Book Review: The Dragons of Dorcastle

The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell, The Pillars of  #1

For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her.

Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other’s Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them.

As they survive danger after danger, Alain discovers what Mari doesn’t know—that she was long ago prophesized as the only one who can save their world. When Mari reawakens emotions he had been taught to deny, Alain realizes he must sacrifice everything to save her. Mari, fighting her own feelings, discovers that only together can she and Alain hope to stay alive and overcome the Dragons of Dorcastle.


I know Jack Campbell is a big name in Science Fiction writing, he is best known for his Lost Fleet series. I have been starting to review audiobooks for Audible and saw that Jack Campbell wrote an title exclusive for Audible, The Dragons of Dorcastle. The first thing that caught my attention was the blurb of the book. Mechanics and Mages. A most interesting combination if I might say so. My most recent encounters with crossover books has really paid off. I think this is a direction more authors venture into to produce some unique stories and in a lot of ways this is exactly what Jack Campbell achieves with his The Dragons of Dorcastle but he also stays true to some of the classical influences. 

The story of The Dragons of Dorcastle focuses on two characters Mari and Alain. You are firstly introduced to Alain, a young mage, who has been set on task to guard a caravan against bandits and other highwaymen. This also the first task of Alain and he has to carry everything out on his own. To his unluck the caravan gets attacked, and well.. I was thinking, mages so probably bandits with swords, spears and bows. The sounds that these weapons make are quite different, handguns and rifles are used by these bandits. Alain recalls that there was one locked car and hastens to see what was so important to protect only to find out that the door has been opened. Here, Alain stumbles upon the young female mechanic, Mari. Just a quick note up front, in this world mages and mechanics don't mix, they are like water and oil. It gets messy. Their first encounter shows this perfectly. All bound by the honor of their factions they think they are the best and look down upon the others, but also bound by those rules is that when a mage has a task, he has to complete it. Alain was tasked with protecting the caravan so he has to do this eventhough Mari is an mechanic, it would mean failing in his eyes. So now Mari and Alain have to make their way to the town that was the destination of the caravan and report to their guilds. And also find out just why this caravan was attacked. And why was Mari locked up in the first place? This all is just the start of a much bigger story and a much bigger plot involving both story. More importantly is that both Alain and Mari are on a coming-of-age kind of path, coming to terms with themselves, discovering themselves and what they like. But most importantly is the fact that they are both young and from opposing factions, their journey together makes them question just why the mages and mechanics have been "warring" as they kind of like each other in more than just a friendship.... Next to a action packed story, Jack Campbell also writes a story of love and romance and that you can find it in most unexpected circumstances. In their journey they uncover a faith for one person that will change everything, and with everything I mean everything. 

Jack Campbell tells a most interesting story not solely focusing on an action packed storyline but also involving many other themes, I already mentioned that you follow both Alain and Mari in a coming of age story, added to this comes also social acceptance and peer pressure. 

As I said above the world is divided mostely in the parts of the mechanics and the mages they really have control over everything but they fight and think the other party is unworthy. With these two distinct culture a lot of things clash, like for example themes. The mechanics in The Dragons of Dorcastle are for from standard associated with steampunk theme. They have something uniquely working for them. The weapons they carry are rifle based and other gadgets seem to work on different things than steam, like the farcasters for example. Steering away from the conventional steampunk things, really [produced a great sense about these mechanics and all that they are able to do. The mages are more straight forward from fantasy, they have power over the elements, they can for example cast powerful fireballs or summon otherworldly creatures. Another thing where they clash is in personalities, mages have no feelings or emotions, they live I think mostly to serve, without any emotions what so ever they do make perfect tools and why would you invest time in things you do not really need. Mages only live for what is need, for example they eat only because it is need to sustain their health. The mechanics are somewhat more free in living but they do see themselves as above any other living being. 

I do have a small point that sometimes didn't fell that good in the whole story. But I do guess it was intentional. In the early chapters after the first introduction between Alain and Mari, there was a lot of emphasis on the MAGE Alain and the MECHANIC Mari. Everytime their names were mentioned it was accompanied  and highly emphasized by being a mage of mechanic. I know with the guilds not seeing eye to eye you have to be formal in what you do but after a while I did feel like "gosh by now I do know it already". 

When it comes down to audiobooks it takes two persons to make it whole, the author and the narrator. The Dragons of Dorcastle is narrated by Macleod Andrews. This is my first audiobook by Macleod Andrews but I have to say that he did a very good job narrating it. This book is part epic fantasy and you know, that stuff can get lengthy and sometimes repetitive, but with each sentence there was new life in the story. But I do have one small remark and that is how Mari was narrated early on in the book, I guess for me it took some time getting used to. It might be her character but I found it a bit on the border of whining how she sounded but luckily this was changed after the first chapters. Now where Macleod Andrews did a terrific job was with Alain, he is a mage and has no emotions, the way that Alain was narrated, a monotonous emotionless voice spot on, and even better was the transition to a person who started to care and feel for the world and others. Nicely done. 

With The Dragons of Dorcastle, Jack Campbell has produced unique book in the fantasy genre, crossing over some interesting genre and producing a great product in the end. Some of these bold crossovers don't make the cut but this one does. I was thinking to hear an action packed story about mages battling mechanics, but I was wrong, Jack Campbell involves much more that just two warring parties. A coming of age, journey of discovery and a love story are added to it. The characters, Alain and Mari though from different and strongly opposing side soon start to see eye-to-eye. It just remains to be seen how all of it will fit in the prophecy. Something big is about to change. The Pillars of Reality is off to a good start.

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