SUNSKAALD begins with a princess and a dragon born on the same day, destined for their paths to cross. But their world is one of strife and conflict–deadly confrontations between humans and dragons have made the dragon race all but extinct, and taken magic with them. Kina, princess and heir to the powerful Rillian throne, has always had her charmed life dictated for her. While Prak is one of the last of his kind, a lonely dragon living on the outskirts of society. One fateful day, Prak reveals himself to save the headstrong princess from roving bandits and their destinies become intertwined. And when royalty and dragon unite, they will change the fate of their world forever. Scott Pike’s novel has the air of an Arthurian legend, or fairy tale. The impression is that this story has been told many times and may be told many more–an archetypal, timeless sort of adventure with characters that are familiar and comfortable right off the bat. Pike’s plot does not really have any surprises or plot twists, but is not the point with a tale like this.
One particularly bright note throughout the book is the liberal application of humor and dry wit. King Rillian, a warrior king with a spine of steel, is beset by the daily grind of kingdom management– neighborly arguments, escaped bees, and all. Kina is a lady, but also an itinerant prankster. And Prak the Srak dragon speaks for itself. Pike’s tale has enough levity to balance out the world altering power struggles and doesn’t take itself overly seriously. Also, Pike’s writing style makes SUNSKAALD an exceptionally easy to read story. The setting is high fantasy, but the language is readable and rather modern in tone. No stilted thees and thous, which support the timeless quality of the story. Neither is the medieval setting an excuse to revel in the sexist, harsh realities of human history. There’s no questioning that Kina, a female, can succeed her father on the throne. And Pike doesn’t preach either – it’s just how his world is built.
There is one issue with the novel and that is the use of passive voice. The writing makes it so that the characters rarely take action themselves–things just happen to them. Prak does not smile, a smile “appears on his face.” Without much agency to speak of from the characters, the plot becomes a bit formulaic. And this lack of active voice also tends to prevent the action scenes from invoking exhilaration or suspense. Pike would do well to aspire to the writer’s motto “show, don’t tell.”
SUNSKAALD is high fantasy in the style of Arthurian legend and is humorous, sweet, easy to read and appropriate for young adult and adult audiences alike.
~Lauren Napoli for IndieReader