This trilogy follows several citizens from the land of Vancorous. The primary focus of the first book is Valeria, who finds a dragon egg, which sets off the chain of events for the rest of the series. There has been peace between the people of Vancorous and dragons for 300 years, and the finding and hatching of a dragon egg that the dragons had thought destroyed upended the peace. It is up to Valeria and Tibor, a new friend and eventual lover, to travel to the home of the dragons and try to fix things. Along the way, they meet other people who reveal secrets about Valeria that she didn’t know, such as why she has certain powers, as well as secrets about Vancorous itself.
In Dragonsoul, which is written in 3rd person omniscient, there are some sections from the POV of characters aside from Valeria and Tibor. These sections become more frequent in the 2nd book, and by the third the primary POV seems to have shifted to the character of The Painter. Painters are essentially gods unknown to the people that they created.
I really liked the explanation of how people, dragons, and other creatures came to be. The idea of these god-like beings, who themselves seemed to have been created by someone or something, in turn creating life, is not one I’ve come across previously, and the way things work in the Painted Realm (sort of where the painters live) versus the “real” world was interesting. There can be a lot of repetition of ideas in fantasy novels, particularly when you further narrow the subset to ones that deal with dragons. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you have a series whose beginning immediately calls to mind the beginning of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, it’s nice to see an author take different paths.
The trilogy appears to be self-published, and you can kind of tell. The author did use an editor and proofreader (credited at the beginning of the omnibus). The proofreading is actually pretty good, though there were definitely some errors that I would like to think a professional publisher would have caught before publishing (e.g., the difference between implied and inferred), and there were some odd word choices. Also, I’d like to think a good editor would have had a conversation with DePaoli about his decision to have the dragons speak the same language as the characters. Eventually we learn that the dragons have their own language and that it’s hard to learn to speak the human language fluently, but to me that doesn’t provide enough of an explanation. These are creatures whose mouths don’t remotely resemble a humans. How can they sound just like a human? It would have been a simple hand-wave to say that the Painters created them to have that ability regardless of the physical improbability.
One element that stood out was the description of Tibor’s having social anxiety. Mental health issues tend not to come up in fantasy, at least that I can recall, and I liked that it was brought up in a matter-of-fact way. However, that does lead to the other big issue with the trilogy, which is that there is way too much telling and not enough showing. For example, we are told about the deepening of the relationship between Valeria and Tibor: “. . . despite the walls she’d put up and never intended to bring down, Tibor had somehow broken through. She’d grown to count on him, to believe in him, to like him, even–in ways that maybe went beyond friendship” (Dragonsoul, pg. 207). Ok, but when did this happen? I get that Valeria and Tibor have been traveling together and presumably getting to know each other on the journey, but could we maybe have gotten a couple of scenes that show the development of their relationship? Similarly, we are told that Tibor has social anxiety but we don’t see much of it, aside from with Valeria, and even that seems to be attributable to his attraction to her. In the third book, The Painter thinks about how he has become more fond of Valeria than any other human. When? When did that happen? There were no indicators of that development either.
In spite of its clear flaws, the books are still pretty solid. They’re entertaining and I read them quickly to find out what happens next, so I’d still recommend them.