A dragon with the ability to shift into human form investigates a mystery in Cude’s inventive urban fantasy debut.
On the outside, Peter  Bentwhistle  might seem like a fairly ordinary English bloke.  He works at a mundane corporate job  and enjoys kicking back with a pint and playing hockey.  However, the truth of the matter is that he’s actually a dragon and, like all dragons in the world of this new series, can blend into the human world by changing his shape,  usually only revealing his true form when in the dragon world, much of which exists beneath and outside of what most people ever see.  Early on in the novel, another dragon who worked at Peter’s office died under mysterious circumstances  and named him his executor in his will,  which surprised Peter because he hadn’t known him very well and dragons are rarely if ever die young. Meanwhile, a suspicious new security consultant at work seems to have it in for him.  Over the course of the novel, Peter resolves to uncover the answers to his mounting questions, ultimately learning more about his own family’s past and connection to dragon history in the process.  Above all else, Cude’s novel features truly fantastic worldbuilding. All of the details of his dragon underworld are fresh, lively, and often very funny, as is his secret history of dragons. In the particularly entertaining opening, he unveils the “reality” behind the famous English folktale of St. George and the Dragon,  which should hold surprises for mythology buffs. Other clever bits include the explanation for tobacco use among humans,  and the dragons’ telepathic newspaper.  Peter is also a strong protagonist, who manages to be relatable despite his being not strictly human. Unfortunately, the book’s central mystery is significantly less enthralling, remaining boilerplate, rather rudimentary, and extremely guessable throughout, and the many sequences devoted to the dragon sport, laminium ball, grow tedious as the novel proceeds, never justifying their existence through narrative relevance.
Despite plotting issues, however, this series debut has a great deal to recommend in terms of a creative, engaging fantasy world and well-developed mythos.
21 July 2022