Magic and technology square off as fire-breathing dragons on a parallel Earth face extinction from heavily armed military drones designed on this one.
Sure that he’s on the track of his long-missing father, techno-whiz Marcus falls through a portal into the land of Errenia just as mysterious drones armed with missiles and machine guns appear to “decimate” (a word the author is fond of misusing) the city of Dracone’s poorer sections and take the ongoing genocide of the mountain-dwelling dragons to a new level. In this series opener, Marcus joins forces with Driele, a tough young female dragon-riding blacksmith/inventor. They first craft a drone to fight on the side of the dragons, then fly through multiple aerial dogfights to rescue Marcus’ dad, cope with well-telegraphed revelations about Marcus’ ancestry, and face a bad guy who, typically, explains at length how he’s using stolen our-Earth technology to achieve his evil schemes. Though King tucks in occasional boy-girl and human-dragon banter to lighten the load, the novel sinks beneath the weight of labored explication (“Marcus was a different person when he had a mission: he was focused and passionate and optimistic”) and maladroit writing (“The explosion was incredible”; “smells…wafted over her nose”; “…the school was now a flaming heap of metal and concrete”).
Neither the premise nor some decently limned dragons give wings to this pedestrian clunker. (Fantasy. 11-13)