The Order of the Scales by Stephen Deas
Review by Alice Wybrew
As the various factions fight for control of the Adamantine Palace mankind’s nemesis approaches. The realms’ dragons are awakening from their alchemical sedation and returning to their native fury. They can remember why they were created and they now know what mankind has done to them. And their revenge will be brutal.
The strength of Stephen Deas’ dragon novels has always lain with his impressive depiction of the monstrous creatures and in the final book in his debut trilogy this remains truer than ever. While the characters go on with their various scheming, plotting or futile attempts at survival, Snow and her growing flock of awakened dragons wreak all kinds of destruction across the realms.
Following this final journey is a by all accounts a nerve-wracking experience. The previous installment exemplified Deas’ ruthless writing style and his sacrifices here show no sign of change. As more and more dragons awaken and the book moves inexorably closer to the final battle of the skies, the anticipation is truly exceptional.
However, when not indulging in violent instances of teeth and claw, the story falls behind ever so slightly. As is his style, Deas uses POV narratives for each of his characters who each take their turn in short chapter spotlights. The fluctuation between Kemir, Jehal, Jeiros, Meteroa, Vale and a few other minor players is less well-balanced than in the previous novels, seeing some characters ignored for prolonged periods while others are indulged in too heavily.
That said, like the preceding books, The Order of the Scales is a quick read and it’s only in a few instances that the story feels really laboured. Sadly, many of these instances involve Kemir and Snow. The ‘life and death’ tension so solidly established in The King of Crags is far less distinct here as a certain numbness has formed around the possibility of Kemir’s death by dragon tooth. Snow’s arrogant, unpredictable and violent nature does much to displace this, but it’s still some way off from their previously compelling interactions.
The now crippled Prince Jehal serves more as a facilitator to the final showdown than anything else in this installment having lost a degree of charisma and flare, while Grand Master Jeiros undergoes much more interesting developments, with one sequence especially likely to keep the reader in suspense.
Deas also teases us here with previews of his other races and species in the form of the Silver Kings and the elemental man, as well as allowing us a less obstructed view of the Taiytakei. All seem promising additions to his world which we’ll hopefully get to experience to a greater extent in future novels.
Though perhaps not quite on par with the previous books, The Order of Scales remains a great read that will satisfy any dragon devotee. The final battle had a lot to live up to and Deas does not disappoint. A riveting, relentless and violent war of wings, Deas’ dragons are the scariest thing in fantasy today and something to be savoured again and again.
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