“Portal Thief Charlie” is the sixth book in the “Dragon Mage” series written by Scott Baron and the audiobook edition, on Audible, is nicely narrated by Gary Bennett. The series continues to expand on not only upon events and villains, but a number of new locations and some old ones as well. Mr. Baron has a knack for combining technology and magic into a concise science fiction saga where everyone is rooting for Charlie. I’m not sure I have listened to another story containing a dragon that can warp travel in space, and that is only one thing that sets this story apart. There are ships with cloaking technology and others who’s drives are powered by magical energy. In this story we continue to see how important combining and utilizing these two very unalike paired systems is for success. Although the story is somewhat brighter and fun, we begin to see that such light-heartedness may be a façade of a darker tale coming. Here we are given even more insight into another science fiction series by Mr. Baron as we see some crossover with “The Clockwork Chimera” series and Daisy’s adventures. Both are great series that are well worth the coveted audible credit.
The audiobook opens where the previous (book 5) left off. However, we quickly begin to see the plans of both parties are more far reaching than simply taking over or saving the Earth and its inhabitants. Instead we see there is a much larger plan that has the potential to enslave all within the galaxy as well. Charlie and his mixed band of helpers (AI, humans and friendly aliens) are left wondering if they should sit back and wait for the battle to come to them, or would it be better to be on the offensive and take the fight to the aggressors. Knowing that their choices have consequences, we see the team thinks it best to turn things around and fight. To do this, they will have to focus their attention on the portal they previously paced in the Sun for protection and transportation.
The author, like with his other books, provides the listener with a decent amount of prologue information when the book opens giving us necessary details. These segments often help me remember what had previously happened and gets me right into the good stuff. This is much like the “previously on…” from TV shows and I’m happy the author provides it. The book is very focused upon the mixing of both technology and magic, especially based on the worlds the characters find themselves. Charlie continues to grow in his magical power along with a much deeper connection to his dragon friend. We also see more depth to Bob and Hunza’s (sp?) relationship in this book. All of the characters, including the dragon, grow in power and capabilities. Yet, I still like that they are not overpowered as many of them are vulnerable to various weaknesses. To add additional complexity to the series, we are introduced to the capability of limited time travel which allows us to glimpse some of Daisy’s world from the other series as well. I can say that Charlie’s luck over the series has change, but how much longer can his good luck hold out?
Even with the book having a bit of a darker overtone from the previous ones, as Charlie and his team face more trials, there is still quite an amount of humor and banter that helps relieve the tension. Throwing in aspects of humor even on the side of the AI systems made me laugh out loud many times. Humans being referred to as “meat people” got the point across and gives the listener a different perspective from the AI side of the story. There are still struggles and events that need to be overcome such as the irregularity of the portal allowing our characters to return home. We are also shown that previous decisions and events that crossed Charlie’s path come back to haunt and save him in this book. Like with the previous books, this one is immense in its scale and scope. There are plenty of jumps, time travel, and action to keep the story moving and engaging.
With some of the event coming back around to the first book, I found that a larger portion of this book did not focus as much on Charlie as it did on others. This is not a bad thing, as I enjoyed learning more about the others and what makes them tick. I found the inclusion of a riddle to be fun and kept me wondering for many chapters. My only complaint, and it is not a big one, is when the author calls other stars which are in other solar systems Suns. The Sun is the name we have given to the star in the middle of our solar system, but other worlds would not refer to them as such.
Once again, Mr. Bennett has provided an exceptional job of producing the audiobook’s narration. As I have stated before, it is a great thing when the same narrator sticks with a series keeping our idea of this world consistent. His voice is one that I could listen to for hours, which I have though this series so far. The audio is clean and clear of any blatant artifacts. If you have listened to any of the other books in the series, you know what to expect from this narrator.
For parents and younger readers, this series continues to sprinkle in vulgar language along with some more mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for younger listeners. If such make you uncomfortable than I would not recommend this series. If you have already listened to books one though five, there is nothing different with respect to age appropriateness with this one.
In summary, the story felt bigger and the focus during much of it was on the many other characters that have becomes a part of this band of heroes. I liked learning more about those that have the same goals as Charlie and even the importance of relationships. Having the tie-in with the other series was also a welcomed addition. In this audiobook we continue to see the characters grow and struggle in various ways. Again, if you are a fan of either science fiction or fantasy, I think you will really enjoy this series overall.