoyed this perhaps more than the first, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the conclusion. A good four stars.

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