Review: The Dragon Hunter and the Mage by V.R. Cardoso

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]I’d heard a little bit about this book before I got started on it. So, when I was offered a copy of it, I gladly accepted.

I received a free copy of the audiobook from the author, and in exchange, this is my honest review.

Magic can make you invincible, if it doesn’t get you killed first.

Aric and Fadan are half-brothers. Both sons of the Empress, but only one of them the son of the Emperor. A decade ago, Fadan’s powerful father tore the Empire in two by outlawing the use and practice of magic. Forbidden from seeing each other, Aric and Fadan defy the Emperor and wander the vast Imperial Citadel until one night, they stumble upon an ancient Manual of Magic. They are faced with a choice: take the book straight to the Emperor or see if one of them has the forbidden magical Talent. Their world is turned upside down and the half-brothers find themselves swept away as tragedy and conspiracy separate them, sending each to either end of the Empire. In a world of dark mages, massive creatures, and vengeful gods, one will train as a Dragon Hunter while the other taps into magical powers that could spell his execution. 
Dark forces are moving in the shadows and no one in the Empire is ready for what’s to come. Will Aric and Fadan survive to ever see each other again?

Was it possible for a mother to love one son more than the other? No, surely not. But there were some that needed more love than others, of that she had no doubt.

First thing’s first. Full disclosure: I ditched this audiobook somewhere in chapter one. I liked the characters, I liked the story, I liked the idea of the whole thing even that early on, but the narrator was just… a nope for me. Its a shame, because I thought the sample sounded alright, but then, the sample is only a little bit of the whole thing and the scene it is from is rather large and in charge, so a big, boomy wizardy sounding voice worked for it. Not as much, for a lot of the stuff after that. So, yeah. I looked down and saw I had like 18 hours left and was like ‘oh heeeell no’ and went directly to the kindle version. Because like I said, I liked the book up to that point, I wasn’t just going to peace out. This isn’t the first time I’ve ditched an audiobook based on the narrator, and I promise it won’t be the last. Luckily, there’s always the print book to fall back on. 😀

This is a story of two brothers, among other things, but mainly two brothers, half brothers really, who are the sons of the empress. One of them, Fadan, is the son of the emperor. The other, Aric, is the son of the empress’ former husband, Doric Auron, who is, as I understand it, a noble and a poet. Doric still lives, but in exchange for letting him live, Cassia agreed to marry the emperor, a man she does not love.

Tarsus, the emperor, doesn’t like Aric, Doric’s son, and forbids him from eating with his mother, or going to certain parts of the castle, and especially from speaking more than hello and goodbye to Fadan. Despite that rule, Aric and Fadan are good friends, and often sneak out at night together to explore and hang out. They find a magic book, something that is very, very against the law in this world, after the Purge that the emperor ordered basically killed off most of the magic users in the entire world ten years previously. All but very few who are in hiding. So, being the rebellious teenagers they are, Fadan and Aric begin reading through the book and experimenting a bit.

To use magic, one needs a substance called Runium, a liquid that is brewed from the blood of dragons. So, dragon hunters, while having a dangerous job, have the potential to make lots of cash off the rare substance, even if mages are super illegal. Runium may be outlawed, but that never stops anyone from selling it, and there is, in fact, a pretty big store of it in the palace under heavy guard. Well, rebellious teenagers with magical talent gonna rebel, and get some of that sweet, sweet Runium.

Events occur in the capital that have Doric arrested for treason, and as a secondary consequence, Aric sent to Dragon Hunter training, leaving Fadan alone with a creepy spellbook, the Talent for magic, and a flask of Runium…. and thus you have the Dragon Hunter and the Mage. 🙂

Once I decided that print was the way to go for me over audio, I found this one quite enjoyable at times, with a good deal of action and intrigue and subterfuge and what have you. It’s an easy read, and it does have a very, very distinct YA feel to it that almost entirely comes down to the language that is used. This story uses language quite well… most of the time. Sometimes though, the dialogue suddenly slides right into middle school. So here comes some criticism! >.>;

Words like heck are thrown around a fair bit here. I’m not saying that this book should have had f-bombs peppered through it, but the word heck has a very childish tone, and sounds…  silly, or maybe almost awkward in most of the situations it was used in here. So, the book felt a bit contrived at times. I can understand not wanting to be explicit, but… heck? Really? You’re going to say ‘give that dragon heck!’ to a teenage boy who is about to take on a giant fire-breathing dragon with a spear? Yeah, you’ve pretty much lost me at this point, because now I’m more focused on how silly that sounds than the fact that he is fighting a bloody dragon.

It’s not just the teens, either. It’s the adults too, with things along the lines of ‘here is a smoke bomb that is powerful enough to blind a dragon, so be careful because it stings like heck.’ I mean, I think that teenagers have reached the point of being able to handle a stronger word than this one right around the point where you’re giving them explosive devices… just saying. The word bullcrap was used very vehemently at one point and all I could do was pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh before moving on.

All I’m saying is that there are so many different ways that this sort of intense use of language can occur without being explicit or sounding ridiculous. Perhaps some of the realm-specific religious curses that are used elsewhere in the book might have at least sounded like they fit better and sounded less childish. The ones that were here didn’t sound too bad. Merciful Ava, and whatnot. Curses that make reference to in-world deities are usually pretty great way of lending emphasis without using offensive language, and without sounding like the word is an obvious stand-in for a more explicit one that would just fit better in the first place.

Now, that was a few paragraphs of criticism, and admittedly, it makes it sound like this is a bigger deal than it is. It’s not a dealbreaker (not even for me, a girl with a mouth like a h*ckin sailor), but it is noticeable and, at least for me, it broke the flow of the action by introducing something that sounded out of place in the middle of a sentence. I don’t know how to put this any other way. Don’t get me wrong, the bullcraps and hecks and so on don’t make this a bad book. In fact, hecks aside, I thought it was a pretty good book, with a well thought out plot, characters that I cheered for, plenty of dragon huntery and/or magey action, and a really well put together and well imagined magic system with rules that made sense without sounding like they had an instruction manual. It had an ending that left me wanting more without being cliffhangery, which is always good. I will likely read the next book in this series. 🙂

As Fadan and Aric’s story arcs separate a bit, we see each of their stories from a different point of view, and those points of view are each quite different from each other, giving each character a chance for real growth away from each other. They both learn their respective roles, but as you can imagine, the training for those roles is each quite different. Fadan and Aric are around the same age (obviously not -the- same age with that whole having the same mother but different fathers thing), but they don’t seem like the same person but in a different place, by the end. They have similar circumstances, perhaps, but each of them finds their place in their role differently.

Aric’s training at the Dragon Hunter’s guild was full of interesting events, unexpected things, and a bit of a military training feel… with a little magic, but this part is mostly focused on weapons training, tracking, and not getting uber-killed by dragons. To start with, the new recruits need a captain, and what better way of choosing one then pitting a bunch of young adults against each other in various tests of creativity, ingenuity, stealth, and courage. This is also a good way to make friends, probably.

Fadan’s training is more one on one, and definitely much more secretive, so he doesn’t learn in groups of similarly aged people, but instead secretly learns from a mage that he sort of… accidentally comes to know. He sneaks in and out of the palace to learn, and becomes quite proficient with his craft. As he trains, he becomes a bit closer to some members of the rebellion, who are plotting to overthrow his father. His story, and the storyline of the rebellion coincide, and so it is full of action as well, but with a less dragons.

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Plenty of dragon butt-kicking. Less shouting though. FUS RO DAH!!!!!

All told I thought it was a pretty good read, but I would recommend it only to those who don’t mind a book with some pretty obvious YA elements and language. Also, audiobook fans, like I said, I ditched the audio because I did not like the narration, but nevertheless, do give the sample a go, because it might be something you like. Whatever flies your dragon. It wasn’t for me, but so it goes. 3.5/5 h*ckin stars!

You can see this book on goodreads here, and grab a print copy here, or audiobook here.

Thanks again to the author for the review copy. 🙂

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