Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic

Posted by DarkChaplain at 8/25/2016
Five noble war heroes of Vagandrak get drunk one night and sign a contract – to journey to the Karamakkos in search of the Five Havens where, it is written, there is untold, abandoned wealth and, more importantly, the three Dragon Heads – jewels claimed to give unspeakable power and everlasting life to those who wield them.

But the Dragon Heads aren’t what they think, and the world has not encountered their like in generations!
This one is a highly divisive novel, which I didn't realize going in. Not for the faint-hearted or prude, that's for sure. However, I quite enjoyed it.

The Story:
"Five noble war heroes of Vagandrak get drunk one night and sign a contract – to journey to the Karamakkos in search of the Five Havens where, it is written, there is untold, abandoned wealth and, more importantly, the three Dragon Heads – jewels claimed to give unspeakable power and everlasting life to those who wield them.

But the Dragon Heads aren’t what they think, and the world has not encountered their like in generations!"


The Review:
The Dragon Engine is a controversial novel - and for good reason. It is full of adult humor (or juvenile humor, depending on who you're asking), and explicit, sexual content (both in the positive and negative sense).
So if you are uncomfortable with that, do not even think of picking this book up, or you'll regret the money spent. If you're unsure, get the sample, which should include the start of the chapter "Skalg", which tackles the reader with some very explicit scenes right off the bat.

If you can get over those explicit contents, you'll find a novel that very much resembles a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. The protagonists are a diverse bunch, three men, three women, including a bisexual archer, a supposedly-pacifist witch/healer who is also vegetarian, a ginger, one-eyed, stubborn axeman and so on. It really covers a bunch of the tropes and character classes you'd find in most pen & paper roleplaying games, with the added bonus of all of these six characters being veterans of a previous war (which seems to be covered in Remic's other books). As a result you have them wax nostalgically about the good old days and past glories, and decide to go on one last adventure together.

This adventure sees them going on a treasure hunt, searching for the lost dwarven cities under the mountain Karamakkos. Things don't go as planned (at all), even from the outset, and the group of heroes just tumbles from one problem to the next.
I actually found that really entertaining, as it resulted in a lot of comedic problem solving - until about halfway through the book, when they actually enter the dwarven realm and things take a massive turn for the worst.

Spoiler, highlight to read!
The group gets captured and put to slave labor in the mines of the thought-extinct race. But since they weren't compliant enough, they go through a very long chapter of torture, which sent each and every one of them through hell. This involves mutilation, threat of castration and ball-crushing, psycho-terror, rape and more.
It really wasn't pretty and, again, if you're faint-hearted, move on.

However, it did provide some very neat insights into the characters. For the most part the book focuses on Beetrax the axeman, and his past love with Lillith. We get the biggest chunks of background on them, whereas the others are less obvious in their background details. During their rough time in the Five Havens, all of them are confronted with their own fears and insecurities, and became more interesting to me. But then, I also hated those scenes for making me worry so much, and being utterly relentless. They were some of the moments where I genuinely wanted the antagonists to die in hell.

The antagonists themselves are well-established and actually evil, especially Cardinal Skalg of the Church of Hate, who is a despicable prick of the highest degree. There isn't really much I want to say about his role here, as it has a bunch of twists I don't want to spoil. But you will hate him. There is nothing redeemable about him, and there doesn't need to be. But then, few, if any, of the dwarves can be said good things about. They're an isolated race of awful people, selfish, brutal, hateful. Just the kind of mess you wouldn't want to run into.

And then we have the Dragon Engine itself, a machine utilizing enslaved metal dragons to power the dwarven cities. There isn't as much about this in the book as I was expecting, but when it hits, it is with a sledgehammer and turns the book upside down, with a gigantic cliffhanger for Twilight of the Dragons. I'm very excited to dig into that sequel, with how this story (hasn't) wrapped up here.

The Dragon Engine really is a mixed bag that will divide readers (and already has). There is sexually explicit content here in bucket loads, some relatively tasteful, other parts excessively detailed to the point where I was cringing, thinking that a curtain call would have fitted the scene better. Little is left ambiguous, and characters are foul-mouthed (especially Beetrax and the antagonists) throughout the whole book. But then, there are genuinely well-written human relationships here too, with the group of six splitting into three couples of different stages. There is plenty of humor here to balance the grim, though it takes second fiddle once things get darker in the mines. While some may react with eyerolls at Beetrax in particular, I thought him to be a well-presented character with more depth than immediately obvious, and often quite funny.

More than anything though, this book has made me want to play DnD. Getting a group together and just start a silly adventure with characters who poke fun at one another all the time, but also stick up for one another when it counts. If you told me this was originally based off of one long campaign Remic had with friends, I could well believe it, and it maintains the lighthearted tone of such sessions, despite the grim parts.

As such, I quite enjoyed my time with The Dragon Engine, though I cannot make a clear-cut recommendation for it. It really comes down to your own sensibilities and tastes, and state of mind. You might praise it for its unashamed style, or hate it for its crudeness. I can only recommend trying the sample to see if you can stomach it.

The Dragon Engine on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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