Edition 14: Book Review: The Dagger of Dresnia by Satima Flavell
Reviewed by Damien Smith
Reviewer disclaimer: I know and have worked with Satima on Specusphere for several years. I received no payment for this review beyond the e-copy of the book and although Satima and I get on well, we get on well enough for me to happily say what I really think about her work and still get away with it.
The Dagger of Dresnia, the debut fantasy novel from Satima flavell is the first book of the Talisman Trilogy—the dagger itself being one of three titular talismans, and Dresnia being one of the three divided portions of the island kingdom where the story is set, each portion to be ruled by a different brother-king.
Our primary protagonist is Queen Ellyria; elf-born and mortal-married to the king of the islands. The story opens in a time of turmoil, where the king and their identical triplet sons are mortally ill beyond the help of both medical and the queen’s magical aid. Three princess brides have arrived for the triplets’ impending marriages but it appears the weddings are doomed never to occur.
In a desperate attempt to save her sons and the future of her kingdom, queen Ellyria enlists the aid of a mysterious doctor who arrives with the princess Tammi. In doing so, she inadvertently makes a pact with a Dark Spirit, who demands a terrible payment in return for saving her three sons.
The bulk of the story is set around Queen Ellyria attempting to thwart the Dark Spirit and overcome the seemingly inevitable doom it has prophesised for her sons’ kingdoms. Ellyria attempts to school young elves in the magic arts to directly battle the dark spirit and enlists aid from both her own elfish and mortal brethren to overcome the terrible curse; however in everything she attempts it seems the hand of the Dark Spirit is at work to thwart her in its own terrible game.
The perspective of the story was quite different to what I expected. While there is enough violence and racy bits to satisfy most fantasy fans, the mainstay of big battles and fight scenes (apart from one big climactic battle scene) was largely absent. They were there, but essentially happened off-camera, with their effects being felt through the characters themselves. While I like a bit of blood and guts and the screaming heart of battle in my reading, this is refreshing in that the impact of the battles was still there, but felt primarily through the consequences on the characters themselves rather than a battle-axe cleaving through the page.
What’s refreshing is the number of strong, yet vulnerable and above all real female characters taking central roles in this story. They are not just there as fillers in between the bits starring the men; they are honestly and realistically portrayed.
There is enough character development, story pace, elves, dwarves and magic here to satisfy most fans of the genre; however this is not a story for fans of epic battle scenes and tactical commentary. Also, and this is my main criticism of the book, I wish there was a map of the isles included. When entering any new fantasy setting, I personally find it a lot easier to place the action with a reference guide of some sort.
Cartography notwithstanding, this is definitely a book to take once around the block and give a try. I am looking forward to the subsequent instalments.
The Dagger of Dresnia by Satima Flavell
Publisher: Satalyte Publishing, 2014
Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.