The Dragon Hammer

Tony Daniel. Baen, $11.99 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8155-6

Beast-men, bitter feuds, and battles are just some of the elements in this epic coming-of-age fantasy, set in an alternate North America populated by Viking-like settlements, Romans who practice blood magic, and mythical creatures. Sixteen-year-old Wulfgang von Dunstig, fourth child of a duke, never expects to amount to anything, but when war comes to the Shenandoah Valley, Wulf inadvertently winds up the head of the resistance. The key to victory lies in discovering the long-hidden Dragon Hammer, an artifact of immense, mysterious power. First in the Wulf Saga, the story is a kitchen sink of fantasy tropes, with elves and gnomes existing alongside animal-human hybrids (who replace a native population in a regrettable worldbuilding decision), and a vaguely explained mythology involving stars and dragons. Daniel (the General series) pays great attention to the details of his medieval society, but the rapid head-hopping through a sprawling cast grows tiresome. Given how thoroughly Daniel transforms the cultural and geographic elements from our world, it's a story that scarcely wants to be set on Earth in the first place. Ages 14–up. (July)
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