When a dragon destroys her life, a young woman joins a vigilante group of mages and rogues hunting the dragon. But she soon discovers that she's the one being hunted as factions vie to control her growing power.
Quen Santu works for her father tanning hides, waiting for her tides to turn. Everyone she grew up with has already committed to a herdclan. But Quen was born cursed with a second, shadow soul. Sensing the oddity within, animals run from her—an untenable trait in a herding culture. On the cusp of her twentieth year, Quen is at risk of becoming pesha—no one.
Then, a dragon kills her father. The murder turns Quen’s life upside down and dashes her hope for an honorable life. As her anger grows, so does her untapped power. Fueled by a quest for vengeance, she joins a vigilante group hunting the beast. But her journey soon reveals a terrible truth: her battle prowess has caught dangerous eyes. And now, she has become the hunted.
At the end of her journey, her fate will be sealed. Can Quen overcome her curse and unite her warring souls? Or will her shadow soul consume her—and everyone she loves?
The fate of her homeland—and all she loves—hangs in the balance.
Terrified that she may be becoming just that, and warned by a secret-holding, wolf-riding traveler that tragedy will follow her, Quen faces the terrors of a dusty land and its trickster spirits in her quest first to find the truth about her shadow self—and, eventually, to hunt a terrifying beast that has brought devastation to her people. (Expect a touch of romance, too.) Season of the Dragon expertly blends classic quest and self-discovery narratives with fresh details that immerse readers in its world: the link between desert winds and the breath of the god Juka; the smartly developed elemental “Corner” theology of Indrasi; systems of learning like the Pillars.
But it’s the people that drive this story, orienting readers in this strange land with its twin-souled protagonist, giving reasons to cheer and cower as Quen and the cohort she gains face dangers like the dragons of the title, imported (like yindrils and other magical creatures) by the abusive ruling Kovan Dynasty. The stakes are high, the prose crisp, and the adventure thrilling as Wright rewards and upends reader expectations, building to an epic ending that satisfies even as it sets up more adventure.
Takeaway: This dazzling epic fantasy series kickoff rewards and upends reader expectations.
Great for fans of: Glenda Larke’s Watergivers series, Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Many a fantasy series has featured a protagonist divided as much by their own psyches as outside events. Most focus on the heroic emergence of the character under duress. Few present the specter of a new adult loner, Quen Santu, whose two hearts drum to a different beat than what she was created to do—destroy the world.
Quen's odyssey and purpose is always under review and struggle as she considers her limited future options. Becoming a herdwife is not one of them. Perhaps she should study the art of war? Certainly, magical ability also eludes her.
But destiny does not. For, beneath her skin lies a changling Nixan—the shadow soul who pushes for a metamorphosis that would squelch everything Quen is or wants to become. Letting it win would involve loosening that wild spirit to destroy everything. Quen both houses the force that could end all and is perhaps the only one who can stop it.
On the face of it, this first book in the Dragos Primeri series is the usual adventure and struggle to overcome impossible adversity. Look deeper for the emotional connections to life and love which Quen represents, from her affection for a father that supersedes death itself to evolving, unexpected friends who turn into lovers to help support Quen's human side.
The young woman at war with herself also battles the forces that would harness her innate condition for their own special interests. This adds a further social and political inspection to her trials and exploration of self and its connections to the outside world, which fears her potential even as some plot to control it for themselves.
As vivid as the emotional and changing currents are of this journey is the descriptive force Natalie Wright employs to explore not just Quen's abilities, but the magic of this world: "Pelagia turned and flourished her remarkable cape. As she did, a few butterflies moved, breaking the pattern. Quen gasped. I thought they’d used dead butterflies to construct the cap,but these are alive. How does she control them to make them behave in such an odd way?"
Desperate for answers about her path and purpose, Quen will even walk into a spidery brass web leading to a "hall of iron ribs and glass." She is a Doj’Anira—twice blessed, with two different countenances that attract dynasty leaders and opposing forces alike.
The emotional draw embedded in her journey will pull readers as well, offering ties to not just magic and new possibilities, but the sacrifices of newfound supporters:
"Grief made everything ache. Her arms were like two soggy tubers gone to mush. Quen clambered up the wall and dug her fingers into the ice on the ledge above, but they were already tired from helping hoist Nivi. Heartache sapped her strength to pull. She hung like a carcass, her legs scrambling in vain to push up. She howled in frustration. Strong hands gripped her wrists. “Mourn him later,” Rhoji said."
By now, it should be evident that this fantasy world and adventure shines in more than one manner. From inner turmoil and struggles with power and good and evil to the forces that offer spiritual and political redemption at a price, Quen resides at the center of too many conflicts both within and outside herself. Her readers will find themselves carried by the power of her observations, growing love for selected others, and slow realizations of what her abilities and determination really bring to the world.
Libraries looking for fantasy series titles that open with a bang of psychological and political allure will find that few can equal the force of Season of the Dragon. Its attraction comes from many different strong subplots, each cemented by a courageous woman who defies her destiny and heritage and, in so doing, begins to see the opportunity of being the result of her mother's bargain with a different kind of devil.
“[Season of the Dragon] was not only engaging but also beautiful and vivid. The story was filled with magic, sorcery, dragons, and actions. I loved it! The author wrote about the unconditional love a father has for his daughter, regardless of what she is. It was refreshing to see how love gave her strength when she was weak… I recommend this book to lovers of mystery and magical books. Wholeheartedly, I anticipate the next book in the series.” ~Raymond N., Online Bookclub