There's so much you can do with a dragon--these covers really are just kind meh. And I hate the POV of the villain especially given BEFORE the hero knows it. Great review as usual.
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Bard’s Oath by Joanne Bertin – review
In The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix Joanne Bertin created a world unlike our own, where Dragonlords soar in the skies above the many realms of the land. The Dragonlords’ magic is unique, giving them the ability to change from dragon to human form; to communicate silently among themselves; and other abilities not known to mortals.
For many millennia, the Dragonlords have been a blessing to the world, with their great magic and awesome power. And though they live far longer than the humans who they resemble when not in their draconic state, these fabled changelings are still loyal to their human friends. Now in Bard’s Oath, their magic is not the only power abroad in the world. And not all the magic is as benign as theirs.
Leet, a masterbard of great ability and vaulting ambition, has his own magic, but of a much darker nature. Years ago, death claimed the woman he loved, setting him on a course to avenge her death, no matter the consequences. Now, mad with hatred and consumed by his thirst for revenge, Leet has set in motion a nefarious plot that ensnares the friend of a Dragonlord, using his bardic skills . . . and dark powers only he can summon, to accomplish his bitter task.
Raven, a young horse-breeder friend of the Dragonlord Linden Rathan, is ensnared by Leet and under the bard’s spell, is one of the bard’s unwitting catspaws. When accused of a heinous crime, Raven turns to Linden, and while Dragonlords normally do not meddle in human affairs, Linden comes to Raven’s aid, loath to abandon him in his time of desperate need.
But Raven, and others victimized by Leet, are at the mercy of human justice. Can even a Dragonlord save them from a dire fate before it is too late?
What I expected: I had just read the first two books of this series in preparation for this next one, so you would think I would be well on my way to knowing what to expect, right? Well, sort of. Sure I expected more of some of my favorite characters – the Dragonlords – and I got them, of course. However, the first book was a romance* as much as it was a fantasy, so when I picked up the second I got a little bit of surprise because it was much more of a “save the world” adventure than the romantic fantasy I expected. So I pretty much decided not to expect too many specifics and to anticipate an enjoyable fantasy novel of some sort that would include dragons and at least one bard (the title was a little clue).
What I got: I got what I expected! And more! This third book in the series continues the author’s trend of making the story very much different than those before but with characters the reader already knows and loves. This time around Joanne Bertin gave me a fantasy mystery novel. With all the action happening mostly in one place and the final denouement occurring in a courtroom, it was much more of a mystery starring Dragonlords, horses, et al., than either a romance or an adventure.
What I liked: I really like how this author creates likeable characters of all ilks – she’s given us likeable evil people, likeable hatred-filled racists, likeable betrayers, as well as wonderful younger characters to balance out the expected likeable main characters. I really love that she has included logical intelligent animals in her worldbuilding, especially the friends in fur. I would suggest to the author, though, that the Beast Healers need their own separate series.
What I did not: In all three books she gives the reader the point of view of those on the opposing side from the main characters, and while this can be a new way to view this world she has created, it more often than not frustrated me as a reader because I knew all the answers and wanted to urge the heroes onto the right path. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I prefer to be in the dark along with the heroes – especially when there is a mystery afoot – so that I can try to guess who or what or when or why. This was just a minor quibble of mine, but I mention it because for many readers this would be a deal-breaker.
Cover Talk: While I am a huge dragon fan and would probably lobby for “all dragons, all the time” on book covers – these just aren’t my favorite depictions. Bob Eggleton is an excellent artist and very well known for many fantasy book covers over the years. For some reason the combinations of colors and the way the dragons themselves are crafted just don’t strike my fancy. That being said – this cover is a recognizable artist with a very popular theme, and as such I say it is very much a success. And of course I’ll quibble even more that the main character of this third installment could arguably be Raven who isn’t a Dragonlord at all. And even more stuff to quibble over, actual time in dragon form for our Dragon lords is very, very short in this story. so I could argue that the cover isn’t representative of the story itself. But, I don’t really want to quibble. It is a dragon! Go with it.
Recommend? Absolutely. I would especially recommend this to anyone who read the first two books a decade ago and have almost forgotten the series entirely. Go out and rediscover some excellent characters. For those who have never heard of the author or the books? Though the three books are connected, each could be read as a standalone if you don’t want to commit to all three books, but I would suggest starting with the first because you’ll want the history of the characters to better follow along with their stories.