cover image Dragon’s Trail: The Outworlders, Book 1

Dragon’s Trail: The Outworlders, Book 1

Joseph Malik. Oxblood, $24.99 (390p) ISBN 9780997887549

Malik’s debut novel sparkles with a fresh take on some traditional epic fantasy tropes. Jarrod Torrealday is a disgraced Olympic-level fencer. Years ago, when he was at the top of his game, he accidentally killed a competitor and was consequently banned from the life he loved. He’s survived since by teaching the art of the sword and consulting on stunts for films. When offered the opportunity to travel to the fantasy land of Gateskeep and assist with their upcoming war, he happily accepts, bringing along his friend Carter Sorenson, a greatsword expert, and as many of his “artisanal killing tools and works of 21st-century metallurgical genius” as he can carry. What follows is a deceptively simple and shockingly painful crash course in the politics of a world with Dark Ages–level technology. Despite a slow start, the action, humor, and intrigue quickly build, showcasing Jarrod as James Bond in tarnished armor. Detailed descriptions of equipment and tactics don’t distract from the plot; rather, they add a layer of depth and dimension that carries the tale to the next level. This is a highly enjoyable story for fans of self-aware epic fantasy. (BookLife)