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Dragonmaster : Book One of the Storm of Wings Trilogy by Chris  Bunch
Review by Barry Newton
Roc Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460308
Date: 02 August, 2005 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

If, however, you are a military SF fan, this is where you start. Chris Bunch has created an environment that feels like alternate history, but behaves like fantasy. Magic works, and in support of ground troops, it wreaks great unpleasantness upon the enemy. Magicians, therefore, are priority targets. So are the dragon forces and their flyers.

The story follows the career of Hal Kailas, who flees home ahead of the vengeance of the local lord. One of his early jobs is as a helper to a man operating a one-dragon flying circus and air show, where he becomes entranced with the notion of flight. His hopes for a future in the business are soon dashed as his unhelpful mentor loses all in a card game and is shot trying to steal his lost property from it?s new owner.

Hal is ultimately drafted, as his kingdom is dragged into war against an aggressive neighbor. Not initially an enthusiastic soldier, he becomes a good one, and finds himself sent to the new school for military dragon riders. And his military vocation quite literally takes wing.

What really supports this story is the detail. Nothing is overlooked, as the author describes the development of a flying corps whose aircraft like live meat. Training, logistics, equipment are described in loving detail, as is mismanagement and incompetence at command levels. Dragons and magic are woven into warfare which also relies on archers, swords and catapults. The development of air patrol and dogfight techniques resonate remarkably with methods of aerial combat invented by men flying aircraft made of cloth, glue and wood.

War stories must be leavened with something; this one has sex, romance, angst and pathos in good measure--not to mention espionage, murder and betrayal. Hal Kailas must cope with all of these, and more, in his quest to become the Dragonmaster. I am a military SF fan, and I enjoyed this book. Its fantastic elements are cleanly and logically integrated with historical military concepts, and it stands with the best work by Drake, Weber and Ringo. Recommended.

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