Review: Twilight of the Dragons by Andy Remic

Posted by DarkChaplain at 10/05/2016
During a recent dwarf civil-war deep under the Karamakkos Mountains, the magick-enslaved dragonlords have broken free from centuries of imprisonment and slaughtered tens of thousands throughout the Five Havens before exploding from the mountain and heading in fire and vengeance for the lands of Vagandrak. Two once-noble war heroes of Vagandrak - Dakeroth and his wife Jonti Tal, an archer and scholar, the Axeman, the White Witch and a Kaalesh combat expert find themselves in a unique position: for they have discovered the ancient dragon city of Wyrmblood, and a thousand unhatched dragon eggs. Dakeroth and his companions must work with their enemies, Skalg and the Church of Hate, in order to bring down the dragonlords and save the world of men and dwarves. But there is no bartering with these ancient dragons; for they seek to hatch their eggs and rebuild the cruel Wyrmblood Empire of legend.
Oh boy, remember the ultra-vulgar, bloody entertaining, almost pornographic novel The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic? Its sequel was recently released and ended up on my desk. I read it, and I hugely enjoyed it despite its flaws. Here's why.

The Story:
"During a recent dwarf civil-war deep under the Karamakkos Mountains, the magick-enslaved dragonlords have broken free from centuries of imprisonment and slaughtered tens of thousands throughout the Five Havens before exploding from the mountain and heading in fire and vengeance for the lands of Vagandrak. Two once-noble war heroes of Vagandrak - Dakeroth and his wife Jonti Tal, an archer and scholar, the Axeman, the White Witch and a Kaalesh combat expert find themselves in a unique position: for they have discovered the ancient dragon city of Wyrmblood, and a thousand unhatched dragon eggs. Dakeroth and his companions must work with their enemies, Skalg and the Church of Hate, in order to bring down the dragonlords and save the world of men and dwarves. But there is no bartering with these ancient dragons; for they seek to hatch their eggs and rebuild the cruel Wyrmblood Empire of legend."

The Review:
Twilight of the Dragons is an oddly entertaining book. It is still vulgar, "offensive" and unrecommendable to younger readers, but also in many ways different from The Dragon Engine. Not in a bad way, however.

Where with The Dragon Engine I was utterly unprepared for the vulgarity, sex jokes, assault, torture and what have you, having me wince at the ideas presented by Andy Remic (reading about "ball crushers" was pretty grim!), I was definitely prepared for more of the like in Twilight. To my surprise, those aspects were tackled to a lesser degree here. Instead the book focused more on the characters' resignation, fears, trauma and the rampage of the dragons in Vagandrak.

Surprisingly, this novel also throws a crossover with Remic's Iron Wolves novels at us: The heroes from The Iron Wolves and The White Towers appear here, stealing a lot of the spotlight. This, of course, includes spoilers for their own novels, seeing that this is a sequel, chronologically.
I honestly wish I had read those novels before I did Twilight, but after the fact I cannot say that, while I was initially not so keen on it, I disliked their inclusion. In fact, I liked all of the crossover-characters a good bit. They were easily relatable, had a decent amount of comedic relief (one part of which even crops back up in the epilogue and had me laughing out loud!), and gave a much-needed perspective of the dragon rampage outside the mountains that the heroes are stuck in for pretty much the entire novel.

Disappointingly, the heroes, that is, Beetrax, Lilith, Sakora, Dake, Talon and the boy Jael, are stuck underground until the very end, and as a result don't even encounter Volak and her sisters for most of it. I had expected them to be the driving force when it comes to subjugating the dragons again, but instead the futility of that task was tackled via the Iron Wolves chapters. For the original heroes from The Dragon Engine, oddly little happens in terms of external threats, comparatively. There is one battle against a dragon-splice which I liked a lot, and some dwarf-killing, but until the climax chapters (and I don't mean those involving past romance scenes between Beetrax and Lilith with that!) they're fighting themselves and their own insecurities more than anything else.

Which, as a theme, I liked. None of them were left unaffected by the preceding events, the torture, the lack of sunlight, and most notably the death of Jonti Tal, Dake's wife. They're traumatized, growing in apathy and start turning on one another. Of course, equiem magic plays a role in it as well, raising the stakes to a higher point. The point stands, however: Their quest to find and destroy the dragon eggs of Volak isn't easy, and that is more down to their own sensibilities and fraying nerves than to outside forces.

In a way, this made the inclusion of the Iron Wolves inevitable. The action against Volak was necessary to the book, both to get the tension up and to balance the depressing nature of the other parts of the book. Remic nailed the conflict on the surface very well, too; Narnok, Dek, Trista and co were all amusing to read about, and their struggles to somehow manage to harm and/or kill Volak were offering up cool setpieces. Narnok especially had me chuckling over how absurd it was for him to constantly taunt the mighty dragon queen.

“I’m Narnok. Don’t forget it. It’s a name I’m going to carve on your arse.”

It was a massively entertaining romp of thrilling action, with ever-growing desperation and things just got better and better. I was incredibly sad when, inevitably, heads began to roll (or ashes got blown into the wind, eh?). Andy managed to make me care about characters that came out of the blue and stole the fireworks show, giving them a personal background that I enjoyed and made me curious about the rest of their story. Yes, I was definitely disappointed that it wasn't down to Beetrax and co, but what I got instead was no less entertaining than what I expected.

The dragon rampage itself is worth noting too. The prologue kicks it off, set right after the end of The Dragon Engine. Volak, Kranesh and Moraxx are free to do as they please: which just so happens to be slaughtering humans. If you're not a fan of seeing children die, then you might want to back out of this one, because the story starts right with that; it gets us to care about a little girl who finally made a friend and has fun playing around, just to be eaten alive. That had me gulp - I didn't expect that kind of thing within the first 5 pages! But damn if it didn't set the scene for just how terrible a renewed Blood Dragon Empire would be!

Multiple similar scenes of disaster are featured throughout the book, up until the dragons get their dues through no other than Skalg. Where in The Dragon Engine I had nothing but disdain for the fucker, here I actually cared for him as an individual. The author managed to humanize him a great deal, giving him a layered personality and personal dilemma. He is made relatable in his role, and showcases how mountains of frustration and pain can come tumbling down and break our own backs.
In a way, Skalg is the real hero of the book, which surprised me. He is still a megalomaniac and doesn't get off lightly, but he definitely pulls more than his own weight to resolve the looming doom. Remic definitely addressed Skalg's situation in a satisfying way.

If you're a fan of the sexual themes from The Dragon Engine, the book has you covered too. Not only does it have some orgies going on involving Vagandrak royalty, involving an arrogant princess trying to rape her soldier-become-servant, but it also has some more romantic flashbacks for Beetrax and Lilith.
I honestly cannot believe how well-done the romance in the latter actually was. It was actually nice, and sweet, and made me care even more about the couple. It wasn't blunt and on the nose, and instead reinforced their relationship as a whole.
More than anything, those scenes were relatable, authentic and respectful. They hammered home just how much of these two books was actually about Trax and Lil and their reunion. Those heartwarming scenes raised the stakes for the depressing underground excursion tenfold, and had me raging as the climax came about.

My regrets about the novel, after all is said and done, boil down to the original heroes taking a bit too much of a step back. While I liked the themes and execution, I figured they'd be more prominent here. It wasn't a dealbreaker by any means, but I was wishing for them to be more involved.
On top of that, there are various plot nuggets that weren't resolved, and deliberately left open. The epilogue makes it pretty clear that there is room for sequels yet, tying all the way back to the Iron Wolves books (and I'll damn well read those before I get into the next one), but there's more to be said about the Dragonheads, King Yoon, the remaining Splice in Vagandrak and a bunch of side characters who I figured would contribute a bit more yet.

Be that as it may, I think I enjoyed Twilight of the Dragons even more than I did The Dragon Engine. It flowed well, I cared for the whole, larger cast and the dragons were magnificent to behold. The action was great, the personal drama high, and I'd like to read more about all involved.
If you've read The Dragon Engine, you owe it to yourself to read this one as well.

Twilight of the Dragons 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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