A really well-done, entertaining fantasy. I had heard that Briggs' was known for "romantic" fantasy, which made me a bit apprehensive, but there was really no relationship-type romance in this story at all.
However, it was definitely a 'romance' is the old sense of the term!
Ward, a young heir to a remote fiefdom, had pretended to be brain-damaged in order to avoid his vicious father's jealous beatings. But when the old man passes away, he discovers his ruse, although it may have saved his life, has now gotten him in further trouble. Emissaries from the king arrive, searching out a runaway slave, and when Ward sticks his neck out to protect her, that's simply more of an excuse to enforce an
order from the king that Ward should be institutionalized and the property left to the care of his uncle.
Not caring for the idea of the institution, Ward, with the helf of the 'family ghost' runs away with some loyal friends and followers, hoping to become a mercenary and rescue his reputation by gaining reknown as a warrior.
His true desire, however, is still to gain title to his hereditary lands - with which he feels a magical bond... which could have something to do with the mysterious dragon bones hidden in the basement of the castle.
A good mix of traditional elements and unexpected twists puts this story a good cut above the average fantasy.
Very provocative tale of a prince who downplays his intelligence in order to survive in a clan. The dragon is not what you think. Fairly graphic imagery of abuse and violence, but not gratuitously told. I hope there is a sequel. I will look for Briggs next books
I had really high expectations for this book. I'm not exactly sure they were met, but I grew to like this book quite a bit on its own merits.
At first I was disappointed by the style of the book. The writing was very simplistic but also really confusing at times. Now there were a lot of editing errors in my copy, so I'm not sure if some of the confusing language was a result of typos, grammatical errors, and the wrong name being used, or the author's style.
I also expected a different story. I'm a fan of the calculating hero playing the buffoon and so I was anxiously awaiting more scenes in which Ward acts dumber than he is while secretly laughing behind everyone's backs. I also couldn't wait for the grand reveal in which he surprises everyone with his actual cleverness. However, this book starts with the end of Ward's deception and a lot of the scenes in which he reveals his smarts are met with almost a cavalier, "huh, well that makes sense" kind of attitude. I guess I really wanted to get into the meat of his deception and how everyone would act upon it's reveal. But, though this book is primarily a sort of coming of age venture for Ward, it is also a political novel and a lot of characterization is--I won't say sacrificed--but abbreviated for the sake of making the story pass along quicker and more epically.
So I didn't get what I thought I'd get, nor what I wanted, but I'm fine with the outcome. It takes a lot of talent to say so much in so few words that I'm not bothered anymore by what I initially thought was lacking in this novel. I highly recommend it now, but I'd say go into it with no preconceived ideas of how these fantasy books usually go. Also, this book has more in common with a young adult novel than a dragon-themed epic like those written by Anne McCaffrey.
I found the description at Amazon to be very misleading. Hence my mini-review:
Ward (Wardwick), Our Hero, barely survived the childhood beatings from his vicious, sadistic father, and was left by the beatings with some slowness in speech. That father has now died from a fall off his vicious warhorse and the castle retainers mean to kill the horse. Ward starts off by saving the horse and making it his principal mount, then begins to try to figure out how to adapt to being the Hurogmeten, the heir of the province, and survive the next two years until he can govern on his own. The king of the Five Kingdoms wants him out of the way, Wards uncle may go along with it, and everyone, including the people of Hurog, think because he speaks slowly that hes stupid. He discovers that there are dragon bones in the caves under the castle, and hes just met the castle ghost, whos also a wizard. Things just keep getting interesting.