If you like fantasy, dragons, and a band of rogues with a mission, I think you will enjoy reading or listening to “Greatshadow” which is the first book in “The Dragon Apocalypse” series. The book is written by James Maxey and the audiobook edition is skillfully performed by Jake Urry. Take pieces of “Lord of the Rings”, “NeverEnding Story”, “The Da Vinci Code”, and “Ocean’s Eleven” and you get a small taste of what you can expect in Greatshadow. Strap on your seatbelt as this is an action-packed fantasy tale that takes a well-warn idea and makes it new, exciting, and interesting. The physical book comes in at about 360 pages and the Audible audiobook is nearly thirteen and a half hours long. The story is complex, the characters are fragile, the task is impossible, and the consequences are the lives of our band of adventurers; potentially the entire world. One thing that sets this book apart from many others is that although it is a series, the book can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone work. I’m not sure if that will be the case for future books or not. The story is not only about defeating a grand and powerful dragon. It is also a battle for not only treasure, but truth as well. If this sounds interesting, I recommend you pick up a copy and dive into this majestic adventure. What’s stopping you, the book has dragons in it!
Although there were times I was briefly lost when the story shifted from one plot line to another, it was easy to pick back up and get on track. In many ways, the story’s complexity made it feel larger and more substantial, but I highly recommend setting aside time to read and enjoy it. It requires focus; this is not a book you can listen to while performing tasks requiring your attention. I enjoyed the author’s use of aptronym when naming his characters. In some ways, such usage reminded me of “Pilgrim’s Progress”; for those familiar with the book you will understand what I mean. The book’s character names often fit or reflected their overall personalities. I appreciated the detailed writing and storytelling style giving me a better view into this new and rather strange fantasy world. Even though the book was packed with action, such as with the opening scene, the author did not fail to include some deeper and important aspects that brought the characters to life. There were scenes that included both deep emotional aspect and even some light (at times crude) humor. I felt the book was well balanced by keeping me on a rollercoaster ride emotionally. In a day and age where nearly every main story characters are invincible, like super heroes, this book’s characters were more life-like because each was flawed and needed to depend on the other characters strengths to survive. It was like the relationships of Gilligan’s Island placed in a fantasy world.
The book had a few of the standard fantasy tropes one would expect, but it also included some new and unique creatures, powers, and magic systems. I liked the concept of the Wardolls giving the story a bit of a futuristic or steampunk feel at times. Many of the main characters had rather strong backstories so you could better empathies when they struggled. The band of characters are quite a unique as most of them would often be repelled by each other if not for the central goal of hunting the dragon. What surprised me most about the book was the perspective from which it was told. I do not want to give any spoilers, but needless to say I was caught off guard, but once I got used to it, I enjoyed it quite a bit. As intense as the story was, the author provided relief through the use of humor, many times when it was needed. I had to laugh out loud when one of the characters favorite foods is monkey and their favorite color is black. The author pulls from details shared at different times and surprises the reader with them much later in the book. I liked the many surprises.
Jake Urry has a deep and rich narrating voice which adds to the weighty and heavy feel of the book. The multiple characters were all well and uniquely voiced along with their many different accents. Although there were a few slight volume inconsistencies, they were only noticeable if you listened very closely. There were no observable audio artifacts while I listened. Even though he does not have a large number of narrations released on Audible (at the time of this review), I have already enjoyed a few of his other works and he has quite a diverse category of genres he voices.
For parents or younger readers, this book contains some crass and childish humor, light use of vulgar language, along with some adult subject matter of a sexual nature. At times, there are references or dialogue around specific bodily parts and a scene describing passionate romantic love which may be a bit more intense for younger readers. If you are at all offended by any of these, I would recommend to not read this book.
In summary, the book was overall enjoyable yet at times quite complex with some time travel, flashbacks, etc. that could have you feeling lost or confused. Stick with it and you will find a tale that is full of twists and turns, intrigue, and strong relationships. If you can get past a few of the language issues pointed out above, I would recommend picking up this book. Although it is a series, remember it can be read as a stand-along novel. What would it hurt by dipping your toes into this first book of what is to become a much bigger story?
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.