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Dragon Champion
E.E. Knight
Narrated by David Drummond
Tantor Media, 13 hours 52 min

Dragon Champion
E.E. Knight
E.E. Knight was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and grew up near the Twin Cities in Minnesota. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a double major in History and Political Science, had a number of jobs that had nothing to do with history or political science, and now resides in Chicago.

E.E. Knight Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Choice of the Cat
SF Site Review: Choice of the Cat
SF Site Review: Way of the Wolf
SF Site Interview: E.E. Knight

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nicki Gerlach

In Dragon Champion, E.E. Knight gives us a relatively standard high fantasy adventure story, with one big twist: it's told entirely through the eyes of Auron, a dragon. Auron is a gray dragon, scaleless and without the hunger for treasure that plagues other dragons. His lack of armor makes him more vulnerable, and less immediately impressive, but also more adept at blending into his surroundings. After a fierce battle for primacy immediately post-hatching, Auron is the only male offspring left to his parents, the champion of their clutch. He's bright and inquisitive, but his world is mostly limited to the confines of the cave in which he was hatched.

All of that changes on the day his cave is invaded by murderous dwarves. Auron's parents are driven off or killed, and Auron must venture out into the world -- first with one of his surviving sisters, and then later alone. His first goal is survival, but a meeting with an elf maiden opens his eyes to the real problem: it's not just Auron's survival that's at risk, but the survival of his entire species. For dragon numbers have been decreasing for years, while the two-legged species -- elves, dwarves, blighters, and especially men -- have been increasing. Auron makes it his mission to find out why. Along the way, he makes some strange friends, faces some fierce and dangerous enemies, and must find a way to become the champion for which his parents named him.

There's a long tradition of animal stories in fantasy (although relatively few from the point of view of an animal.) Their point is to show us the world through an unfamiliar set of eyes; by making the alien familiar, we are then forced to re-evaluate all of the elements we take for granted as unobjectionable. For this to work, we have to find a connection with our animal narrator, some common ground on which to build a base of sympathy. However, when a book opens with its protagonist disemboweling and eating his newly-hatched brother in a battle to the death, and when that same protagonist matter-of-factly mentions crushing the skulls of human children he's seized for a snack… well, let's just say that I found it somewhat hard to empathize with him.

My lack of connection with the book's main character -- and thus, with the book itself -- may be a question of audiences. This book felt like it was aimed at 12-13 year olds. In and of itself, that's not necessarily a problem -- there's plenty of fantasy out there for mid-grade readers that can also be enjoyed by adults. However, Dragon Champion felt like it was specifically written for mid-grade boys, with lots of emphasis on the fighting and adventure aspects. Having never been a 12-year-old boy, I can't comment on how well they are likely to enjoy Auron's story, but I suspect many of them will love it. For me, however, it didn't quite make the jump into being a true crossover success.

That's not to say that there weren't elements I enjoyed. Knight's world-building description is excellent. Even though he's using pretty standard fantasy elements and races, the way they interact felt new, and I really enjoyed seeing each species's perspective on the origin of the world and its current state. Some of Auron's adventures were also very interesting -- I particularly got a kick out of his brief sojourn with a wolf pack. (Also fun in this part was listening to David Drummond, who was otherwise quite good, try to narrate their howling dialogue.)

The problem with single-protagonist stories like Dragon Champion is that their success is entirely dependent on how strongly the reader empathizes with the main character. When it works, it's great, and readers who empathize with Auron are likely to find Dragon Champion to be an exciting fantasy adventure story. For those of us who don't particularly care for Knight's leading dragon, however, it becomes very hard to stay involved in the story.

Copyright © 2009 Nicki Gerlach

Nicki Gerlach is a mad scientist by day and an avid reader the rest of the time.  More of her book reviews can be found at her blog,

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