Leaving Mystical Japan: The Last Dragon King by James Calbraith

Leaving Mystical Japan: The Last Dragon King by James CalbraithThe Last Dragon King by James Calbraith
Series: The Year of the Dragon #8

Published by Flying Squid on December 24th 2016
Also by this author: The Shadow of Black Wings, The Warrior's Soul, The Islands in the Mist, The Rising Tide, The Chrysanthemum Seal, The Withering Flame, The Shattering Waves
Also in this series: The Shadow of Black Wings, The Warrior's Soul, The Islands in the Mist, The Rising Tide, The Chrysanthemum Seal, The Withering Flame, The Shattering Waves
Genres: Fantasy
Format: ebook
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How will Bran save himself from a cave full of hungry, feral dragons? Who's the mysterious man Gwen and Nagomi meet at the Gates of Otherworld? Will they be able to rescue Sato from the Serpent's claws? And will the Southern Imperial Army manage to defeat the Taikun's forces in their march on Edo?

All these questions - and more - will be answered in the thrilling, double-length conclusion to the Year of the Dragon saga, the eighth and final volume: The Last Dragon King!

We’ve arrived at the last book of ‘The Year of the Dragons’ series by James Calbraith, The Last Dragon King. I didn’t like the previous book as much as I did the others, but the epic conclusion in The Last Dragon King makes up for it. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read all of the previous books, so start there.

In the previous few books we’ve seen the arrival of new dragons, the Black Wings, in Yamato. These dragons are used as weapons in the civil war raging throughout the country. They are the strongest creatures in Yamato, besides the Fanged. It makes sense that battles between such strong creatures have a certain weight to them. You can’t have them killed by one siege weapon. Even a mage with limitless potential isn’t enough to kill a Black Wing. Calbraith shows how to give these battle the feeling of greatness. There’s a clear difference between the different types of dragons and how a few handle the many.

Sato doesn’t get as much attention as she did in previous books, mostly because her situation is a mystery to the others. Nagomi and Bran are still on a quest to save her. She’s still under the influence of the Fanged and they need her on their side to execute the last part of their plan. Sato has to join them willingly for it to be successful. During their attempt to brainwash her with lies, she forgets what’s important to her, and finds purpose in their shared vision.

Bran’s only mission is to save his friends. He doesn’t want to participate in war, like his father. He thinks Nagomi is same for the time they are apart, so he’s searching for clues about Sato’s whereabouts and situation. The Fanged moved from place to place with Bran on their heels. Bran is the most unchanged since he came to Yamato for the second time. He lost his status as a main character and Nagomi took over that role.

Nagomi finally realises what her role is and how important she is for the future of Yamato. She visits the Otherworld and sees more than she ever dared to dream, even as a scryer. At the beginning she thinks she’s insignificant, but soon gets a chance to be more than an apprentice or even a high priestess.

The war ends and Yamato is changed forever. Calbraith does a wonderful job tying up all the ends for each major character. Some characters have their happy ending, while others do not, and that’s okay. The ending for each character makes sense based on what happened to them. I like how Calbraith addresses even the smallest seed he planted earlier in books.

Don’t forget to read the appendixes. Calbraith has created an extensive world in his universe and The Year of the Dragon doesn’t even show half of it. Check out the historical timeline to get a full overview the world and important events.

Five stars. I wouldn’t even consider lower. James Calbraith has grown as a writer, especially the battle scenes. In the earlier books, most would be melee battles with little magic. Now there are hundreds of men on the field using gadgets, magic, dragons and siege to fight for their cause. Neither of these feel too powerful. Even though the battles aren’t always fair, the weapons don’t seem to be the game change, which is a good thing. Characters should drive the story and be given that role.

Thank you, James, for your wonderful stories.

About James Calbraith

James Calbraith is a Poland-born British writer, foodie and traveler.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around Polish universities, he moved to London in 2007 and started writing in English.

His debut historical fantasy novel, The Shadow of Black Wings, has reached Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semi-finals in 2012. “The Year of the Dragon” saga sold over 30,000 copies worldwide.

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