Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: The Dragons of Deepwood Fen

Author: Bradley P. Beaulieu

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Release date: 4th January 2024

The Dragons of Deepwood Fen

Reviewed by: Elloise Hopksin

Other details: Paperback £12.99

The Dragons of Deepwood Fen by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Elloise Hopksin

All indications were that a sinkhole would soon appear, and Master Korvus, the alchymist, was determined to be there when it did. He hired a ferryman as a guide and painstakingly maps the Holt, surveying aura and umbra to aid in his search. Unfortunately, his travels take him into Red Knife territory, and the rebels will not take kindly to his mission should they find him.

Rylan Holbrooke is a dragon singer on a mission to retrieve stolen goods from legionaries. His dragon, Vedron, is not far away, ready to scare his quarry when Rylan calls her. Unfortunately for Rylan, his father is the Holt Empire’s imperator and would be furious if he ever found out Rylan had bonded with a forbidden umbral.

At fourteen, Rhiannon Bloodhaven has discovered that she has the power to summon wisps and learn of their past lives. A druin aspirant, Rhiannon is desperate to speak to her mother’s wisp and learn the true circumstances of her death. The only question is, why is her uncle, the Butcher, as they call him, suddenly so keen on her doing exactly that?

The Dragons of Deepwood Fen is the opening book in Beaulieu’s The Holt series and very much draws on classic elements of high fantasy. We have dragon riders, intriguing magic systems, and, of course, a single-minded focus of good versus evil. It does have a very traditional feel, with each character encountering obstacle after obstacle. Betrayals and moral dilemmas abound, adding depth to the complex societies core to the story.

Rylan and Rhiannon feel like the main drivers and play a nice contrast to each other – one is confident where the other is timid, determined where the other is unsure. The Hissing Man is a stand-out villain, his impact not at all lessened despite being seen less on the page, and whilst Rhiannon provides the classic emotionally-torn young person discovering magical talent, Lorelei provides the headstrong female lead we expect from our contemporary fantasy.

At 684 pages and with a sprawling world as a backdrop, as you would expect, there is a large cast of characters to introduce and a huge amount of detail to convey to the reader. This is a book that requires concentration and dedication. Several characters have point-of-view roles, and there are multiple locations to flesh out, magic systems to detail, religious beliefs to convey, historical events to ground, and dragons to bring to life. Background information tends to be delivered in chunks, causing interruption to the narrative flow, so, at times, the tension is lost, but overall, this is a new fantasy with a familiar old feel that lovers of the genre will enjoy.

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