Review | A Dragon’s Chains – Robert Vane

About the Book

Dragons are slaves.

Using stolen magic, the human Kingdom of Rolm has risen to power on the backs of the world’s most formidable predator, but that is about to change. Bayloo is the first of the free dragons. Born into slavery, his shackled mind has awoken to find a human giving him orders and his race enthralled to an evil king. The world shall now face the rage of dragons.

Experience a fearsome struggle of magic and cunning between humans and dragons, where victory will determine the fate of the world.

267 pages (paperback)
Published on May 19, 2021
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I edited this series.

When I was first contacted to edit this five-book series (plus a novella), I was nervous. That’s a huge investment of time, especially if I end up not liking it. I knew I had to be careful. I had the author send me a sample bit, which I edited. I realized when I saw this sample portion, this wasn’t my typical fantasy book. The protagonist is… different than the norm, and his voice is equally unique. This, reader, is what made me say yes to this project. I wanted to read more about Bayloo. I wanted to see how an author would tell a story from the perspective of an enslaved dragon. 

Maybe that’s why this series gripped me so hard, at least at first, until the story really swept me under (which didn’t take much time at all). In epic fantasy, we read stories as told from the perspectives of orcs, trolls, humans, elves, witches, warlocks, and whatever else, but there have been precious few books I’ve read told from the perspective of a dragon (I think I read another one by Jo Walton a few years ago). Furthermore, this isn’t just any dragon. Bayloo has spent his life enslaved (Robert Vane’s novella, which you get if you sign up to his newsletter, tells how the magic that allows this enslavement to transpire began). Bayloo has spent his life basically living at the whim and will of his ryders. And it doesn’t quite end there, because this particular form of enslavement takes all his personality and independence, thought and emotion, and subsumes it, so his only will is to please his ryder, and his only whim is to make them happy. 

When Bayloo accidentally frees himself from these bonds, everything changes, and it sets him on a course to not only get to know himself, but also steeps him in conflict that ends up getting bigger and bigger as the series progresses. You catch hints of it in this first book, but it isn’t until the second book and on when I realized how absolutely huge this story actually was. Here, in A Dragon’s Chains, the reader learns about Bayloo, enslaved by a fairly typical feeling fantasy kingdom (Meaning, European-esque). We learn about how he liberates his mind from bondage, and then… well, a lot more happens as well. 

In truth, this book never stops its forward momentum, and Vane drops in hints and clues along the way, things that, in book three, you’ll remember and be like, “Holy crap, this tiny detail from book one ended up being a pretty big deal!” The book itself moves forward at an incredible clip, never stopping, never relenting. Poor Bayloo really goes through it, and it is probably even more heartbreaking because while he is free, his kin very much are not, so in one way he’s shaking hands with himself for the first time ever, and in another, he’s mourning the loss of those around him who cannot seem to break free from their mental bondage in the same way he has. 

Of course, there are politics involved as well. Things are happening in his kingdom home, and things are happening abroad. Bayloo goes on a bit of an adventure and learns some surprising details from his past that both reformulate his present and open up a doorway into the wider series you’ll find past book one. A Dragon’s Chains ends with an incredible battle, as well. In fact, Vane has a knack for writing battles. They are visual and tense, and things don’t usually end the way I expect them to. 

A Dragon’s Chains is very much a setup to the rest of the series, and it is absolutely a wonderful book. Just a whole lot of fun, but there’s some really subtle artistry going on as well, which readers of the full series will truly appreciate. Vane lays down some groundwork here that is so cleverly done, you won’t even realize he’s doing it until you’re like three or four books into the series looking back on what you’ve already read and drawing connections and conclusions. Furthermore, Bayloo’s voice is second to none. Snarky and heartfelt, this dragon goes on one of the most remarkable character journeys I’ve read in a very long time, and yet no matter how much he grew and evolved, he never once lost his sarcasm and humor. He never lost his voice. 

This first book in the series is more character focused. It is establishing Bayloo as a presence in the world. It’s letting you get to know him, and his story, his fight for freedom and discovery of self. Around all of this, are political goings-on. Battles, and secrets, betrayal and mystery, and a world steeped in magic that is only just starting to be explored in this book. A Dragon’s Chains opens up the rest of the series, but where it truly shines, is its unique protagonist’s voice. Bayloo is unforgettable. 

So, where does that leave us? 

A Dragon’s Chains is an epic fantasy romp that is both fun and thought provoking, with a character who is equal parts snarky and thoughtful. Well-written with obvious passion, this book really blew me away, and kicks off a series that will forever be one of the delights of my editing career. Readers who love epic fantasy and might enjoy it with a bit of humor and levity to balance out the serious elements should look at this series. 

5/5 stars