Book Review : Daughter of the Serpentine

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : Daughter of the SerpentineDaughter of the Serpentine (Dragoneer Academy, #2) by E.E. Knight
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on November 17th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 512
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Source: NetGalley

As a young dragoneer moves through the ranks of the prestigious Serpentine Academy, her challenges grow greater and her time grows short to draw out a series of deadly threats, in this thrilling coming-of-age fantasy novel.
Sixteen-year-old Ileth is now an Apprentice Dragoneer, with all of the benefits and pitfalls that her elevation in rank entails. But her advancement becomes less certain after a she's attacked by an unknown enemy, and Ileth begins to suspect that someone deadly may be hiding within the walls of the academy.
Outside of the walls there is a different challenge. The Rari Pirates are strangling the Vale Republic. What they lack in dragon firepower, they make up for in the brutality of their ever-expanding raids, making hostages or slaves of the Republic’s citizens. Surrounded by enemies, Ileth will need to learn what kind of dragoneer she wants to be. And as she makes decisions about her future, Ileth will have the chance to uncover the secrets of her past. Both will irrevocably change the course of her life.

Daughter of the Serpentine is the follow-up to The Novice Dragoneer, one of my favorite books of this year. There is something uniquely comforting about this seriesit wraps you in its magical atmosphere like a warm blanket. Even though I didn’t quite love Daughter of the Serpentine as much as its predecessor, I really love this series and ardently adore main character Ileth, her fight to overcome her station and stutter, and her journey to becoming a fully fledged Dragoneer. 


My favorite parts of Daughter of the Serpentine are the parts where Ileth trains as an apprentice at the Serpentine. I love her relationship with her fellow trainees, and even those ranked above her. Something about her life in the Serpentine feels magical, akin to when I was a young girl reading The Song of the Lioness series. Author E.E. Knight makes it feel like anyone could train alongside Ileth, and with hard work, could also become a Dragoneer. 


“There are two basic sorts of people. Those who try to change their situation for the better, and those who look around and seek out villains to explain life’s many, many disappointments and spend the rest of their life crying on the proverbial stump assigning blame. I believe very strongly you are the first type, rare in your sex and rarer still at your age.”*


Especially interesting to me is that author E.E. Knight uses Ileth’s upbringing in a Lodge (basically a working orphanage) and her stutter to highlight the difference class, sex, and great Names make in actually achieving one’s goals. Ileth is discouraged by practically everyone with a mouth from her goal of becoming a Dragoneer due to her lack of a great Name, sex, and poor upbringing. She is encouraged to remain among the dragon dancers and to give up on her dreams. But she never lets this deter her, which I love. Poor Ileth doesn’t even have the money to buy herself an apprentice sash, and no one is going to give it to her. When her position as an apprentice dragoneer is threatened as a result, Ileth finds anotherless legalsolution, and immediately owns up to it. This situation demonstrates everything I love about Ileth—she unabashedly makes the most out of what she has and makes no apologies for it—and her fierceness in a nutshell.


Ileth doesn’t shy away from working as dragon dancer and simultaneously training as an apprentice. She’s physically exhausted from the demands of this lifestyle, but works harder than all of her counterparts combined. I love when she got paired up with the most notorious teacher of the Serpentine, dubbed The Horse. This teacher really puts her and all of the trainees through the paces, but also comes to recognize Ileth’s unique strengths. Every time Ileth brings someone around to recognize her determination and character strength, my heart sings right along with hers. 


To Ileth’s dismay and my own, she spends a good portion of Daughter of the Serpentine away from the Serpentine, which is probably the main reason I didn’t like this novel quite as much. As much as I love Ileth, I love her relationship and interactions with the dragons, fellow trainees, and instructors the most. Despite this lack of dragon time, Ileth’s time away further highlights the class disparities in a pretty hilarious way, reveals more about Ileth’s mysterious past, and even finds Ileth receiving the deserving attention of a young man.  It is entertaining to see Ileth in such a different situation and gives me a bit of Jane Austen vibes. Plus, Santeel Dun Toot, Ileth’s high class friend with a great Name, gets involved and that girl is a veritable riot. To top it off, this sidequest, for lack of a better word, all leads up to an epic dragon battle with pirates, so I really can’t complain. 


“’From the Serpentine’s perspective, it could hardly have gone better,’ Dun Huss said. ‘Not a single dragon lost or crippled.’ Ileth didn’t know if it was usually to speak only in terms of the dragons. She’d seen, now, the Academy’s method ensuring that a lost dragoneer could be replaced quickly.”*


This battle with the pirates is Ileth’s first experience of war. Author E.E. Knight does a great job of depicting the harsh realities of battle without being overly gruesome or gory. Instead, the grim reality of death and destruction is dealt with in matter-of-fact way that is authentic. Daughter of the Serpentine skillfully and easily demonstrates how each person, and dragon, is affected by the war in different ways. Even unwavering Ileth is given pause by the the actual fight and the business-like approach to death and destruction, but of course, finds her mettle.


“You’ll understand, some day. You’re the future of the Serpentine. I’d like to leave it, as we all must, in the right hands. With the right ideals.”*


In the midst of this battle with pirates, particularly thrilling to me is Ileth’s relationship with Aurue. Aurue, a young scaleless dragon, is like Ileth, a bit of an oddball. I love their kindred spirits and I can’t help but to hope that will one day be Ileth’s dragon. It is hard not to be impatient for Ileth to become a fully-fledged Dragoneer because I feel she deserves it so much, but I am enjoying every bit of her journey to her lifelong dream becoming true. Even more so, I love this adventure of Ileth overcoming all obstacles through sheer force of will and watching the people around her come to realize and to appreciate her strength of character and greatness. 


If you enjoyed The Novice Dragoneerlove strong heroines or dragon riding stories, do not hesitate to pick up Daughter of the Serpentine. I can’t wait to read future entries in the series.


*All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change.


Book Review : Daughter of the Serpentine - Blogging with Dragons

Posted September 28, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy


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