This book starts out with Merlin. I’m sure you’ve heard of him—he hung out with that guy who had that table and that sword. It turns out he had a son named Morlock, and thus A Guile of Dragons has a hero. As you can guess, the story is much more complicated than that, but that should get you through the first part of this book. Fast forward to the future, where dragons and dwarves have lived in what appears to be an armistice for an undetermined amount of years. Throw in a group called the Guardians, who distinguish themselves by the color of their cloaks and have a big tower that they train in, and you have a basic overview of the setting of this story. For reasons known only to them, the dragons decide to break the truce and mayhem ensues.
For being the first book in the Tournament of Shadows series, the book felt like it was actually the fourth or fifth one in the series. This is the first novel I have read by James Enge, and, based on research, I found out that Morlock is his signature character. I found Morlock to be compelling, but I really suffered through this book for not having read other stories about him. I can only assume that Mr. Enge has set up and described the major players and the societies in which they exist in past books, because with A Guile of Dragons, I was lost. I started to wonder if Mr. Enge assumed that I would just know what was going on.
I have seen several reviewers describe Mr. Enge’s work as epic. From a conceptual standpoint, I can see where this would be the case. The problem in the case of A Guile of Dragons was the execution, which is where things seemed to fall apart. I could see flashes of Mr. Enge’s epic thought processes, but the devil is in the details—and in this book, the devil had his due. This novel jumped between different time periods, and some action that should have been detailed was glossed over almost as if it were afterthought. As a reader, I was thrown into cultures that I had no knowledge of, and I was expected to understand the subtle and well-crafted nuances of their language. In the end, all these factors kept me from enjoying a cool concept from an author who knows words.
I’m sure that if I backtrack and read some other works by Mr. Enge, much of the confusion that I felt would be dispelled. That said, I shouldn’t have to do this to enjoy and follow the first book in a series. Morlock’s story is an interesting one, and the world he lives in is worth getting to know, but what I think are unintentional assumptions that Mr. Enge made in this novel cause the story to be tough to follow and even tougher to enjoy.