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Benfro and Errol have been separated. In his desperation to reunite, Errol follows the circus which has captured and enslaved his friend. Elsewhere in the twin kingdoms, war continues to spread, unaware that the veil which separates the two worlds is breaking down...
The Ballad of Sir Benfro: The Broken World (2015. 568 pages) is the forth in this series, written by J D Oswald.
For those of you that have been following this series, Oswald produces another chapter in the continuing tale of a boy and his dragon. If anything the theme of this book is separation, whether it is separation from a friend or loved one or separation from one’s own religion, following a revelation.
This creates somewhat of a problem with the book's structure as there are many story threads to be followed. Obviously Errol and Benfro represent two, but the tale also has to encompass Queen Beulah's procession through her kingdom, Melyn and Frecknock’s invasion of the neighbouring kingdom and Dafydd own invasion of Beulah’s main city. If that wasn’t busy enough Oswald also has time to expand on his creation myth, that Gog and Magog, two powerful wizard dragons, were so at odds with each other that their fight tore the world in two.
With so many competing points of view, I found that choice to allocate each of the elements only a small space of time before switching the point of view robbed the book of much of its heart. No sooner do you get involved in one characters story, than the rotisserie turns and you’ve made a geographical and personal leap to another part. Personally I would have liked to have spent more time with each individual as it was not the pool size of the main characters but their distribution.
This is not helped by the feeling that a similar allocation of pages has been given over to all of the plots, when Beulah’s thread has her doing little more than travelling in one direction until events force her to march on her capital city. I would have much preferred to have spent more time with Melyn and Frecknock. Oswald’s heroes do little to inspire the reader and with the short passages it’s difficult to engage enough to empathise.
Melyn, on the other hand, is a fascinating villain and the changes which he undergoes and the revelations that he is witness to make his part of the story the most fascinating. It is mostly through his storyline that Oswald expands an already rich world. He is also, pretty much, the only character that has definite development, in interesting and unexpected ways.
I had nothing against the story itself, in tone and action it resembles the previous trilogy, and certainly fans of the series will find much to like in the flawed duo at the tales heart, some may even prefer how the book was structured.