Todd Lockwood is an incredibly talented artist, known both for his fantasy book covers and art in other areas such as Magic The Gathering. After decades of drawing covers for other fantasy books, he has tried his hand at writing his own; The Summer Dragon. The Summer Dragon is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. Not only is its cover stunning, but the book is filled with a variety of illustrations, also done by Lockwood, depicting various pivotal scenes. With such a lovely exterior, the real question is how does the interior of the book hold up by comparison? Before I answer that, let me talk about the premise.
The Summer Dragon follows the story of Maia, a young dragon breeder who raises dragons to fuel the war engine of an empire. However, the war is not going well. The enemy nation has started to create nightmarish horrors that are dominating battle fields, and the demand for dragons to fight these new demons is skyrocketing. This is difficult news for Maia as she was hoping to recieve a young dragon of her own to raise. However, a short ways into the book Maia sees the Summer Dragon, a “high” dragon of religious significance who symbolizes change, and her life begins to rapidly do just that. I was hooked by the premise of The Summer Dragon. I love dragons, and a book about raising them only made me more excited. However, despite its great premise and gorgeous illustrations, The Summer Dragon had continuous problems that resulted in me ending fairly unfulfilled with it as a book.
To begin with, the characters are one-dimensional. Maia is defined by her want and need to have a dragon to raise, and not much else. She seems like she is desperate for you to like her, which had the opposite effect on me. Maia has the standard cliche pity-party backstory for many characters across genres: she did something dumb, her mother insulted her, and then subsequently died. If this seems like a callous description of the events it is because Maia brings this up about every five pages and is so unconvincing in her self-hate that it made me audibly groan. On a related note, I never really felt fully invested in Maia’s story, which only made it harder to immerse myself in her character. A large portion of the conflict in the book stems from Maia’s inability to just wait a year to get a dragon. While Lockwood puts some effort into creating reasons why she needs one immediately, I never really bought into it and this results in Maia seeming more like a spoiled child than someone fighting for her life.
One thing I initially liked, but changed my mind on over the course of the book, was the religion in the story. At the beginning of the book the dragon based religion seemed refreshing and interesting. However, as the story progressed you begin to learn that there are two religions; a thinly veiled dragon Christianity that is evil, and a sort of dragon spiritualism based on the circle of life that is good. I am atheist and have no dog in this fight, but even to me it was a bit heavy handed. In addition, the pacing was almost glacial. Despite being a fairly large book, not a lot happens in its 500-ish pages. A good amount of time and space is devoted to describing events and tasks that seem unimportant, and some of the scenes go on for entirely too long. One of the action scenes slowly moved from exciting to boring for me simply because it was too long and drawn out.
I think the real problem I had with The Summer Dragon, is that it is a young adult book targeted at young woman and I had no idea. The marketing on the book did not make that apparent, and I went into it judging it as a classical epic fantasy. I feel as though young female readers could really enjoy this book and it could definitely be a huge hit with that demographic. However, it did not stand up to its expectations and I was sad to find out that such a stunningly beautiful book could also be so shallow. The Quill to Live does not recommend The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood.