I couldn’t resist the premise of the Iron Dragon trilogy—using advanced knowledge to build a space program from scratch in Viking Europe. I very much enjoyed book one and book two. But those books tended to be heavier on human-human and human-alien conflict relative to the technical challenges of the Dark Ages spaceship program than I would have liked. The human and alien threats remain, but The Voyage of the Iron Dragon really focuses on the technical challenges. Finally!
Aginor, one of the Forsaken in The Wheel of Time, is the man responsible for Trollocs and Fades and various other nasty things that go bump in a Randland night. At least he did during the War of Power, and those things are still around 3,000 years later when the events of the series take place. He returns (twice) but makes no new monsters. He can’t. He is a brilliant man, but lacks the tools necessary to do so. And the tools to make the tools. And the tools to make the tools to make the tools.
That is the problem the spacemen in The Voyage of the Iron Dragon have. They have all the technical knowledge necessary to build a spaceship, but they lack the tools necessary to do so. And the tools to make the tools. And the . . . you get the idea. Even once they manage to get to a point where they get the project up and running without serious interference, it is still a decades-long effort.
I am here for that! It does, for a brief time, devolve into long lists of technical specs, but mostly it very much works, with the drama of the technical mission punctuated by intermittent bouts of violence. Writing a decades-long story is a challenge—one that Kroese largely deferred to the third and final book of the trilogy—but it works and The Voyage of the Iron Dragon has the advantage of a payoff from the buildup of the first two books as well.
The Iron Dragon trilogy has two framing stories. In the outermost framing story, a U.S. military representative learns of what seems to be a space helmet from over a thousand years ago found in Iceland. In the inner framing story, the spacemen who serve as our protagonists flee from alien pursuers with a weapon that will allow humanity to win a war and survive as a species. Both return as book three draws to a close. Obviously just achieving liftoff won’t win an interstellar war. Kroese could have satisfactorily ended the book there. Instead, he adds some sequel bait that shifted me toward picking up the next book without sullying my enjoyment of this trilogy. I had almost forgotten the outermost framing story, but he cleverly pulls it back in as well, adding a twist to a trilogy of time travel rules without undercutting them.
Ledford’s narration is killer.
5 of 5 Stars.