When Flaxfield dies, Sam is left without anyone to teach him magic. When strange wizards arrive who don't believe he was Flaxfield's apprentice, Sam escapes on foot to find someone, anyone, who can teach him magic and continue his training.
The world in which Dragonborn is charming and fascinating. The worldbuilding was well done, and fleshed out Sam's world of magic and dragons quite nicely (even though we only see one dragon). There are "chapters" that are notes from an apprentice's notebook (I always assumed it was Sam's) that give little details of the world. Creatures, magic, people, and other things. Sometimes, though, these parts don't always hold relevance to the story.
Toby Forward's story idea is intriguing, but I felt it could have been executed better. The story is sometimes a little hard to follow, and the dialogue can be confusing. A character might ask a question, but the person he or she is speaking to won't answer and will start talking about something else entirely, and the question is never answered. In a way, the dialogue sometimes assumes the reader knows what's going on, when we might not.
The ending of this book left me with unanswered questions that probably should have been explained. We never understand why the villainess is in the situation she is, or why Sam's magic seems stronger than people expect. We don't get explanations for things we should, and it becomes a little frustrating.
The conflict, too, isn't as developed as it could be. There is a lot of traveling done, and when the time comes for an intense climactic moment, it passes us by, and we're left disappointed. The moment it should have been most intense comes later, but by then it falls flat.
But there are qualities that made this book fun to read. The world is fascinating and has a fun charm to it. Written perhaps for the younger end of middle grade, the writing style is kind of directed to that audience. But the world is full of magic and strange people and animals. The magic of Sam's world is fascinating too. It almost seems to be its own character. It can fade and weaken inside a person if neglected, or if it's used in the wrong way it can come back to bite you. Magic seems to be almost alive.
The protagonist and antagonist are also well done. Sam's innocence makes him endearing, but he seems almost apathetic as to what he wants to do next. His growth comes gradually, but he becomes stronger and more sure of himself. The villainess, Ash, is among the creepiest villains I've read. She's on the brink of insanity (if she hasn't already tipped over the edge), and her mannerisms and actions add to her creepiness. Her "minions" aren't very described, but they too share her dark atmosphere. Despite the lack of plot or conflict, the magic, the villainess and the charm of the world made the story an entertaining read.
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Violence/gore: Someone loses a few bodily appendages, but they grow back. There is torture, but it's not described very much. Someone is set on fire.
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Sexual content: None. One character (a girl) tries to save the life of another (a boy) by filling their own mouth with potion and spewing it into the mouth of the other.
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Profanity: Reference to swearing from Sam, and he also makes a rude finger gesture, both very early on in the book.
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Other: Some of the characters drink beer.