R. Dennis Baird’s third release in his Brazen Serpent Chronicles (after Talon of Light and The Caduceus) is a fantasy set in the world of Aelandra, a magic-filled realm in the midst of an epic — albeit clichÃ©-ridden — battle between the forces of light and darkness.
A spiritual schism between dragons has led to the destruction of the three great Aelfene kingdoms and most of the Aelfen race. With a faction of dark dragons and their shadoine minions ruthlessly capturing city after city, surviving husband and wife Garrik and Meliandra — the last of the Aelfene nobles — are tasked with a monumental mission: to somehow keep the knowledge of the powers of light alive until “a power arises to challenge the darkness that envelops the world.” Another concurrent storyline revolves around Arnor , a heroic young man who finds his “purpose” in life in the form of completing a seemingly impossible quest.
Although Baird’s narrative is intelligent, briskly paced, and engaging to a point, the novel seems to be skeletal; the storyline simply hasn’t been fleshed out enough. The world building is superficial at best, the characters are essentially cardboard fantasy stereotypes, and instead of reading like a fully immersive adventure fantasy in the vein of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (and the potential was there) it comes across tonally as a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. At points, the narrative even resembles that of a Dungeon Master’s during a D&D game: “To the right you will see metal doors where the Eye of Light powered the Chamber of Gems. Do not try to enter that room. On the left wall there is an entrance to a natural cavern…”
That said: Dragon Kiln is not an unpleasurable read. Its downfall is simply that readers will be left wanting more from this potential-laden fantasy realm.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.