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Book Review: The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim

Book Review: The Dragon’s Promise by Elizabeth Lim

With lots of action-packed scenes from the get-go, a compelling curse narrative and a dash of romance too, Elizabeth Lim’s Six Crimson Cranes quickly proved itself to be an epic and magical fantasy adventure when it was first published last year. It’s no surprise then that anticipation for the follow-up was high – especially considering the first book’s cliffhanger ending – but the wait is now over, and The Dragon’s Promise, the final book in this duology series, is here to deliver more magic, more threats and more dragons than before, making for another wondrously fantastical read.

The Dragon’s Promise delves straight back into the action, picking up where the first book left off and opening with Princess Shiori and her dragon friend Seryu as they prepare to descend to the dragons’ kingdom of Ai’long. Armed with a cursed dragon’s pearl and having made a deathbed promise to return it to its rightful owner, Shiori sets out on a dangerous journey that sees her come face to face with the Dragon King, navigate royal politics across both human and dragon courts and hide her magic from those in her homeland, who would see her burned at the stake to prevent the demons that have been sealed away in the Holy Mountains from breaking free and raining chaos over her kingdom of Kiata.

As she explores magical kingdoms and navigates perilous journeys across land and sea, Shiori must face off against some of the biggest threats that she’s ever come across before, from vengeful dragon kings to power-hungry demons. With her life – not to mention those of her six brothers, her father, her true love and her kingdom – on the line, Shiori is forced to summon every ounce of her strength and magic to make good on her promise, weather the consequences and defend the life and love shes fought so hard for.

A few days in Ai’long, and I had come perilously close to losing all my memories of home. I needed a reminder of what I was fighting for. Who I was fighting for.”

Just like the first book, there’s no denying that The Dragon’s Promise is a fantasy book for fantasy lovers, drawing on myths, legends and folklore to create a compelling and enchanting narrative that’s brought vividly to life with Lim’s gorgeous storytelling. While this does allow for a depth of stories to draw on and explore, it does also feel like there’s perhaps too much that Lim wanted to include, making for a snappy story that leaves no time for lingering, and it’s not always to the novel’s advantage.

Shiori is constantly tumbling into new scrapes and deadly situations, and while the action is engaging it also doesn’t let up, following a repetitive structure that means a lot of the characters behind the actions aren’t given nearly enough page time to reflect, decompress or, in some cases, establish any real motivation for their arcs too. It’s particularly frustrating to see among Shiori’s family, with her six brothers feeling largely interchangeable throughout, and in the novel’s major, overarching threat too, who lacks any of the intrigue and betrayal that we felt from Raikama in the first book. Seryu was also woefully underused in this book for my liking, with the role of the dragons in general not taking up quite as much of the story as I was expecting either.

It’s a testament to Lim’s writing that Shiori is the only character who could bring this story together, keep driving it forward and keep hold of the readers’ attention all at the same time. At no point in The Dragon’s Promise do you doubt Shiori’s conviction, her determination or her actions. Not only does she show constant growth and character development – she’s certainly worlds away from the immature and petulant girl we first met in Six Crimson Cranesand Shiori knows it too, using those initial expectations of her to her advantage more than once –  but she’s also open and honest about all her hopes and fears throughout, and is constantly fighting for the people she loves, so you understand her actions. The love she feels for her family is evident (and their trust in and love for her in return is gratifying to see too), while her friendship with Kiki remains a true highlight and her deepening relationship with Takkan is a heartwarming and joyous subplot that feels both earned and a natural extension of her story.

Ultimately, The Dragon’s Promise is a story that comes across as just a bit scattered throughout. More often than not, new threats appear to come out of nowhere and new characters are introduced for a chapter or two before we move on and their fates are left open-ended with no further mentions of them. Old storylines are also quickly brushed past as each smaller quest within the journey is completed and there aren’t ever any real consequences bleeding into what comes next, reading more like a series of stories than a longer narrative. Alongside this, the story also features more than a few nods and connections to Lim’s earlier The Blood of Stars duology too. While this hints at an exciting expanded universe of novels and wider mythology all feeding into each other with the promise of an epic scope, none of it is given too much grounding in the story that’s being told in this particular novel.

For now, however, there is still a lot of magic to be found within these pages on their own, with all of it rendered in glorious, vivid detail too. This is a beautiful novel about standing up for your beliefs, making peace with the past and fighting for those you love, all with the added excitement of enchantments, mythical creatures and a romance to truly believe in. The Dragon’s Promise delivers a strong conclusion to the story that was begun in Six Crimson Cranes and fantasy fans will find a lot to love about it too. It may not be as entirely transportive as the first book, but The Dragon’s Promise remains a wonderful, epic story packed with magic, love and adventure in a story you truly can get lost in – within a fictional universe that only appears to be getting bigger.


The Dragon’s Promise is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 30 August 2022

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