The Dragon Hand is a solid fantasy with a killer premise. An epic fantasy featuring a dragon as the protagonist? Yes, please. The Dragon Hand has great epic fantasy bones and some killer set pieces. Unfortunately, some weak spots keep The Dragon Hand in good-but-not-great territory.
An ancient evil is returning to threaten the world—at least, that’s what one of voices in Serivak’s head is telling him.
As the only dragon in the kingdom and technically a prisoner of war, Serivak’s position as the King’s Hand via his friendship with the young king is precarious enough before the voice of one of his ancestors warned of the new threat. With the help of two young foreigners, Serivak endeavors to avert disaster—but as evidence of a conspiracy grows, his political enemies close to home may be even more dangerous.
As the copy suggests, The Dragon Hand features three protagonists and POV characters: Serivak, the king’s minister (Hand) and a dragon (hence the title). Lienne, an orphan and galvanizer of considerable potential. Tironas, a jeweler’s son and the only riftwalker in the world.
Magic and monsters are plentiful. Serivak is the only dragon in the story (sort of…), but other dragons exist in this world. As do drakes, dragons’ stupider, less powerful, despised, two-winged cousins. All dragons manifest a particular supernatural ability. Serivak’s is particularly impressive. Galvanizers use a form of symbol magic to create derrivals—magical devices that can be used as weapons or for more mundane uses, giving the setting a steampunk feel.
Serivak is technically a prisoner of war, his father defeated in a dragon uprising a generation ago. But he grew up as the current (human, well, Tehlman) king’s best friend. The king named Serivak his Hand. One of the few good decisions he made. One of the few decisions he is willing to make period. The king may flee from his duty, but Serivak understands his, even if he isn’t prepared for it politically and even if his unique position leaves him without allies. And when he is faced with an existential threat to not just the kingdom, but to the entire world, Serivak understands that creates a higher duty.
- Dragon protagonist
- The main characters’ powers
- The action sequences (there are three absolutely killer set pieces)
- The overall macro story (including what I thinking is being hinted at for the rest of the series)
- Some of the history. The palace was originally built for dragons, dating back to a time when they, not Tehlmans, ruled the kingdom
- The subtle nods in worldbuilding to influences like The Wheel of Time (Yakov is a big Wheel of Time fan). For example, “waystones” are a key plot point (I always wished we got more Portal Stone action in WoT), and one of Serivak’s ancestors had a breath weapon that sounds rather like balefire.
- I get very frustrated by the trope of character out of their element and out of their depth vis-à-vis political machinations.
- The worldbuilding doesn’t really pop. There are a lot of small touches, but while I liked the more central pieces of worldbuilding, much of the smaller stuff I shrugged at (e.g., the eye crests and Second Sight of Tehlmans).
- Some parts of the story didn’t completely work. Yakov tells us that the rebels aren’t as noble as they say they are. I believe it, but, while they are jerks, they aren’t necessarily any worse than they have to be, or anyone else. Yakov never shows us why we should look askance at the rebels.
The Dragon Hand is the sort of book I like more thinking back on it than I did while I was reading it. Overall, it was a fun read, and the macro story elements in particular have me excited for the next book in the series (The Dragon Hand has a very exciting climax, but the story is definitely bigger than one book).
3.5 of 5 Stars.
Disclosure: Yakov sent me a review copy of The Dragon Hand.