In this new edition of his first novel, Sutherland (The Last Dragoneer, 2014, etc.) creates a modern-feeling world before Noah’s flood, a world populated with dragons, warriors, and a determined young woman who fearlessly seeks her proper place in the world.
Eighteen-year-old Susah has long been able to sense the thoughts and feelings of animals, a gift that once keeps her and her young cousin out of the jaws of desperate wolves. She loves exploring her father’s garden, a forest where all types of animals gather and are protected by Noah, the ark builder. But she is also fascinated by Sethopolis, a city of millions, where people live in skyscrapers and drive hovercrafts. Her father disapproves of everything from that great city, so it’s a huge treat to be invited out to dinner there with her cousin’s family. But as much wonder as the city holds, it also hides dangers: half-ogres (hogres) roam the streets in gangs, and Lilith, a giantess, is determined to gain the secrets of Eden. When Lilith senses Susah’s growing power, she commands her minions to hunt Susah down and kill those with her. After the hogre pack kills Susah’s aunt and uncle, the night almost ends tragically for Susah and her cousins as well—until they receive a timely rescue from Dachux, head of the Dragoneers. From her first flight in a chariot pulled by dragons, Susah feels called to become a Dragoneer herself, despite her father’s wishes. After returning home, Susah runs away to join the military in hopes of getting into the Dragoneer Corps, but she gets further embroiled in Lilith’s plans—and becomes instrumental in keeping Lilith out of Eden. Sutherland creates an original vision of a corrupt antediluvian world, one that feels modern yet magical. The novel’s pacing, however, makes it difficult to dive into the story: for instance, it’s not clear until a few chapters in that chariots and skyscrapers coexist, and it’s nearly half the book before Susah follows her dream of becoming a Dragoneer. Susah’s training feels suitably militaristic, but it happens too quickly to be believable, despite some hand-waving explanatory logic from the narrative. And while Susah is well-developed, few of the other characters emerge as three-dimensional, with Lilith taking part in mustache-twirling-level dialogues.
Promising opener to a female-led series that doesn’t yet soar to incredible heights.