Faith and Steampunk: A Review of The Dragon Brigade Series
|Love the cover art by Tom Kidd! Pity they changed|
artists for the rest of the series.
4/5 - Enjoyed and Recommend
The story takes place in a world that floats on a thick gas called the Breath of God ruled politically by rival nations Freya and Rosia and spiritually by the Church of the Breath. Magic is vital to these societies: everything from air ships to guns is held together and kept working by magic sigils.
As the story begins, a crucial scientific discovery has occurred that could upset the balance of power, and has all three groups pursuing it. Furthermore, rumors of attacks perpetrated by demons riding giant bats and shooting green flame have the grand bishop strangely nervous.
I don't want to give too much away because the slow discovery of how and why everything is happening is part of the excitement of this series!
One of the central themes in this series is faith in God, especially faith during times when the structures and systems around one's faith are thrown into question. In this case, the leaders of the Church committed a sin in the past and continued to cover it up for generations. There is a great deal of concern about what will happen to the peoples' faith if it is revealed that the Church has been lying to them.
This is a serious question that multiple characters deal with personally on different levels.
However, I was quite disappointed by its conclusion in the third book. It seemed like a hap-hazard "fix" to placate readers who are not Christian, as priests and other characters who had demonstrated their deep faith throughout the series suddenly begin telling others that it doesn't matter what you believe in: God, science, dead loved ones - it's all the same.
|Book 2 cover|
World-Building and Character Development
It is abundantly clear that Weiss's strength lies in world-building (she is one of the original creators of the Dragonlance game world). The setting in this series is dimensional and immersive.
However, character development is clumbsy at times, with a heavy reliance on telling the reader about the relationships between characters instead of showing them. For example Stephano does not get along well with his mother, which we are told in each book well in advance of their interactions, which should speak for themselves. The authors are especially eager to tell about details that may not impact the current story at all, except to create the impression of a world and characters with a history.
The most hamfisted character arc is the romance, which should have been left out entirely. It does not move the plot forward, develop characters, or increase reader investment.
Beginning in the first book, the authors tell us that the characters Miri and Stephano have a history, but they are now just friends, and are comfortable with one another. This is supported by their relaxed interactions. In the second book, we are told repeatedly that Miri and Dag have feelings for one another, but that they do not talk about it because Dag does not consider himself worthy of Miri. Again this is supported by their interactions.
When Miri tells Stephano about her feelings for Dag, he is jealous, even though prior to this, they were comfortable as friends.
However, in the middle of the second book, Miri confronts Dag and expresses her feelings, but Dag tells her she doesn't really love him, and which point Miri realizes that it's true, she likes him as a brother or father figure who makes her feel safe. After this interaction, all chances of a romance between them ends.
In the third book, Stephano realizes that he does love Miri, and he asks her to marry him. She says yes. This would be fine, except that nothing leading up to this has invested the reader in their relationship!
However, Miri realizes that she cannot be the wife Stephano wants (another turn-around, since Stephano never seemed interested in court, let alone a woman who would be presentable there), so she calls it off. In the end, everyone comes to the unsatisfying conclusion that they were not really in love and should all just stay friends.
Fantastic. Thanks for wasting my time with your drama. Can we get back to the real plot?
|Book 3 cover|
The falling action in general was poorly done. The authors bend over backwards to wrap everything up, parading the characters in a final curtain-call scene where everyone is in their ideal place.
Except Stephano, who is granted a dukedom by the king, which he is strangely excited about, even though it removes him from command of the Dragon Brigade, the one thing he has longed for throughout three novels.
It seems like the authors do not understand the characters by the end.
I truly did enjoy this series! I loved the court intrigue and the gorgeous setting. I am only truly disappointed in the ending, which did not display the level of skill that the rest of the story did!