Title: The Last Stand (Empire of the Dragon Gods Book 0)
Author: Paris Hansch
Publisher: Origin Publications
Publication date: July 1, 2019
Summary: It should be a joyous day as head priestess Celia is about to raise five new priestesses, including her own daughter. But she carries a dark secret. Recently, she traveled to meet with the empress, only for the empress to turn on her and her people, those who can use the spirit arts. Now she’s faced with remaining loyal despite her empress’s hatred or taking a final stand against the empress she has sworn loyalty to.
This is an interesting start to a greater series. It is a novella that presumably covers the back story to the actual series, of which the reader is offered a peek at the end of the novella. It’s a brief introduction to the world and the mythology, but it sets the stage very nicely for what has the potential to be an interesting fantasy series. I liked that the story drops the reader right into the middle of the story, into a bit of action, but it was a little confusing as Celia’s meeting with the empress was mentioned and the reader gets the sense that it’s important to the rest of the story, but Celia always held out on telling it until she couldn’t.
The characters were interesting, but a couple of them felt like they were more victims of the story than independently formed characters. I loved that Celia was so loyal and such a gentle soul. She felt like the quintessential head priestess, but, when things started crashing down on her, I felt like she lacked resourcefulness in the face of crisis. It served the story well, but did not serve her well. Similarly, her daughter felt like a victim of the story. She’s young and energetic, but, as the daughter of the head priestess, I expected her to be more like her mother in terms of loyalty and beliefs. She certainly surprised me! My favorite part was the characterization of the emperor and empress. There was a lovely dragon angle and a great mythology behind them that definitely intrigued me. But my favorite character was Tobias. He isn’t seen as much as the other characters, but there’s clearly something intriguing about him that makes his character a bit slippery and fascinating.
What really fascinated me was the world. It was unique and well-conceived and developed. I loved the Asian feel to it, though it still had a hefty European atmosphere, especially when it came to the names. Still, I really enjoyed the dragon mythology. There was a history behind the world that will likely have a larger impact in the series, but this prequel had some hints, and I’d love to see how it plays out in future books. I really liked the magic, though there wasn’t anything groundbreaking about the spirit arts. How it’s used though, was quite different. The one thing about it that had me scratching my head was that the spirit users need a book to use their magic. Carrying one around seems like it might become more weight than anything else.
Overall, the story was interesting, though a little lacking in intrigue. However, it is a novella, so there can only be so much. The story moved quickly. It was almost too quick, but, considering how intent the empress was on destroying the spirit users, it made sense. The one thing I had a problem with was the ending and the point of view shift, but it does set up the series very well. The writing could also use a bit more polish and a bit more editing, but, overall, it was an easy and quick read. A really great introduction to what promises to be an interesting fantasy series.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups would be great.
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Thank you so much to the author, Paris Hansch, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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