King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott. ★★★★
Trigger warning: abuse, sexual assault
King’s Dragon is the first book in a completed epic fantasy series by noted fantasist Kate Elliott.
King’s Dragon focuses on two young people in the Kingdom of Wendar, a fantasy nation that seems to be based on medieval Germany. On the large scale, Wendar is facing a civil war, with the current king’s sister raising an army to contest his rule and place herself on the throne. At the same time, the kingdom is under attack from raiders that seem like a cross between orcs and Vikings.
However, it takes a while for our protagonists to become involved in events of international importance. Both Alain and Liath have their own problems. For his entire life, Alain’s been promised to a monastery, although he yearns to see the world. Just when it is time for to enter a cloistered life, the monastery is destroyed by raiders and his life is saved by a goddess, the Lady of Battles, in return for dedicating his life to her. Meanwhile, Liath and her father have been traveling her entire life, running from something her father won’t explain to her. When her father dies, Liath is arrested for his debts and sold as a slave an abusive man.
I had a lot of trouble getting through the beginning of King’s Dragon, and I nearly quit. I was already stressed due to other things happening in my life, and Liath’s situation was very difficult to read about. Her sections of the first two hundred pages of this book are the reason for the trigger warnings at the top. However, I just couldn’t let this book go, and when Liath’s friend Hanna began on a plan to save her, I felt like I was getting to the end of the worst of it. I was right. Thanks to Hanna, Liath does get out and begin to recover, although I think she’s showing signs of trauma and PTSD.
Liath is obviously the main female character in King’s Dragon, but she wasn’t the only female character. I like for the books I read to include more than one significant women, and thankfully this wasn’t a problem for King’s Dragon. I mean, this is Kate Elliott we’re talking about. Of course there’s going to be women doing things!
As I already mentioned, the world is inspired by medieval Germany. This makes it fairly close to the medieval European worlds you see in a lot of fantasy fiction, but it was well drawn and with just enough variations to keep me interested. The largest difference from actual history is the gender norms and religion. In this world, women are just as likely to inherit as men, and most of the high ranking Church leaders are women. Most of the army is still male, but there are women who fight. While I wouldn’t say that the world is egalitarian, it is a lot less patriarchal than the history it’s based off of.
A lot of the elements of King’s Dragon are fairly standard fantasy fare. There’s battles, political intrigue, hints of destiny and ancient myths come to life, orphans with magical powers, contenders for the throne, elves, ect. While some elements were familiar, Elliott still manages to bring them to brilliant life. I got to the very end and realized I was hooked. Kate Elliott’s got me stuck on a seven book long epic fantasy series, so you can expect to see more reviews of this series in the future.