Series: The Ballad of Sir Benfro #1
Published by Penguin Group on August 2014 (originally 2012)
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
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The dragons of Glwad are dying. Persecuted for over two millennia, they're a shrunken echo of the proud creatures they once were. And yet in new life springs hope: Benfro, son of Morgwm the Green, the first male kitling in a thousand years. Long ago dragons wrought a terrible wrong to the land, and now is the time for redemption.
Every young boy in the Twin Kingdoms dreams of being chosen for one of the great orders, and Errol Ramsbottom is no different. He longs to be a Warrior Priest of the High Ffrydd, riding to glorious victory in battle. But you should be careful what you wish for; it might just come to pass.
For almost a century there has been an uneasy truce between the Twin Kingdoms and the godless Llanwennogs to the north, but as King Diseverin descends ever further into drunken madness, his ruthless daughter Beulah takes up the reins of power. A time of war looks set to descend upon Gwlad, and it will surely draw everyone, man and dragon both, into its cruel game.
There are two intertwining stories in Dreamwalker. Benfro the dragon kitling and Errol, a young human, don’t actually meet each other in this book, but their stories are quite similar as they grow up in their separate little worlds. Each of them learns to use the Grym, the magic that connects all living things, and each of them comes under threat as their secrets are uncovered.
The dragons in this story aren’t described particularly well, but seem rather humanoid in nature, using their “hands”. They are larger than humans but have been hunted down over the centuries, so they are rare and quite wary of any humans. I especially enjoyed the snippets of both dragon and human lore at the start of each chapter – it helps to expand the history and beliefs of each race.
The story itself was beautifully told, with plenty of gorgeous descriptions. The only problem I had is that possibly the storylines wove together too tightly. I had trouble at times separating Benfro’s and Errol’s stories, especially when the point of view flicked between them so often, sometimes within the same chapter. Both of them were discovering magic at around the same time. They also had fairly similar feelings about the world around them such as their sense of honour, a thirst for knowledge, and the belief that dragons and humans should get along. Sometimes it was hard to tell one from the other, but I think as the story progresses and the two of them (presumably) meet, telling them apart will get a lot easier!
Beluah is the perfect baddie – a ruthless bitch who will stop at nothing to secure her absolute rule. I don’t think she’s even a redeemable villain, she’s just a purely evil psychopath who everyone will love to hate!
With Benfro and Errol being thirteen and fourteen years old, this book is aimed at the younger end of the young adult market, but there are aspects of this story that make it more suitable for teens than for middle-graders. There are some violent deaths and talk of women visiting the healer to deal with unwanted pregnancies (one from her own father!).
The three stories in this series so far were small-press published in 2012, but are now being re-released by Penguin. I will be looking out for the next in the series to find out what happens after the heartbreaking cliff-hanger ending!
– A great start to an epic young adult series. Dragons, magic and nasty baddies, how can you go wrong?
The Ballad of Sir Benfro