The Dragon's Price by Bethany Wiggins
Book One of the Transference series
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Fans of Julie Kagawa’s Talon and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn will devour this action-packed fantasy adventure about a girl who chooses to surrender herself to a deadly dragon rather than marry an enemy prince.
When two warring kingdoms unified against a deadly menace laying waste to both their lands, they had to make a choice: vow to marry their heirs to one another, or forfeit their lives to the dragon.
Centuries later, everyone expects the sheltered princess Sorrowlynn to choose the barbarian prince over the fire-breathing beast—everyone, that is, except Sorrow, who is determined to control her own destiny or die trying.
As she is lowered into the dragon’s chamber, she assumes her life is over until Golmarr, the young prince she just spurned, follows her with the hopes of being her hero and slaying the dragon. But the dragon has a different plan. . . .
If the dragon wins, it will be freed from the spell that has bound it to the cave for centuries. If Sorrow or Golmarr vanquish the dragon, the victor will gain its treasure and escape the cave beneath the mountain. But what exactly is the dragon hiding?
There are no safe havens for Sorrow or Golmarr—not even with each other—and the stakes couldn’t be higher as they risk everything to protect their kingdom.
What I Liked:
The Dragon's Price is the first novel by Bethany Wiggins that I've read. I've seen her other Young Adult novels but they never caught my eye like this book. I'm a huge fan of YA fantasy, especially any fantasy dealing with dragons. "Good" dragons, "bad" dragons, I don't care. This novel is the first of a trilogy, and it follows the story of Princess Sorrowlynn.
Princess Sorrowlynn is the fourth and last daughter of the king and queen of Faodara. The Faodaran princesses are required to sacrifice themselves to keep an ancient spell at bay. The spell holds the fire dragon in the mountain; the sacrifice is to marry the heir of the throne of Anthar, or be fed to the dragon. On the day of the Mountain Binding, Sorrowlynn shocks everyone and chooses to be fed to the fire dragon, rather than marry the 42-year-old heir of the Antharian throne. But everyone is even more shocked when Prince Golmarr, the youngest prince of Anthar and the Antharian that has made her feel most comfortable since they arrived at her home, follows her down into the mountain. Golmarr is not a barbaric Antharian like Faodarans are taught to believe - in fact, he is kind and noble. Sorrowlynn and Golmarr must face the fire dragon, or die trying.
One of the things that sticks out the most to me is Sorrowlynn's character development, from start to finish. In the beginning, she is a scared, soft, weak girl (sorry!). She is terrified of the Mountain Binding, and she doesn't know how to stand up for herself. Her parents hate her, because her fate is to die by her owns hands. She doesn't want to marry the heir of Anthar, but she also doesn't want to be fed to the dragon. And she certainly doesn't want to be trapped in a lonely, miserable, sheltered life with her parents, who abhor her.
But after she is lowered into the cave of the mountain, things start to change. She and Golmarr fight to stay alive, and Sorrowlynn, while still a weak, soft girl, slowly becomes stronger. She is no longer a pampered, scared princess - she shows more assertion and backbone, and she stops cowering in fear when her and Golmarr's lives are in danger. By the end of the book, she is so much stronger (both mentally and physically), and she is ready to take on all the dragons in the world to find what she is looking for (not going to spoil that!).
While this book is written exclusively in Sorrowlynn's first-person POV, Golmarr is easily as important to the story as Sorrowlynn. Golmarr and Sorrowlynn interact a little bit before the Mountain Binding, and there is mutual affection. Golmarr goes after her in the mountain to protect her and slay the dragon for her. Golmarr is such a sweetie! He is honorable and completely selfless - such a gentleman. He is incredibly courageous and would have done almost anything to protect Sorrowlynn. To me, Golmarr steals the show, and he is the character that the story most benefited from having. I liked Sorrowlynn, but I adored Golmarr. He is a warrior, a horse lord, a prince, and an honorable man.
The fantasy world is nothing really new, but the author does a good job of creating and describing all of the parts and pieces to the setting, the history, and the magic. At first I was a little confused about why the Mountain Binding was necessary, but the history of the spell and the fire dragon was explained in detail within the story. There are six (I think six?) kingdoms that are all at odds (you know the deal), and there are different dragons that are not at peace with humans. The fire dragon is contained by the mountain and a spell shared by the Faodaran and Antharian people, but there is also the glass dragon, in the Glass Forest - this dragon becomes important.
On that note, we do get to understand why the series is called the Transference series! That's really important in the story. I don't want to say why though! The dragons are NOT human-friendly dragons, and that is important too.
I don't want to get into too much detail in terms of the plot, because things will get spoiler-y in a hurry. BUT I will say that Golmarr and Sorrowlynn are not trapped in the mountain with the fire dragon for the entire book. In fact, they're there for about half of the book. The second half of the book is more interesting to me, though there is a lot of important development (character, plot, romance) while under the mountain.
There is romance, and it's sweet! Golmarr is a sweetheart and Sorrowlynn is a kitten with claws. Their personalities mesh well together - Sorrowlynn clearly is no docile girl (despite seeming weak), and Golmarr is a fierce yet kind warrior prince. The romance develops pretty quickly, but the physical side of things is very slow-burn. There were a lot of swoony moments in the second half of the book! I like how honest and open with each other the pair was. Also: no love triangle! (Something I like mention in all of my reviews, if there is a love triangle or not.)
The climax is something that you see coming, and there was a little bit of dread mixed into my anticipation of the climax. The ending is a bit cruel but also hopeful at the same time. This book is part of a trilogy, so I understand why the book ended the way it did. It isn't a permanently cruel ending, so I'm (mostly) fine with it. It could have been worse.
Overall, I liked the book! There were some things that I didn't love, which I'll discuss below.
What I Did Not Like:
One of the first things I noticed was that there is some seriously cheesy dialogue in this book. It wasn't all of the dialogue, all of the time, but you notice it when you see it and it's cringe-worthy. I was a little surprised by how much cheesy dialogue there was! This is the author's fourth book, but the writing felt like that of a debut author (though, that's not quite fair of me to say, because some debut authors have BEAUTIFUL writing. Stephanie Garber, for example!).
I also didn't love the ending, as I mentioned above. I'm not going to fuss over it because I know it's not permanent, but still, it was a little bittersweet. You can't see me but I'm pouting right now. If the author messes up ____... I'm going to be very upset. Ugh, trilogies!
Would I Recommend It:
Yes and no - I have a love/hate relationship with YA trilogies. YA trilogies are the worst because there are cliffhangers and messy plots and sometimes even messy romances, and everything drags out over three books, which could be three or more years or waiting.
In this book's case, I do highly recommend this book. This series though? I might wait to binge-read the books when they all publish. This one ends on a cliffhanger, and I imagine book two will as well. I really do not like YA trilogies anymore!
But like I said, I do recommend this book. It was great, and it felt fairly short so it was a quick read. Plus, evil dragons? We find a lot of "good" dragons in YA literature, but not necessarily bad ones. I thought that was a cool aspect!
4 stars. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this series! In book two, I would like to see more evil dragons, more history on the dragon's magic, and a looooot more kissing between Golmarr and Sorrowlynn.
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