Last Updated on February 14, 2024
It is a great time to be a fan of dragons, especially if you like dragon literature, as we at team Grimdark Magazine do. The Dragons of Deepwood Fen, the latest novel from author Bradley P. Beaulieu, is the first part of his epic new series The Book of the Holt and a welcome addition to the dragon shelf. A multiple-point-of-view fantasy novel with some of the coolest dragons I have read about in ages, The Dragons of Deepwood Fen was a great read from start to finish and the cover art is magnificent. The dust jacket felt rough and almost scaly, and the cover art deserves to be framed and displayed so it is safe to say that I was impressed before I had even opened the cover for the first time. This novel not only has cool dragons, there is a unique magical system, multiple layers of political scheming and Beaulieu jumps us straight into the story. I think that The Dragons of Deepwood Fen would appeal to fans of Robin Hobb or John Gwynne.
Although there are multiple points of view in The Dragons of Deepwood Fen, the main two perspectives are that of Rylan Holbrooke, dragon singer, bastard, and thief, and Lorelei Aurelius, an incredibly astute inquisitor working in the city of Ancris. Lorelei uncovers a plot between the Church and the Red Knives (who, depending on your viewpoint, are either a band of rebels or freedom fighters), which could have devastating consequences for the entire empire. Her investigation leads her to Rylan, who is also trying to solve the same plot but for very different reasons. Neither can trust the other entirely, but if they cannot cooperate, there will be shattering consequences for both Rylan’s forest home of The Holt and Lorelei’s beloved Ancris.
I liked that in The Dragons of Deepwood Fen, Beaulieu puts you straight into the story, and although it took me a little while to get the world-building straight in my head, it meant I was learning as we went along. This learning-as-you-go is needed as the novel’s intricate plot is more like assembling a puzzle where things slot into space over time, than a fast-paced unravelling of a spool. As with all puzzles though, the more I put together, the quicker the rest went. I also really liked the complexity of the characters, not just the leads of Lorelei and Rylan. There are so many agendas at play, and some are so compelling that they feel to be the ‘right’ cause, even if somewhat underhand things happen later. However, the dragons are my favourite part of The Dragons of Deepwood Fen. There are so many different types, with different abilities and magical properties, not to mention the dragons’ personalities shown through the bonds they share with their riders, and I loved it. I know this is a popular time for dragons, so it was lovely to read something where they were shown in a new way.
The Dragons of Deepwood Fen is a solid start to a promising new series. One that I, for one, will be looking forward to continuing. Thank you very much to Bradley P. Beaulieu and the Head of Zeus / Ad Astra team for sending me a copy to review.