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Book Review: Dragon Outcast by E. E. Knight

* Genre: Epic Fantasy
* ISBN: 0451461851
* ISBN-13: 9780451461858
* Format: Paperback, 368pp
* Publisher: Penguin Group (ROC)
* Pub. Date: December 2007
* Series: Age of Fire Series, #3

If you missed last year�s release of Dragon Outcast, turn around, go back to the bookstore and pick up this third novel in the Age of Fire series by E. E. Knight. As always, Knight brings us an action/adventure story filled with everybody’s favorite fantasy creature, dragons.

One thing I have especially enjoyed about the Age of Fire series is that you could pick up any of the novels and start with it. You could easily read Dragon Outcast without having read Dragon Champion or Dragon Avenger and still enjoy it completely as a stand-alone novel. Yet if you have been fortunate enough to read the other books, then this it only increases the depth and breadth of the one you took off the shelf.

Each of the books begins at the exact same time and location, yet each follows a different dragon. In Dragon Outcast, we learn the story of the Copper, Auron and Wistala�s sibling who was denied the egg shelf. In the previous two books the Copper was given a villainous cast, as it was he who led the Dragonblade and the Dwarves to his family�s cave. But in Dragon Outcast, we learn that all is not as it seems, and that the Copper�s motivations were purer than you think. And most especially, we learn the fate of the Dragonblade, an enigma from the first two books.

Dragon Outcast follows the Copper as he grows from hatchling to full fledged dragon. Hideously scarred and damaged by being outcast from his family, the Copper is forced to make his own way in the world. Hearing of a glorious place called the Lavadome, where dragons live in peace together, the Copper seeks it out. His journey takes him underground from his parent�s cave to the very feet of the Tyr, the leader of the Lavadome. Yet his journey has damaged his body (eye, leg, and wing), and acceptance is hard to find in the body conscious society of the Lavadome. The Copper must make a name for himself, and what follows makes for an interesting story as he grows from drake into dragon.

Ironically, where in the previous two books E. E. Knight has Auron and Wistala spend a great deal of time seeking the company of other dragons and not finding it, the Copper, an outcast, finds it rather easily. Yet he is the least suited for it with his damaged body. Knight weaves and interesting dragon society, one that is believable based on the traditional nature of dragons. Their ferocity, their territorial nature, and their intelligence are all weaved into a culture that is both believable and perched on a precipice, ready to collapse at any moment. The Copper provides the catalyst for its change with his arrival.

This was probably the strongest book of the Age of Fire series. Knight has woven the plot tightly so that the story does not have the elongated feel of Dragon Champion or some of the random plot elements of Dragon Avenger. Knight perhaps could work on his action sequences a bit, as it was occasionally hard to understand how the action related to the space around the character.

I think at times that Knight also assumes we have knowledge we do not. His dialogue will sometimes be structured to hint at prior knowledge that he failed to give us earlier in the novel. Usually, I was able to infer the information, and it was usually something to do with dragon society that was not really important to the story anyway, but I would have appreciated an explanation.

All in all, Knight continues to be a wonderful writer. He has taken dragons and made them both more and less than what the fairy tales had given. Many stories of dragons make them majestic and helpful, or split them into �good� and �evil� dragons usually dependent on scale color. But Knight�s dragons are all of a whole, and color has nothing to do with personality. Good and evil designations are dependent on the nature of the dragon in question. The Copper is our hero, and anyone who has ever felt marginalized by the society in which they live will find they are very able to identify with the Copper�s struggles for recognition. I highly recommend you read Dragon Outcast. And if you have trouble finding the first two books, don�t worry, you can read this one and go back to the other two. The whole series is one of those rare ones that I will actually and go back and read, because each novel adds depth to the other. A re-read will only heighten the enjoyment of the first two novels. Here�s to the Age of Fire, a series of extraordinary novels!