Book Review – Dragon Nest by Damon A. Daffron

Atlanta’s Detective Caleb Austin finds himself the unexpected caretaker of a mythical egg and is thrust into a world of magic, intrigue, and murderous alchemists who will stop at nothing to capture the power of a dragon.

            In this debut novel, author Damon A. Daffron has crafted a compelling adventure tale of magic realism that overlays our everyday existence in DRAGON NEST: THE AGE OF ROXANIA, BOOK ONE. Up on the death of his estranged father, Detective Caleb Austin of Atlanta P.D. unexpectedly finds himself the caretaker of his father’s estate. Apart from well-meaning family foibles, all seems normal until Caleb begins to sort through the possessions of his father (pre-mort, an esteemed archaeologist and university professor) that include vast anthropological material and the egg of a dragon, which is entrusted to Caleb to keep safe. As shocking as this may be to him, it’s only the beginning of amazement as Caleb learns there is a hidden world all around us, in which dragons and elves exist and are tangentially part of our lives. And—as to be expected—others know of these secrets as well, and factions are formed of good and evil, as to who can exploit, or protect, this knowledge and power. Caleb aligns himself with the elves—benevolent shapeshifters and guardians—against the ruthless Tou Chin organization, whose cruelty and murderous schemes are what led the egg to have been hidden with Caleb’s father in the first place, forty years prior. From there, it’s a nice pace of world-building through fascinating mythology and cultural perspective, as well as blossoming romance and back-and-forth clashes between the battling factions.

            DRAGON NEST is not the sort of novel where readers may relish in literary éclat of the human condition, but it’s a fun read. The conflict is clear, the imagery confident. The dialogue felt a bit stilted, and the characters were rather archetypal, but where this story shines most is its arc, in the twists, and the wonderful, atmospheric world that Daffron has developed. There are some books where readers feel no connection between the words on page and the voice of the author, and this book is certainly not that; one can sense Daffron had a brilliant time constructing this novel—his sense of word play, his joy, comes through on each page, and that is what makes this an engaging read. It resonates with the everyman: It’s smart without being overly academic. Witty without being slapstick. Sweet, though not maudlin. A nice balance of scenes, adventure, and surprises. It’s thoughtful, creating expositional points in character’s lives and times, and drawing them together in exceptional ways, weaving among it all superb backstory of dragon and elvish ways and culture. Readers can experience Caleb’s dawning realization of the world he’s been drawn into, as well as the desire to do right, not just to himself and his family, but for the greater good, and for a race he is not part of, but driven to defend.

            Ultimately this book can be catalogued proudly on any shelf of urban fantasy or magic realism where the stakes are high, the villains cunning, and the hero/ heroine(s) are people (or elves) that readers can connect with, can entrust to carry them along in their path to righteousness and wonder.

A laudable debut, sure to be adored by fans of magic realism, supernatural intrigue, and fun.

Fun escapism through a new voice in urban fantasy and thrills.

Find a copy on Amazon.

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