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December 1, 2020

The Guild Core 1: Dragon Bourne by T.J. Reynolds ~ an Audiobook Review

by MK French

Mindonne was like any other town in Brintosh, filled with quaint and modest people as loyal as they were ignorant of the world around them. Were it not for its proximity to the border of Hintar, an old and bitter rival, it may have remained so. (p. 13)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Dragon Bourne
October 2020; Indie; 979-8686594067
audio (16h05m); ebook, print (554 pages)
Kai was raised on a potato farm but stumbled across a destroyed dungeon when he wanted to prove himself to the village bullies. Bancroft, a resurrected earth core, wants to clean up the wreckage of his dungeon and create things again. Rhona is tired of killing and death, so she gives up her commission in the army to take on the Path of the Bleeding Tiger to atone for the damage she had done. The three of them eventually get together to bring the world back to one of honor and dragons.

This is part of the LitRPG group of fantasy novels, where the game mechanics of MMO's and RPG's determine how the world works. Characters work on their progression via combat, etheric essence from the defeated enemy entering the conquering person. These are the experience points that you would earn if playing a game. Or Ban, as a sentient dungeon that is usually bonded to dragons, needs to have particular types of materials to create other objects. He even explains the random mechanics of loot drops to Kai at one point and teaches him about the history of dragons, gods, and how earth cores work. How he absorbs items and creatures reminds me of the anime "That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime." (It's really cute if you want to watch it, by the way.) As the first novel in the Guild Core books, the explanation of all the mechanics are worked in so the listener (in my case, since I had the audiobook, though there is also a print version) understands how this works in case they don't know how games like this work. It's naturally worked in, because Kai is an utter newbie, and killing rats, in the beginning, is as much luck for him as growing skill. I started laughing when Kai discovers what his attribute statistics are because it reminds me so much of character creation for RPG's.

Rhona converts her essence into powerful blows now that she's leaving swords and armor behind so that what looks like light taps will break bone and create internal injuries. It's a really interesting look at how monk mechanics work in fiction; they don't call it that in the text until she looks at her own stats. (And you can tell I've spent far too long playing Pathfinder, so I recognize different classes at work before they're named!) She has to fight off considerable misogyny from people outside of the army, and even her own father. Her father's racist views on nonhumans is denounced in the text and by Rhona herself and is yet another reason for her to leave the established power structure and strike out on her own. For much of the story, her thread is separate from Kai and Ban's. Because of her experience, her fights are far more interesting to listen to than Kai going up against rats at the beginning of the book, so I was frustrated at how long it took for their paths to cross.

Different inflections and accents mark each of our main POV characters, so even if I didn't hear the chapter title, I knew who was speaking. Steve Campbell does a great job with the narration and pacing throughout the novel and hit the right pacing for the jokes within the text. While the audiobook is over sixteen hours, I hardly noticed how time passed as I was listening. I have played various MMO's and RPG's for decades, so it was easy for me to pick up on the mechanics they were talking about and I could focus more on the sword and sorcery aspect of the story, as well as the characters' emotions and story arcs. For those not as familiar with game mechanics, it's naturally explained in simple enough terms as the story progresses and doesn't always feel like an info dump. I really enjoyed listening to this novel, and I think others will, too.

Buy Dragon Bourne at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. I'm not a fantasy reader, but this one sounds tempting.

  2. I don't usually read this genre, but that is an impressive cover!

  3. Not really my genre, but it does sound interesting.

  4. I don't read fantasy, but it does sound interesting and that cover sure does grab your attention!