Book Review: “The Coming of Dragons” by A.J. Lake

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The shipwreck was caused by a storm. The storm was caused by a dragon, which even in pre-Norman-conquest Britain would be thought beyond belief. And the only two survivors owe their lives to a mysterious chest whose lock has no keyhole.

Nevertheless the girl (the ship master’s daughter, named Elspeth) figures out how to open it, though wizards and warriors have long tried and failed to do so. Inside she finds a silver gauntlet which, at her slightest touch, jumps onto her hand and fades into her skin, becoming part of her body. Whenever she needs it, it reappears with a glowing sword in its grip, a sword able to cut through anything. But because of this weapon with a mind of its own, the children are pursued by an evil necromancer and his armed henchmen, hunted by a fire-breathing monster named Torment, and fated to fight the will of an evil god whose only chance to be set free upon the earth—or to be destroyed—now lives in Elspeth’s hand.

As for the boy (Edmund, the son of the king of Sussex, traveling incognito), he has a magical gift and burden of his own. He has only now realized that he possesses the power of the Ripente: a hated caste of spies and traitors, distinguished by their ability to see through others’ eyes. Edmund also has dreams of the future, and carries the guilt of not acting on them on time when they warned of death and destruction. Edmund fears that he is a coward and a weakling, whereas in fact he throws himself into protecting Elspeth with fearless loyalty. But between fear for his kingly father, not heard of since he went to war against the Danes, and shame about his deep connection with an enemy who shares the same powers, Edmund has a torment of his own, apart from the dragon of that name.

This fast-paced, stormy, scary, and thrilling adventure, set in a pre-Arthurian era of magic and legend, launches the Darkest Age trilogy with convincing authority and enervating momentum. I am already saving nickels and dimes for the books that follow it: The Book of the Sword and The Circle of Stone.