Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

DragonswoodGoodreads: Dragonswood
Series: Companion to Dragon’s Keep
Source: ARC

Official Summary: On Wilde Island, there is no peace between dragons, fairies, and humans.

Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. As the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans begins to fray, the royal witch hunter with a hidden agenda begins a vengeful quest to burn girls suspected of witchcraft before a new king is crowned.

Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous. Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. As their pursuer draws ever closer they find shelter with a huntsman in the outskirts of the forbidden Dragonswood sanctuary. But staying with the mysterious huntsman poses risks of its own: Tess does not know how to handle the attraction she feels for him—or resist the elusive call that draws her deeper onto the heart of Dragonswood.

Review: Dragonswood is a strongly crafted novel that will appeal to fantasy fans who love a good classic quest and imaginative worlds populated with magical species.  Carey deftly creates three distinct races in Dragonswood—humans, fairies, and dragons—giving each a rich history and defining characteristics.  Then, just as quickly, she demonstrates all are ultimately people with similar hearts, if different perspectives.

Carey’s world is in fact a mix of the real and the fantastic.  It is set on an island close to England, where the descendants of King Arthur reign and have built one of the world’s final refuges for the disappearing dragon and fairy races.  This setting is unclear at first, making the frequent references to the Christian God and saints bewildering when mixed so casually with talk of magic, but eventually enough clues are dropped that the reader can settle comfortably into this uniquely imagined world.

Tess is an intriguing protagonist, a mix of strength and vulnerability.  She has a brave and loyal heart, yet has suffered years of abuse from her father.  She distrusts men.  Sometimes she stands tall, and sometimes she flees.  Her reactions, however, are altogether human and a lot of readers will be able to relate.  She teaches her audience what it means to be brave in the face of fear.

The dialogue is a bit awkward, the standard attempt at “fantasy” speech where people refuse to use contractions and often employ the present tense.  At times, the dialogue contributes to demonstrating Tess’s fear, as she sounds inordinately subservient.  This is somewhat logical, due to the characterization mentioned above, but there are places where it truly seems unintentional—the dialogue makes her sound more awkward in a given situation than the author might want her to.

The pace is generally pleasant.  Carey weaves action, description, romance, and exploration beautifully together to craft a tale that truly has it all.  The climactic scene would have benefited from being a little longer, as some characters really should have been more hesitant to believe the incredible and not simply accepted everything that was told to them.  Nothing more was out of place, however.

Overall, a fantastic read I recommend to fans of the genre.

Published: January 5, 2012


7 thoughts on “Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

  1. Anahera says:

    Sweet! I love fantasy. I’ll be adding this to my Goodreads. 😀 I think I like protagonists like Tess the most, especially when they show the reader something great. 🙂 Great review!


    • Briana says:

      Thank you so much!

      I was pleasantly surprised by what a strong fantasy novel this is, mainly because I haven’t seen many people talking about it. It was just exactly the type of thing I want to read when I want to settle into fantasy.


    • Briana says:

      I’ve never noticed that, but I now see you’re right! There must be a large contingent of people who either think blacksmiths are cool or, in the case, the perfect character to be abusive. Maybe because it implies he’s physically strong and is threatening in that way?


      • jubilare says:

        There are plenty of good-hearted/kindly blacksmith-fathers-of-fantasy-heroines out there, as well as the threatening sort. It may have something to do with “second thing that comes to mind” syndrome. (If that isn’t a syndrome, it should be). Don’t want a princess? Whats the next cool medievalish profession that comes to mind? Viola, blacksmith.
        I ran across this so much when I read a lot of amateur/aspiring fiction that it became a running joke in my head. I still feel that there has to be more to it than my partial explanation, though.


        • Briana says:

          I think you have a point, though. Blacksmith is an occupation that comes easily to mind, if you want one that doesn’t really exist anymore. No one writes about tanners. Millers occasionally get some spotlight. But overall the list of featured medieval professions does seem a little small. There definitely has to be a coolness factor involved, though. Being a strong and sturdy blacksmith is like the peasant version of being a knight. More physically impressive than making shoes or something.


          • jubilare says:

            True, the cool factor is pretty strong. Plus, many of the older mythological traditions attributed mystical powers to smiths, so they appear in a lot of older stories. “My dad is a baker” sounds tasty, but not very impressive… 😉


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