Book One of the Chronicles of Ganus introduces a world that does not rotate on its axis and therefore has a broiling sun on one side and a frozen wasteland on the other. In the center of this world once lived dragons that used human riders to aid in the world’s Turning every thousand years. Ten thousand years ago, they were killed by the wizards claiming they were evil, but now everyone is talking about news coming from the icy side of the world. A ship’s captain passing dangerously close to frozen cliffs sees dragons flying above them, and rumors of their existence begin to churn once again.
Living along the sea that separates day and night, Marc Courtenay is the fourth son of King Corwynn of the kingdom of Cathgar. Born without hands, Marc uses prostheses that look like gripping claws attached to his wrists. His firm but faithful tutor Kili does not allow him to wallow in self-pity, teaching the art of swordplay as well as the duties of a prince. Marc learns that upon his eighteenth birthday he is betrothed, or handfasted, to the Princess Alisse of Farling and, unlike his married brothers, will be sent to live there.
An attack using magic followed by a failed kidnapping causes Marc’s father to explain the true reason Marc is being sent to Farling, but almost immediately Cathgar is taken over by the dreaded Menem. The wizards, determined to come to power, have orchestrated the entire attack, and Balbarath turns out to be a traitor. Marc barely escapes with the help of a scarred young empath named Evlynn, and together they join the Wandering Folk.
In the meantime, a dwarf dragon named K’Lal cannot fly and is being attacked by his brothers and sisters. Skillfully he avoids them, then turns to his memories that are linked with all other dragons in order to search for and find his rider.
This exciting story set in an unusually fascinating world really scores high in good values. Many fantasy stories feature flawed characters who must undergo painful testing to become better people and discover their true destinies. A Rumor of Dragons goes beyond that theme and uses physically flawed and disabled individuals who must overcome their personal disadvantages and learn to be courageous, confident, and self-reliant.
Kili also has to face his own demons by re-entering his childhood and watch a traumatic event through his grown up eyes. The Wandering Folk who Marc and Evlynn live with briefly are an interesting race and their non-violent, forgiving beliefs are reminiscent of Buddhist philosophy:
“…any actions, no matter how good can change the Balance and lead to disaster. The greatest good Man can achieve is to understand the Balance and strive to live in unity with it.”
Artful storytelling and intriguing twists make this an exceptional fantasy novel, and I am looking forward to the next installment.