Friday, 29 August 2014

Review: Dreamwalker by J.D. Oswald

Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: August 14th, 2014
Rating: 9.5/10

Amazon summary:

In a small village, miles from the great cities of the Twin Kingdoms, a young boy called Errol tries to find his way in the world. He's an outsider - he looks different from other children and has never known his father. No one, not even himself, has any knowledge of his true lineage. Deep in the forest, Benfro, the young male dragon begins his training in the subtle arts. Like his mother, Morgwm the Green, he is destined to be a great Mage. No one could imagine that the future of all life in the Twin Kingdoms rests in the hands of these two unlikely heroes. But it is a destiny that will change the lives of boy and dragon forever...

And so begins The Ballad of Sir Benfro - the unputdownable tale of the great dragons returning to the kingdom of men.


It's been quite a while since I read the first book in a series and immediately wanted to start the second. I love it when that happens, but it seems to be occurring less and less these days. Enter Dreamwalker by J.D. Oswald, a book that I knew basically nothing about until an unexpected review copy arrived at my house. As soon as I saw that it was about dragons, I knew it was my kind of thing - I've always been a big fan of dragons and am forever looking for them in fiction. I'm very glad to say that Dreamwalker has exceeded all expectations and completely blown my mind. I'm so excited about it!

Dreamwalker is about the Twin Kingdoms and all that inhabit it. There's young Benfro, a fourteen-year-old dragon kitling living with a settlement of dragons; a young boy called Errol, with a lineage more important than anyone knows, and a royal family with a history steeped in dragon slayings. Everything is changing in the Twin Kingdoms: no-one is safe, the dragons know danger is on the horizon and the men are all too happy to be the cause of it. Benfro and Errol each have a part to play in the coming days, but neither of them know the true extent of their purpose.

There's much, much more to this story, but to talk about it would be to spoil it. It's fantasy fiction at its best, with beautiful writing and some of the most compelling characters I've encountered in all my twenty-seven years of reading. Oswald has brought every single one of them to life within these pages, whether they be dragon or man, good or evil. They have personalities and traits befitting those of reality, with treachery, trust and power all being at the forefront.

Benfro is the best fictional dragon I've met so far, with his inquisitiveness and bravery being his greatest attributes. He's learning how to be a real dragon through magic and pure knowledge, and has some truly wise dragons on his side, teaching him whatever they can. His mother, Morgwm the Green, is another character that stands out high above everyone else, and is another of my favourites. I love the relationship she has with Benfro, which is very much one of a parent and child but with added respect and understanding. Morgwm knows Benfro has an important part to play in the future of their race, and it's her job to ready him for what's to come.

On the other side of the coin, there's Errol, a normal boy who finds himself thrust into a world he doesn't want to belong to. His parentage comes into question, loyalties are tested and yet he still thinks for himself and knows what's right and wrong. He has an affinity with dragons for reasons unbeknownst to him and, like Benfro, he too has an important role in the conflicts between dragons and men.

Oswald has perfectly created a world of magic and fantasy, a world where dragons are hated and live in fear of being found. These noble creatures have so much knowledge and power, which of course men just can't handle. It's fascinating to read about the history and lore of the Twin Kingdoms, especially with extracts at the beginning of each chapter. There's so much backstory to include, and these historical extracts are a brilliant way of supplying all the necessary information without overloading the reader or slowing the narrative. I can't wait to delve deeper and find out more!

It's interesting to note that the first three books in this series were originally self-published a few years ago. Now traditionally published by Penguin, this first book is in shops and on shelves, ready to meet new readers like me. It's YA-friendly even though it's shelved with adult fantasy, and fans of The Inheritance Cycle and Game of Thrones are sure to love it. I'm really glad they're all being published in paperback (The Rose Cord and The Golden Cage follow in November and January), because without that I honestly don't think I would have heard of this series, never mind read it. As it stands, Dreamwalker is one of the best books I've read this year and I'll be buying a finished copy to keep. It looks like the age of dragons has finally arrived, and if anyone wants me in the next few days I'll be reading the second book in the series, The Rose Cord. No disturbances, please.

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