REVIEW: Dragonfall by L.R. Lam

Dragonfall, the first book in L.R Lam’s The Dragon Scale Trilogy, is a slow burn, full of angst, moral dilemmas and emotionally damaged characters. When it all comes together, it culminates in an exciting opening to a series with a lot of potential.

DragonfallThe premise for Dragonfall immediately grabbed me. We are introduced to a world in which dragons have been banished to a dark, dying home after being betrayed by humans. The twist? So much time has passed since this betrayal that humans now worship dragons as gods – even though their deities want nothing more than to return to the world and wreak a terrible revenge on humanity. If there’s one word to sum up the worlds depicted in Dragonfall, it’s bleak. On one hand, we have the dragons living in a world that is basically a smoking ruin, one volcanic eruption away from destruction. On the other hand, we have Lumet, the human nation where much of the story is based. Poverty is rife, the rich hoard magic and wealth, and the nation is still recovering after being devastated by a deadly plague called the Strike.

Our story starts with Everen, the last male dragon, being dragged through the Veil and into the human world in a misguided attempt to fulfill his destiny as his people’s great hope. There is a darkness to Everen, something that fans of Grimdark fantasy will admire. He was feted as the savior of the dragons before being shunned and ignored and seen as a failure for his inability to foresee the future. His mother is Queen but has never displayed any warmth towards Everen, something that fuels his all-encompassing desire to prove himself to his kind. The themes of legacy and destiny are constant throughout Dragonfall, and L.R Lam does a brilliant job of depicting how these looming concepts cause chaos within Everen and our other protagonist, Arcady.

If it was possible, Arcady lives an even bleaker life than Everen, suffering is a constant in her world. She grows up an orphan, making her living as a thief after suffering a horrendous event in her youth. The start of Dragonfall sees her stealing a powerful artifact from the body of the Plaguebringer, the most despised man in Lumet’s history, in an attempt to get revenge on the world that has wronged her. What she doesn’t realise is that her actions are the trigger to an even more significant event, with her spell dragging Everen through the Veil and into the human world.

Though Arcady doesn’t know it at first, she is now linked to Everen, who is told that the only way to bring his people back from the dying world is to strengthen and complete the bond between him and the human. This introduces us to the central conflict of Dragonfall. Everen grows closer to Arcady, the bond between the characters strengthening. They literally transform from enemies to close friends, something that is done in a very organic way. However, Everen knows the only way to save all of his people is to kill Arcady – but only after they have completed their bond. We see him struggle under the weight of this prophecy and L.R Lam does a good job of always reminding us what Everen has to lose.

Dragonfall is written in a world where everyone is suffering and death is a constant. Our characters are doing all they can to survive in that world but they face constant setbacks throughout the story. L.R Lam is a terrific writer and builds a vivid and lived-in world without too much info dumping. It’s clearly the first novel in the trilogy and does take a while to get going. However, it then picks up speed with the plot coming together in an exciting and dynamic way.

An aspect that didn’t quite work for me was the storyline involving Sorin, essentially a warrior acolyte under the thrall of a shadowy individual. I didn’t find her few chapters particularly engaging and thought her storyline just distracted from Everen and Arcady. I also felt her narrative ended in quite a predictable way and perhaps would have been helped by a few more chapters to really flesh out her characterisation.

I also struggled with the romance subplot. I thought it made a lot of sense and L.R Lam did a good job of not making it too contrived. Yet there were still moments where I found myself rushing through the scenes to try and get back to the main story. At the end of the day though, it comes down to a matter of preference. I can definitely see fans loving the romance, it just isn’t something that particularly appealed to me.

Overall, Dragonfall was a very entertaining read. It was immersive and engaging and stands as a very solid opener to the trilogy. L.R Lam does a great job of sprinkling hints of worldbuilding throughout the novel and I’m excited to read the next two books and see the stakes get bigger and the world more developed.

Four stars.

Read Dragonfall by L.R Lam

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Chron is a suffering journalist by day and loves to lose himself in magical worlds at night. Chron loves everything epic and has a soft spot for incredible warriors with even more incredible reputations (Hi Vaelin Al Sorna). He also enjoys a cheeky criminal caper and bleak fantasy where our heroes have no chance.