Overall, I do think this book is criminally good. The plot of the book is revolves around the villain dragon DarkStar, and the events which lead to his slumber almost two thousand years before the main series of Wings of Fire. The setting revolves around intelligent personified dragons, divided into many tribes based off of race with each having magic special to them. For example, the “Nightwing” race have members which can read minds, predict the future, or both. Now, the setting might put new readers to this series off, but I would suggest sticking around, as Sutherland shows off an incredible case study in how all villains might not be strictly evil, but simply misguided beings whose power let them embrace their character faults.
The story itself is shown through three lenses, each rotating for a role to narrate the story whenever Sutherland sees fit: DarkStalker, Fathom, and ClearSight. DarkStalker, as the titular protagonist, gives the reader a clear view as to how his thoughts turn from seeking justice and what is right to using his power of magic for evil. ClearSight, gifted with the vast ability of future-sight, gives us both an interesting glimpse as to how confusing such a power can be, while also acting as the checks and balances to DarkStalkers antics, so that when certain key elements of the plot are revealed, we understand how hard it can be to fully see a being’s transition to madness without going into the mind of that individual itself. Lastly Fathom, the eldest of the trio, has a rather uplifting story, one which, for the sake of preventing too many spoilers, I will not discuss.
All three have a rich interplay which makes the transitions neither seem jarring nor forced - in fact, I did not even notice that the chapter headings indicated which dragon was speaking at the time, as I could simply tell from the characters’ internal monologues and conflicts. However, this book is not for the faint of heart, as it does include descriptive violence among dragons, including a disembowelment. These scenes, however, are crucial to the plot, weaving together big character moments with big plot points. In terms of giving this book to students, I would love to analyse all the themes that this book tries to portray. Overall, it provides a pretty satisfying analysis of what the words “good” and “bad” really mean to our ears, especially as people can tend to both given their mood and whatnot. Each character underscores different ideas regarding good and evil from Arctic, DarkStalker’s Father, underscoring the need to think through your decisions, to Whiteout, DarkStalker’s sister, underscoring the need to keep your individuality to maintain sanity. The magical powers of each dragonkind are also well-thought, with the various thoughts concerning ClearSight’s future-prediction abilities akin to time travel, such as causal loops and multiverse theory. There is also a lot about power structures and the way power is distributed in societies that is good to reflect on, from how hereditary power can cause even the most level headed to go mad with power to how easily can people let the past define the possibilities of the future. Lastly, the style of the book is simply marvelous. While I had no knowledge of the book’s setting or who the characters might be, the book both managed to convey necessary plot details in a way that respected the intelligence of the reader, from giving subtle hints about a certain dragon’s imprisonment early onwards, while still making the actual plot fun to read.
I had a blast between the character interaction scenes, where characters went back and forth about certain thematic issues. Each was chock-full of both witty remarks and sarcasm that I honestly felt like I could hear the stuff in my head. Altogether, then, the book was incredibly vivid. It has the ability to spark a lot of conversation on it, though the setting might turn some off. My only real complaint is that I want more of this story to read, so my next task will be to read the rest of the series to see what it has in store for me!