The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power

With the Dragon Round, author Power has written a Count of Monte Cristo for the modern age. Literary but not overly wordy, this is a very carefully crafted story with nuanced characters and an intricate storyline. And although yes, this is a story about a sea captain in a Georgian type era fantasy setting who finds a dragon egg, the dragon is a tool rather than a character. Those expecting an intelligent talking beast who befriends an honorable and nice human (yes, I am referring to the Novik series) will be disappointed. But those who want a very grounded tale of revenge and greed will find The Dragon Round rewarding.

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Story: Jeryon is an unambitious captain content to pilot trade ships. When his ship encounters a dragon at sea, he makes a choice to fight rather than run. It will have consequences for his crew and passengers. How each one reacts in the battle and afterward will have lasting effects on all their lives. For Jeryon will face a mutiny; in surviving, he and an herbalist will find the tool needed on an undiscovered island to exact revenge: a baby dragon.

The story is about revenge and conflicted characters. It’s not about raising a dragon and riding off into the sunset. Most of the characters are fairly selfish and very true to the world in which Power has set them. It’s commendable that we aren’t given flat good and evil, honorable and dishonorable; some may even have trouble liking the taciturn captain and fatalistic apothecary companion. As well, the dragon is pretty much an instrument – a loyal dog to train to attack when needed.

Although the story mostly follows the captain and ‘poth’, we’re also given viewpoints from crew and others. I found that to be a bit indulgent, though, and so I did knock off a star on the review. I didn’t feel the side characters’ perspectives were needed and wish the focus was more on the mains. They were fairly inscrutable as it was and diverting attention from them exacerbated that feeling.

In all, I enjoyed The Dragon Round in much the same way I enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo. Perhaps this is a bit more dreary and grounded than the adventurous Monte Cristo, but so much of the revenge story is similar. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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