SPFBO Status: Cut
Overview (No Spoilers):
I am always excited about books where the main character is a woman. If said woman is also a warrior involved in crazy adventures, I’m definitely interested. After reading the short blurb about Squire Derel on Goodreads, I decided to pick it as part of my SPFBO batch. Briefly, Ana Derel is a squire, just months away from becoming a knight. When the Knight Protector she works for (you could think of the knight/squire relationship as an apprenticeship of sorts) is killed by a dragon, Ana has to deal with not only her grief, but all the questions she has as a result of the attack, as well as the now uncertain future. This isn’t just the story of her personal quest, however: there’s a war brewing, too.
My recurrent thought while reading this book was “I want to know more”. A previous war between the South and the North is mentioned, and we’re told it was bloody and had lasting consequences. It would be interesting to know more about it, because it could explain Lidek and his backstory (maybe this is developed in later books?). There are some references to the religions of these kingdoms being somewhat different, but we’re not given any detail. In short, the worldbuilding seemed promising, but it barely scratched the surface. The characters got a similar treatment: what we learn is interesting (Derel and Callaghan each have a lot of baggage, Aaronsen might have had a rough childhood, etc.), but that’s all we get. At some points I thought we were about to learn more, but the opportunity to add depth was missed; hopefully there is more on their past in the other books of the series.
Squire Derel is fast paced, action-packed, and overall an entertaining read. The premise is interesting, and so are the characters, but the book fell somewhat flat and didn’t leave me itching to know what happens next (this is the first book in the Knight Protector saga). Rachel Ford has a long list of other books published, and I’m curious to read some of her other work.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound)
- The story is narrated by Derel and Callaghan, and each chapter indicates who the narrator is. In most cases it was clear who was talking anyway, particularly with only two narrators, so it was weird to have it clearly stated at the beginning of each chapter.
- I assumed that Mayor Fitzwilliam and KP Callaghan were men. I really hated myself for that.
- The combination of dragons and modern technology was odd. Maybe it is just me being a traditionalist, but it felt weird. After a couple of chapters, I was able to accept it and move on, until Ana had to ride a dragon to the capital to alert them of the war. Are you really telling me that people who have developed radios and laser rifles do not have the technology to communicate long-distance within their kingdom?! I’m all for suspending disbelief, but that was a stretch.
- As a general rule, I tend to dislike romance in books. Coming from a Jane Austen fan, this might sound weird. Let me rephrase: I don’t need romance in the middle of an adventure. Derel and Callaghan were two awesome characters, and suddenly they developed feelings for each other… it felt forced. With that said, at least neither one was swept off her feet by a random dude; that would have been infuriating.
- This is rather contradictory for someone who swears as much as I do, but… there is too much swearing in this book. In part, it bothers me because it felt out of place among dragons and knights. I’m sure knights weren’t always as polished and well-spoken as King Arthur would have us believe, but still. Maybe it’s because it sounded too modern? I’m not quite sure, but it turned me off.
- The fact that silver dragons come from the Argenti Isles, which are in the South, made this Argentinean chemist chuckle. It was a very nice touch.
- Most of the characters function within a military environment, so it makes sense that they call each other by their last names. Why alternate between first and last names without any clear pattern? Admittedly, I know next to nothing about how military people behave, but it sounds to me like they wouldn’t go back and forth between calling their superior “Lilia” and “Callaghan”.
- All the dragons in the story are referred to as “he”. Are all the dragons male? Maybe only the males fly? Or only the males are aggressive enough for battle? Or is it just that they call them “he” by default?
- The main characters live in the North, which has been at war with the South many times in the past, and now enjoys a relatively long-lived peace. One of the questionable practices that characterize the South is slavery. Does this sound familiar?
- I keep accidentally reading “Squire Derel” as “Squirrel”. And based on my conversations with the rest of the team, I’m not the only one. [facepalm emoji]
Wyvern: (heraldry) a winged two-legged dragon with a barbed tail.
Wyrm: dragon, sea serpent.
Discombobulate: (humorous, chiefly N. American) disconcert or confuse [someone]. I honestly hope I incorporate this gem to my vocabulary.