The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic

Posted On 5 September 2015

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Just finished reading The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic.  Dragon Engine is your basic quest adventure.  A bunch of rough and surly characters head off on an adventure seeking gold and immortality.  In fact it has a very Tolkien(ish) feel to it really – well, in that there’s a fellowship type of feel to the start of the story followed by a whole bunch of dwarves and dragons.  That’s kind of where the similarity ends though because these dwarves are downright nasty.

In Dragon Engine we have a band of characters who have fought in wars together.  They’re maybe getting a little long(er) in the tooth nowadays or perhaps have a bit more girth around their middle, in fact all things being equal, you could say they’re comfortable in life.  There is no need for any more adventure.  They’ve had their fill of blood and guts and they can now enjoy the rest of their years in comfort.  And yet, at the start of the story, getting together for a raucous gathering, they agree to embark on a treasure hunt to the Aramakkos in search of the Five Havens.  The promise of gold, a map to lead the way, the potential for healing powers and immortality and all this booty lying beneath the mountains where the dragons and dwarves are now extinct – what more could you ask for really?

The world.  We have the usual sword wielding, axe swinging faux mediaeval set up.  Horses are the main mode up transport.  Crossbows the weapon of choice for the would-be assassin.  The time of men seems to be one of peace – or at least I didn’t detect any wars or political intrigue but that being said the King (Yoon) seems to be a piece of work and his nephew a bit of a snivelling trouble causer (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The main characters are Beetrax, who seems to be the self appointed leader of this adventure and is a huge, bearded, mammoth of a man, Lillith a peaceful woman who joins the journey in search of medical knowledge, Sakora a rather kick ass woman who seems to be fluent in the ways of martial arts, Jonti and Dake are a couple very much in love and who join this quest with much at stake and finally Talon who is a rather dab hand with his bow and arrows and joins the party for personal reasons.

And the plot.  Well, as you can imagine this simple adventure is going to end up being anything but simple.  The heros of the piece are perhaps a little bit over confident when they embark on their journey and are about to pay a rich price for their complacency.  Basically, and I don’t think this is really a spoiler.  The dwarves are alive and kicking and the dragons – well they appear to be captive, contained and servile, maybe sleeping – or perhaps just waiting.

I think Remic does a great job with both the characters and the action scenes.  The first half of the book is probably a little bit more of a gentle introduction – but when I say gentle just let me be perfectly clear, this is not a book for the faint hearted.  In fact this is a story that really tests the phrase grimdark.  Even the start of the story which has a lighter feel is still fairly liberally splattered with nasty – particularly those alternating chapters that take us into the mines of the dwarves and bring to us the rather brutal character of Skalg, First Cardinal to the Church of Hate.  Here is one twisted individual who doesn’t take prisoners and isn’t shy of murder, torture or rape.  Things below ground are a little more heated than things above (in more ways than one).

This is a story that definitely puts the grim into grimdark.  There is violence and bloodshed, bones get crunched, viscera is sprayed willy nilly, profanity, torture, rape, sex.  It’s all here and I’m just going to be blunt and say it gets to a point almost bordering on uncomfortable.  But, whilst Remic doesn’t balk at telling things as they really are he does draw a line in the sand.  He walks you right up to the line and then he leaves you there, teetering on the edge, to imagine what lies beyond.  So, whilst we do have some fairly detailed and bloody fights, the scenes in which torture and rape occur, well, you’re told what’s going to happen and then you’re left to your own imagination knowing that horrible things are taking place.

What Remic does manage to do, particularly using the earlier chapters in the story where you gain a sense of the long friendship between the heroes of the piece and take part a little more in their banter, is make you care for the characters.  I also think he does a great job of portraying the mines and the scenes of captivity.  The darkness, the claustrophobia, the sheer magnitude of the place.  On top of that, and don’t get me wrong because this book isn’t just a set up for the next in series, but it does end on a note that gives you an idea of what is yet to come and it promises to be very good.

I enjoyed this.  Like I said above, it may not be for everyone.  It is undoubtedly violent and ugly in places and the author doesn’t give you a spoonful of sugar to make the brutal any more palatable.  But, if you really do like your grimdark then here it is in spades.  I don’t want to overdo it though, don’t go away from this thinking that it’s all doom and gloom because it isn’t.  There is a great feeling of camaraderie, there are moments of pure heroics and skillful sword fighting plus daring escapes and a feel good type of ending – well as ‘feel good’ as it can be when tempered with the knowledge of what’s about to come.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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8 Responses to “The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic”

  1. Tammy

    The number one thing I want to happen every time I pick up a book is to care for the characters, so it sounds like this succeeds. I do like that dragon on the cover!

    • lynnsbooks

      I think this is good – it does have a lot of violence and language and it’s a bit near the knuckle in places but it does pull you in and you want to know what happens to the characters.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Eric Klingenberg

    An excellent review would be tempted to buy but already have too many books to read.

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Been hearing a lot of great stuff about this one. I should really finish up with the sequel to Iron Wolves before getting into another of his books, but at least I know what I’ll be getting into! You’re right, Andy Remic isn’t for everyone, but I love his dark pulpy style!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, he’s very dark and very puply – but good. in fairness I had a couple of issues with this but then I just kind of got sucked in and will definitely continue with the next.
      Lynn 😀

  4. thefictionalreader

    I really want to read this! The synopsis is intriguing, but I love your review so it’s definitely going on the priority list!

    • lynnsbooks

      Cool – I hope you enjoy it. It’s very dark but it draws you in.
      Lynn 😀

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