by E.E. Knight
Series: Dragoneer Academy #2
Also in this series: Novice Dragoneer
Publication Date: November 17, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
As a young dragoneer moves through the ranks of the prestigious Serpentine Academy, her challenges grow greater and her time grows short to draw out a series of deadly threats, in this thrilling coming-of-age fantasy novel.
Sixteen-year-old Ileth is now an Apprentice Dragoneer, with all of the benefits and pitfalls that her elevation in rank entails. But her advancement becomes less certain after a she's attacked by an unknown enemy, and Ileth begins to suspect that someone deadly may be hiding within the walls of the academy.
Outside of the walls there is a different challenge. The Rari Pirates are strangling the Vale Republic. What they lack in dragon firepower, they make up for in the brutality of their ever-expanding raids, making hostages or slaves of the Republic’s citizens. Surrounded by enemies, Ileth will need to learn what kind of dragoneer she wants to be. And as she makes decisions about her future, Ileth will have the chance to uncover the secrets of her past. Both will irrevocably change the course of her life.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »ableism (MC has a stutter and is mocked or thought to be stupid because of it), violence (including gory deaths), misogyny (including shaming of sex workers), drug addiction, hazing « Hide Spoiler
These books have absolutely gorgeous covers, and I love this one even more than Novice Dragoneer. I very much enjoyed the first book, so I was unbelievably excited to read an advanced copy of this one. And, wow, it was not a disappointment – it’s even better than the first. As this is the second in a series, I would not recommend this as a standalone.
“Through endless toil, people kept the dragons alive and the dragons kept the Republic alive.”
Now sixteen, Ileth is an apprentice dragoneer, and the last member of her class of novices to advance. That’s not entirely her fault (courtesy of her stay as a war prisoner in the Galantine Empire, among other things) but it’s certainly making her life harder, from trying to find an apprentice sash to convincing the new Master of Apprentices that she wants to be in the Guards. Things go even more off-plan when a reconnaissance trip to the north with everyone’s favorite trio of dragoneers leads to startling revelations about Ileth’s past – revelations that may take her away from the Academy just when she’s needed the most.
“There are two basic sorts of people. Those who try to change their situation for the better, and those who look around and seek out villains to explain life’s many, many disappointments and spend the rest of their life crying on the proverbial stump assigning blame.”
This book roughly covers a year in Ileth’s life. Ileth at sixteen is a bit more world-wise than the girl who ran away to the Academy, and she does a lot more growing in this book due to both positive and negative events. Ileth still has a core of honor that drives all her decisions, but she’s also learning how to look critically at the world around her, including evaluating how the realities of the Republic don’t necessarily live up to its ideals. Everyone around her tells her to settle for being a dragon dancer until she can’t dance anymore, but Ileth’s dream is to be a dragoneer, even if her poor education, lack of a family name, and gender make it harder for her. Because of this, she’s also more skilled at getting those around her to live up to her idea of honor. I loved how Ileth never took the easy path instead of the right path. It’s so much fun to root for the underdog.
“She dreamed of doing something that would be written about in a book someday, be talked about after she was dead, even if her part in it was forgotten with her name.”
Unlike the previous book, where the core of the plot was Ileth finding her place at the Academy through various trials, this one has more of an overarching external plot line – someone at the Academy means Ileth harm. It still meanders in and out with a lot of the mundane workings of the Academy that I loved, including a long section where Ileth is trying to find a piece of white cloth to make an apprentice sash. Being the last of her class means that the usual ways to scrounge one up have all been used, so she ends up solving the problem in true Ileth fashion, 25% creative thinking and 75% sheer chutzpah. On top of the daily life of an apprentice bits, there’s a lot more action in this book, including several scenes of fighting on dragonback. Aurue, the scaleless dragon introduced in the first book, has a larger part in this book, though we also get to see other characters like Santeel Dun Troot (who is absolutely hilarious in a few scenes) and Dun Huss, Dath Amrits and the Borderlander. Some of the secrets around Ileth’s parentage are revealed, but those answers also bring up even more questions. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Overall, I thought this entry lived up to the first book, and I’m very much looking forward to reading Ileth’s next adventure!