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Shatterwing (Dragon Wine, #1) by Donna Maree…
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Shatterwing (Dragon Wine, #1)

by Donna Maree Hanson

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Source: Publisher
Original Review: Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

A moon shatters and a world is plunged into chaos as falling chunks of the moon destroy entire cities. Dragons appear. From where noone knows, but they are linked somehow to mankind's survival. Meanwhile a young vintner/prisoner/slave may hold the key to the planet's salvation -- but only if she learns how to use her powers in time.

♦ My Thoughts. Shatterwing is a unique blend of secondary world with both magic and evidence of lost technology. Plus it has dragons. The mix reminds me a bit of Pern only these dragons are not the nice variety. On this world, humans are on their list of food sources.

This is also an apocalyptic world which is an unusual read for me. Note I said apocalyptic and not post-apocalyptic. The apocalypse on this world is still ongoing and I get the impression it is far from over.

Now there is a reason why I normally avoid dystopian books. They depress the heck out of me. Oddly, this one did not have the normal depressing effect. Not sure if it was because this is obviously not our world so it allowed me to keep my distance or because it has dragons. Personally, I'm leaning towards the dragon theory. Give me dragons and I can ignore a lot...

♦ What I Liked. There are several distinct storylines in this tale and they all intertwine. There is the story and backstory of Salinda and Brill. They start off together, but eventually their storylines will split. There is the mysterious story of Nils, who has awoken from a sleep which spanned generations only to discover that he is the last of his race. Eventually his storyline will merge with another's.

And that is only Part One. Part Two is even more interesting.

In Part Two we meet the Skywatchers who hold powers that frankly caught me offguard. Plus we meet another young lady whose fate may be just as important as Salinda's. Again storylines will split apart, merge back together or intertwine with previous storylines. Reminded me of the Spirograph I spent hours playing with as a child. Loops within loops and no end in sight.

My favorite part of all was the survivability of the characters. This is a harsh, cruel, apocalyptic world full of brutality, uncertainty and death. But the players in this drama are survivors, not victims. Do they suffer from self doubt and helplessness at times? Of course. Do they still pick themselves up, brush themselves off and forge ahead? Yes, yes they do. Giving up is easy. The mark of a true hero is getting back up after being beaten, broken and demoralized. This story does not lack in true heroes.

♦ What I didn't like. This is definitely one of those books where you'll need the sequel on hand. It ends in a major cliffhanger. Several really. So far there are mysteries galore with barely a hint much less an answer. The writing could have been a bit tighter. There were too many repetitions of core information to suit me. Not a deal breaker but worth a star demotion. I hate it when my dogs look at me funny while I rant -- out loud -- "Hey! We know this already, lets get to the good stuff..."

Kind of like my readers do while reading my reviews...

There is also a huge amount of violence and a lot of it comes in the form of rape and torture. In this case, it did not bother me because the brutality fit the degradation of the world in general and the treatment of slaves in particular. This is not a pretty world and to pretend otherwise would be misleading.

In my opinion, the rape, torture, verbal and emotional abuse may be commonplace, but they are handled well. They are only as detailed as they need to be. They are not used for shock value. Instead abuse plays an active role only when it shapes the character in question. However, the abundance of rape and torture will bother some people. If you are someone who is easily offended by heavy doses of brutality, it will not take you long to DNF this book.

♦ Conclusion. This is a plot-driven story. The characters, while either admirable in their tenacity or horrible in their cruelty, are not the main focus. This book's greatest draw lies in its ability to make almost every aspect a deep mystery. With every page you turn you get another piece of the story but no answers. It is a giant puzzle and I loved almost every minute of it. Almost. I would have liked something, anything, conclusive, but since I have the sequel in hand, I'm not too worried. The answers I seek will be revealed in book two and I'm really looking forward to them. ( )
  Mulluane | Dec 3, 2014 |
Donna Maree Hanson gets her series off to a great start in Shatterwing.

The planet Margra has nearly been torn apart by an unexplained (as yet) event that exploded one of the two moons and showered the planet with debris. Most of the population was wiped out and civilization was destroyed. Now the people live in an ignorant and impoverished feudal society where the powerful rule and witches are burned.

Dragon Wine is a drink fermented from grapes grown using dragon manure and urine and it has almost magical health-giving powers. Salinda, a convict laborer, learned to tend the vines from Old Mez, her previous work partner, but he is dead and Salinda is now without a protector. This first book is the story of the prison, grape growing, and Salinda's escape.

The brutality of prison life under an egotistical maniac commandant is graphically presented and will not please some readers. But Ms Hanson presents nothing more graphic than accounts of Auschwitz or other prisons and certainly nothing as strong as Game of Thrones.

I received a review copy of "Shatterwing: Dragon Wine 1" by Donna Maree Hanson (Pan Macmillan) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Nov 7, 2014 |
Shatterwing by Donna Maree Hanson is the first book in the Dragon Wine series. It's a secondary world fantasy with dragons (as you may gather from the series title) and more astronomy that we usually see in a fantasy book. I've previously reviewed a couple of Donna's books, Rayessa and the Space Pirates, and Bespelled. What strikes me most about Donna as a writer is how flexible she can be. These three books have very little in common stylistically or even thematically, yet she pulls them off.

The blurb is a bit deceptive in that it only covers about half the book. And I mean that in the most literal sense; part two breaks from the first set of characters to follow a new group of characters. It could almost have been published as two separate books and the structure really highlights how this is only the first book in the series. Having said that, the first section ended in a fairly conclusive way that didn't leave me so desperate to get back to those characters that I couldn't pay attention to the new characters. If anything, I'd argue that the first part was a bit more conclusive than the second, which ended on a minor cliffhanger.

But enough about structure. The most obvious thing to note about the content of this book that's not necessarily obvious is that it's dark fantasy. Dark as in brutal or "grimdark". There is rape and there is violence. Most of the worst rape happens off the page, but there's enough on the page that if you don't want to read about rape (or molestation or brutal beatings), then probably give this series a miss. The characters can be more or less divided into main characters and other "good guys" and "horrible men that don't think women are real people". And, I suppose, miscellaneous bystanders who are afraid of witchcraft.

I really enjoyed the story but there were times when the brutality got a bit much for me. Mainly this was towards the end of part one where Salinda, our first main character, is being brutally tortured. It's not that it's not relevant to the plot, but it wasn't fun to read (nor, I think, should it have been). Then, in part two, I was probably a bit over-invested in a new main character, Laidan, not being raped and it was a nail-biter for a while there. (I won't spoil which way it went.)

Anyway, the main thrust of Shatterwing is setting up the world and the overarching plot for the series. The worldbuilding is quite nice, with two moons in the sky, one of which broke up hundreds of years ago (called the "Shatterwing" because it's shattered and looks like a wing). There's some historical background that remains mysterious for the time being and I look forward to learning more about that in subsequent books. There's also the matter of the dragon wine, which has magical properties, and which is apparently the main thing keeping the human population alive. How did this come to be? I'm not sure, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Shatterwing is not for everyone and I wouldn't recommend it to people who wish to avoid reading about violence. However, I would recommend it to fans of dark and grim fantasy. The world may have dragons that eat people, but the real monsters here are other people.

4 / 5 stars

You can read more of my reviews on my blog. ( )
  Tsana | Sep 19, 2014 |
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Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction. Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death. The most precious of these resources is dragon wine - a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world. There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison's best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.… (more)

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