Jaida Jones, Danielle Bennett
Havemercy Cover



I wanted to read this book because I loved the idea of magically powered clockwork dragons, but I was somewhat disappointed to find that the dragons were only background characters with a handful of brief appearances. The dragons are important to story but only in a peripheral way.

The story takes place in the Victorian-ish fantasy nation of Volstov and largely in capital city of Thremedon. A lot of interesting background information is given about the city and it's three districts, which mark boundaries of social and economic standing, and some of it's most prominent buildings. For 100 years war has raged between Volstov and a neighboring nation, Ke-han, with the magicians and the dragons and the elite company of dragon riders as major elements in the defense of nation.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints of the four main characters, Royston, Hal, Thom, and Rook. Royston is a magician, respected for his military service, but currently in disgrace due to an ill-advised affair with the prince of another nation. As punishment, Royston is exiled to his brother's manor in the countryside where there is not only a lamentable lack of culture but also an overabundance of such offensive things as sheep and trees. Hal is the young and painfully naive tutor-in-training for the brother's children. He is a kind and gentle soul with a desperate hunger for books and education, things which are in very short supply where he lives. The two find friendship and comfort in each other as Royston becomes Hal's mentor.

Rook is an airman, a rider of the dragon Havemercy. He is also rude, brash, and at times even cruel, believing that he and the other airmen should not be subject to the rules and laws that govern other citizens. This leads to an impending international incident, hard of the heels of Royston's, when he insults the wife of an ambassador. The punishment comes in the form of Thom, a meek and nervous 'Versity student of human behavior who is charged with teaching Rook and the other airmen etiquette. The clash is instant and Rook sets out to get rid of Thom by making his life miserable. Thom wants the research grant he's been promised if he succeeds and has an innate tenacity and determination due to his impoverished and harsh childhood, although he keeps his origins a secret.

The first half of the book is solely about the interactions between these characters; the tenuous and forbidden romance between Royston and Hal, and the battle of wills between Rook and Thom. While well written, it still felt like something of a prologue to the rest of the book at times.

In the second half all the characters are brought together in various ways and the war accelerates with a plague that is effecting all the magicians and their creations; the dragons. It takes the courage and intellect of all four, in their own ways, to find a solution and prevent disaster.

I did like the mythology and history of the world and on the whole it was well written although a little uneven in the pacing. My main problem with the book is that the plot took a backseat to the interactions between characters. This isn't a huge issue but I would have preferred more of a balance. It was worth reading but, for me personally, I'm not sure that I liked it enough to be enticed into reading more of the series.