Dragonchaser is a fantasy novel with mermaids, magic, slaves and political intrigue set in a pseudo-roman/greek time period. The book starts when the main character, Mirko, rescues a mermaid. So far, so good; standard heroic set up …
He’s a bouncer at a brothel, exiled from his homeland for reasons unknown, and works as a spy and – eventually – a galley master on a boat crewed by slaves and owned by a conniving, unpleasant, would-be Peremptor of the city. So, not so much a standard hero novel.
In this city of Paladria politics are almost as much won though popular opinion as coin and scheming, and one way of winning the favor of the crowd is for a politician’s ship to win a series of races against other ships. Throw in a love interest or two, and a handsome rival, and you’ve got the makings of what could be an interesting story.
However, I never really felt all that attached to Mirko – or any of the characters, really. The villains were mortal, human and petty (which is refreshing; a cartoonish villain can do more to ruin a story than any insipidity on the hero’s part) and the story moved along at a good, steady pace. I just never felt drawn in.
To me it felt like I was reading the second draft of a book, one where you could see the potential in the story and how, with a little effort, it could turn into something fun. I enjoyed the way Stretton brought magic into the story and how nicely all the pieces were lined up. Nothing felt forced, plot-wise, and nothing felt fake. It just felt a little … unfinished.
Because everything was so neatly planned out it seemed as though Mirko had little more to do than go where he was told to go, see what he was told to see, do what he was told to do, and then to move on to the next page. I never got the sense of urgency from any of the characters, or the sense that the events of the story were bigger than they were.
But even with that, it was a solid read and well-written. While I would have wanted more from the story, I wasn’t left feeling cheated or like I’d wasted my time. For a free book it was well worth the price, though it’s not one I’ll be keeping on my kindle.
It does not appear as though a sequel is in the works, though the other has two other books available at Amazon for purchase and several short stories up at his web page.
Author’s Website: Acquired Taste