Here we have the end of a trilogy with a lot of ups and down. Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold, by Jon Hollins, was one of my bookclub books awhile back (reviewed here). It was a satirical take on quest fantasy that my club had a wide range of opinions on. Some thought it was incredibly bad, and some with better taste (like myself) thought it showed a lot of promise despite its flaws. I decided to continue on with the series and read book two, Dragon Lords: False Idols, which you can find the review of here. The short summary of that review is – book two showed a ton of improvement, and was a very solid read. Today, I am talking about the final book in the series, Dragon Lords: Bad Faith, and deciding if I think the entire thing is worth your time.
The plot of the final book is slightly reminiscent of the previous two: our merry band of rejects repeatedly fails their way into saving the world by murdering beings severely outside their weight class. Will, Lette, Balur, and others spend most of their time wandering from place to place, trying to execute half-ass plans that backfire immediately. The book is funny, outrageous, and a generally good time with lots of memorable insane moments. I will say that the third installment has a much more somber tone than the first two (and it feels appropriate). The humor is still there in spades, but it moves from less of a focus on slapstick, and more towards a focus on bad puns in chapter titles and contextual humor. The book manages that rare quality of being both sad and funny, and it works well.
In addition, the key difference between the plot of Bad Faith and the other two books is that this time the crew is motivated from a desire to save the world instead of a desire to save themselves from poverty. When looking back at the series as a whole, it’s truly impressive how Hollins organically grew his team of sociopaths into better people. I found their (sometimes painfully) slow transition into admirable people believable and relatable. There is always a question when reading about flawed protagonists of: is it worth reading about absolute asshats now for emotional pay off when they become good people later on? In this case I would say yes, but only just. I think where the crew of characters ends is a great spot – but I also don’t think it’s the greatest character development of all time.
Where the book really shines is in the worldbuilding. I can tell that Hollins was sort of making up his world as he was going in the earlier books – but Bad Faith has a fully fleshed out, and interesting, world where the team spends a lot of time wandering around. Hollins also finally gets around to exploring the backstories of some of our more silent characters and I really enjoyed the depth they added to some of the previously shallow people.
The book ends on a really strong note, but getting there was occasionally a little slow. There are definitely some pacing issues that feel more apparent due the third book’s smaller amount of jokes. The focus on POV’s is fairly uneven, with some characters hogging the spotlight. I don’t think there was anything inherently wrong with this, but in Bad Faith’s instance it results in some characters over telling their stories a bit. I can only hear the inner monologue of a person so many times before I think “I get it”.
Overall, I would definitively say that Dragon Lords is worth your time. Humor in fantasy is hard, and while these books might not always be perfect – I think they bring enough originality and quality to the stage to be worth anyone’s time. If you are looking for a laugh, a lot of failure, and watching a boat load of people learn how to be slightly less garbage – I recommend you check out the Dragon Lords series by Jon Hollins.
The Dragon Lords – 7.5/10
Bad Faith – 8.0/10