Book Review: The King’s Eagle by Ryan Z. Dawson

In the short life of my blog, it seems that my book reviews are my more popular posts. That, or book reviews tend to draw the attention of random spambot blogs, so that’s…kind of progress? Maybe?

Even still, I take this as reason to post more book reviews- at least as fast as I can manage to read books. Which, honestly, isn’t nearly fast enough, but that’s just a matter of time constraints on my part. In any case, I just finished Ryan Z. Dawson’s The King’s Eagle, so here we go!

Not to be confused with a Shaw Bros. movie by the name of “King Eagle,” which pops up on an amazon search. I kind of want to watch King Eagle now.

First, a disclaimer. Ryan’s an intarweb acquaintance of mine- we played at the same online text-based RPG, back in the day (that’s probably a blog post in and of itself). Though to be honest I kind of forgot who he played at said online text-based RPG, but I digress.

It’s because of this acquaintance that I gave The King’s Eagle a read, where normally I wouldn’t. See, Ryan self-published the book. Usually, I don’t bother with self-published/indie published fiction- which, admittedly, is a prejudice of mine. It’s funny, too, as I will listen to an indie band on their own label ALL DAY, but I’m kind of leery of any indie books. Maybe it’s because it’s a shorter time commitment- a band can hook you in just three minutes with a really good song, while the process of reading takes a lot longer. I’m slowly changing my opinions on this, though. At some point I’d like to snag a copy of Andy Weir’s The Martian (it’s Robinson Crusoe…IN SPAAAACE!) and I’ve also heard good things about Hugh Howey’s Wool, so maybe I’ll be posting reviews of those before long.

But let’s talk about the book proper!

The King’s Eagle is about Silverlock, the last chief and sole survivor of the Okchaw people, who read kind of like a mix between the Iroquois and the Maori. While on a hunt, Silverlock helps a trapped giant eagle, which leads to him being adopted by a nation of giant-eagle-riders, at which point he helps them fight some bad guys, and…that’s about it. It’s a short novel.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, mind you. It’s just that The King’s Eagle is quite unlike most stuff produced by the big publishing houses these days. Ryan writes with a slower, more thoughtful pace. Dawson’s worked out a lot of things in the background of the novel- in particular, he’s even devised an original language for the Good Guy Eagle Riders, which you can check out here.

On top of that, the novel is significantly shorter than the typical doorstopper fantasy fare that you’ll find at the local bookstore. Really, The King’s Eagle reminded me of a book from an earlier time- like one of those cheap, pocket-sized pulp-fantasy paperpbacks that were so prevalent from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

Okay, bad example.

While The King’s Eagle is an interesting read, I also think it could have been a little better. The novel is a little expository at parts, focusing more on the longer, grander view of the story as opposed to the niggling little details here and there. On top of that, Silverlock, the book’s main character, doesn’t really do much- he doesn’t have a set quest or goal per-se, so much as he’s along for the ride. Now, on the one hand, there’s something to be said for the sense of melancholy that pervades a lot of the book. On the other hand, the book’s plotting would’ve benefited a lot from a protagonist who had a little bit more to do.

Also slightly related to the issue of the lack of an active protagonist is the lack of a proper villain. There are bad guys (who ride giant vultures, which strikes me as pretty freakin’ metal), but we’re never given a reason WHY they hate the Good Guys the way they do. They kind of come off like video game bad guys, massing up in waves to get killed in big dramatic battle scenes because that’s what they’re for, I guess? The inclusion of a proper villain (even if he was your typically cliché ‘Dark Lord of Darkness’ sort) would’ve helped the book on a lot. I mean, there’s a traitor amidst the Good Guy Eagle Riders, which is fine, but we never see who he betrays the Good Guys to, after all.

Even still, as a first novel, The King’s Eagle is a perfectly serviceable read. I’m sure Ryan Z. Dawson’s going to get better and better as he goes on. With any luck, he’ll be topping the Amazon charts any day now. And heck, he’s self-published a book, which is a lot more than I’ve done with my own work- all I can manage right now is a semi-snarky blog.

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