This one was pitched to me as "Ocean's Eleven meets The Hobbit" and I think that is a good description!
It's not easy to live in a world ruled by dragons. The taxes are high and their control is complete. But for one group of bold adventurers, it's time to band together and steal back some of that wealth. No one ever said they were smart. Jon Hollins' debut combines non-stop action, death-defying adventure and a never-before-assembled cast of wisecracking misfits.
The story follows Will Fallows who is (you've guessed it) a simple farm boy who, after getting his farm confiscated as a result of a tax office error finds himself in the company of two mercenaries (a young woman called Lettie who is a knife wielding teenage boy's wet dream of a lady adventurer and her companion Belur who is an 8+ foot tall lizard man). Lettie and Belur are new to the region and in need of some gold. Will, full of anger at the local ruling dragon Mattrax, has a plan so crazy that it might just work (once in a million chances working out 9 times out of 10 and all that, according to Sir T Pratchett). Throw in a quirky magically gifted Thaumabiologist with a dark past who studies dragons and a strangely compelling drunken madman and Fallows has a crew to make the attempt.
What I Loved
The dragons are complete evil bastards of the Smaug school of dragon lords - they are lazy, vicious, gold coveting, terrifyingly huge monsters, to my mind this is exactly what dragons should be. For example, Mattrax's favourite pass time is to fly over his domain and defecate on as many people as possible - hats of to Jon Hollins for this delightful visual!
The insults / curses frequently bandied about by everyone
Hollins has a fecking gift! I was planning to list out some of my favourite quotes, however as I listened to the audio version I struggled to find them again. You will just have to discover these dialogue gems for yourself. Pretty much any exchange between Lettie and Belur had me in stitches. Ferkin the mad drunken prophet was another highlight.
As a person who likes a good heist plot I really enjoyed the various and frequent nods to pop culture and and the increasingly crazy situations that the heroes found themselves in once the shit hit the fan (which usually happened around 5 minutes into step one of their poorly conceived plans). The majority of the book was action packed and reminded me that scene in the Indianan Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indi is pelting down the corridor with the giant bolder hammering after him - the characters were constantly reacting to some new disaster and surviving by the skin of their teeth.
What fell flat
I feel a little guilty about saying this because after finishing the book I read through a Reddit AMA session by Jon Hollins and he said that he meticulously plans his books out. However, I promised to be honest in these reviews. I got a bit board in the final half of the book and I think it was because the characters just seemed to be milling around rather then driving the story. It may be that this was realistic as fuck knows what decisive action I would be taking if I were in the protagonist's shoes. However, it felt to me that the characters didn't know what they were doing because the author didn't know either.
This book is great fun and provides a few hours of excellent comic relief in a trope heavy setting. I probably won't re-read but it I probably will buy the second one.