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The Novice Dragoneer
Dragoneer Academy #1
by E.E. Knight
Ace, $16.00. 512pp
Published: November 2019

In the first book in an exciting new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the Age of Fire series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of dragonriders, but her path won't be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.

Fourteen-year-old Ileth grew up in an orphanage, and thanks to her stutter was never thought to be destined for much beyond kitchen work and cleaning. But she's dreamed of serving with the dragons ever since a childhood meeting with a glittering silver dragon and its female dragoneer. For years she waits, and as soon as she is old enough to join, Ileth runs away to become a novice dragoneer at the ancient human-dragon fortress of the Serpentine.

While most of her fellow apprentices are from rich and influential families, Ileth must fight for her place in the world, even if it includes a duel with her boss at the fish-gutting table. She's then sent off to the dragon-dancers after a foolish kiss with a famously named boy and given charge of a sickly old dragon with a mysterious past. But she finds those trials were nothing when she has to take the place of a dead dragoneer and care for his imprisoned dragon in enemy lands. . .

I’ve never read E.E. Knight before, mostly because I have some set authors I read for fantasy but when I read the description, I instantly was excited. And I am so grateful, I took the chance on this novel.

The novel is incredibly engaging, drawing you in quickly and is so compelling, you find yourself reading more and more, trying to gulp the story down as fast as you can. Part of what makes the story so interesting, though, are the characters, in particular, the primary protagonist, Ileth.

Ileth is a refreshing change of pace. She is far from perfect, coming from poverty and with challenges others don’t face but each time she faces her challenges with determination, loyalty, and dedication. She never quits and while her adventures don’t appear to be extraordinarily exciting, they build to a culmination that is unique to Ileth. She is brave in spite of her fears and strong in ways we rarely see in a novel.

The other characters are also engaging, interesting in their own ways and some of them make unexpected decisions. The story also delves into the conflicts of the world but never paints them as black and white. The people as a whole are depicted as real people, with fears, hatreds, kindnesses, and strengths. They are beautiful because they are less than perfect.

If you love stories that pull you in deep and don’t let you go, characters that are refreshing and different, a world that is diverse and realistic, than I recommend this series. The first book is stunningly beautiful and I can’t wait for the next.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. ~~ Andrea Rittschof

For other E.E. Knight titles click here

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