Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner (The Chronicles of the Exile #2)

Having thoroughly enjoyed Marc Turner’s epic opener in the ‘Chronicles of the Exile’ I reached for his next with high expectations. It quickly became apparent that the only link to the previous novel is both place and the fact that an ‘exile’ – another Guardian, Senar Sol – is the author’s opening gambit…which gives pause because the first novel ties the reader into the characters so firmly we want to read more of them. Perhaps there is a flicker of disappointment as this becomes apparent over the first fifty or so pages, but this is swiftly thrown off as it becomes apparent the style and speed of Turner’s narrative was not just a first novel home run, but genuine talent.

From the opening novel Luker Essendar, Merin Grey, Don Chamery Pelk, Parolla Morivan, Romany Elivar et al disappear and a new cast of characters rise to the fore of this novel set in the coastal cities of Olaire and Dian. Like the first novel, it involves a meglomaniac craving even more power and a race against time for a group of people to converge on the explosive denouement. This time not in a blasted place ruled by the Undead, but a watery hypogeum that is part-Atlantis, part-Tombraider.

Romany Elivar was a favourite character in the first book, this time replaced by the quirkily humorous Septia, Kempis Parr, and his motley group of tropic mononyms (Sniffer, Loop, Duffle) who wouldn’t be out of place in The Watch of Pratchett’s  Discworld. They run around trying to catch up with and arrest the much faster supermages, neatly providing coattails for the breathless reader to hang onto – a niche of ‘reality’ in Turner’s blasting high fantasy.

The plot is much like the first book:  this time Emira Imerle Polivar is loath to give up her eminent position of power of the Storm Lords whilst the rest of the Council shift and politick around her, jockeying for position. Time for a cull and what better time to have a war of succession than against the backdrop of the annual sea dragon hunt (these dragons don’t fly – far more Chinese in our lore) which is feted and conducted with the kind of ritual that would make the Greek mythology of Perseus versus the Kraken an evening’s dance by comparison? Inevitably, this means more intrigue as various groups act in interests both their own and of shadowy others. Karmel, the priestess of The Chameleon God blends her invisible way to stop the Dragon Gate falling whilst having serious fraternal issues (indeed, family problems seems to beset most of the characters); Agenta Webb stomps her watery way to work out who is stealing her father’s trade and ends up in a pitched sea battle that Captain Ahab might relish; meanwhile Senar Sol is prudently following Imerle’s behest and tracking the Storm Lady, Mazana Creed, whilst spending a lot of time fighting both sets of their bodyguards: the twins Mili and Tali, the thuggish Greeve and various ‘stone-skins’ or ‘bright-eyes’ - all assassins identified by descriptions rather than names.

-We slosh our watery way around Olaire and Dian as a series of earthquakes are revealed to be the strains of an Elder God and a titanic fight ensues whilst the place crumbles around everyone with tsunamis, sharks and dragons the least of everyone’s worries. The lengthy last ‘fight’ scenes are both subterranean, submarine and satisfying for every fantasy fan.

However, without getting too carried away with Turner’s undoubted storytelling qualities, closer analysis does show much room for improvement. The heart pounding action will make any reader accelerate through the novel which hides all manner of sloppy writing. Take a closer look at this paragraph as it shows perfectly why Turner is so good, but has much to improve:

“Evidently not wanting to miss out on the fun, some Chameleons had then reappeared from the palace and started firing crossbows indiscriminately into the melee. Finally a company of Gilgamarians from the stranded galleon – Kempis had seen the flint-eyed woman among them – had materialized along Crown Avenue and attacked through the still open gates. It almost made the septia want to hang around to see who turned up next.”

Note the:

- “firing crossbows” – you shoot or loose a crossbow. Firing is a gun-specific term.

- You’ll realise by the end of the novel that a lot of people are categorized by their eye descriptions – something that’s hard to isolate in storm of violence and pace that’s ongoing.

- ‘the septia’ is a proper noun so the septia should be ‘Septia’

- People don’t materialize unless they were transferring from spirit form to bodily form nor would they do such an action “along” a road.

But…this paragraph shows the pace of prose and the light humour in its final sentence because both Kempis and the reader DO want to hang around and see who turns up next.

I do. Roll on the next novel. High fantasy at a high level.

8/10 Not just a first novel home run, but genuine talent.

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