The Indie Series that Destroyed My Indie Prejudice
I have a confession to make: For a long time, I held a prejudice against indie- and self-published books. You know what prejudice I’m talking about. The “if a publisher didn’t want it then it’s probably not that good” prejudice. I know, shame on me. Even after I began reading more indie books over the last several years—many of which were good—I still harbored this feeling that books published by a “real” publisher were better by default.
Then I found a series that completely changed my mind. I’ve read three books in this series (all that have been published so far), and each one has been better than the last. They’ve ripped my heart out and shattered it, made me pump my fist like a Jersey Shore boy at a club, and made me grin like an absolute fool. It’s one of the best series I’ve read in a long time, and it’s indie published.
The series I’m talking about is called The Shadow War Saga, by Elana A. Mugdan, with the published books being called (in order) Dragon Speaker, Dragon Child, and Dragon Blood. I first picked up Dragon Speaker last year, simply to support one of my fellow fantasy writers from the Twitter community. And, of course, you know I love me some dragons. What I got was a journey of Tolkien proportions. The premise is more or less what you might expect of a young adult fantasy novel—a rather unremarkable girl with an incredible destiny. But this story is far more than another Chosen One trope, because it’s not just about the main character, Keriya’s, journey. Every side character is so beautifully fleshed out, and they each go on their own journeys and experience stunning character development that most books can’t even accomplish with their main characters.
I found Fletcher’s character arc to be especially engaging and loved seeing the changes in him from the first book to the end of the third book. I was also particularly fond of Cezon Skyriver, a character who seems like nothing more than a vehicle for the main trio at first, but who continues to appear throughout the books. He’s a beautifully written, morally gray character that has a bit of a Jack Sparrow vibe about it that I couldn’t get enough of.
I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that the second book, Dragon Child, tormented me in ways that a book hasn’t tormented me since I read Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid. (Cue nostalgic ugly crying.) The pain and loss that every character endures in this book is heart wrenching, and it truly feels as if they couldn’t possibly lose anything else—and then they do. This book was brutal in the most beautiful way possible. And the next book made it even more beautiful.
Dragon Blood picks up those shattered pieces that the previous book left behind and begins to rebuild. The growth of Keriya in this book is astounding, and I found myself cheering for her through every grueling step of her journey to fix everything that went wrong and to make amends. For me, it was a stunning story about how we rebuild ourselves when we feel we have nothing left. It was by far my favorite book in the series—at least so far.
I wish I could write something that could fully convey just how incredible this series has been so far without giving away all of its beauty. Suffice it to say, I will never judge a book by the way it is published again. This series has rightfully shamed me out of that habit with its flawless and breathtaking storytelling.
Honestly, my biggest disappointment with this series is that so few people have read it, so I don’t seem to have anybody that I can gush about it with. I intend to rectify that by continuing to thrust my copies upon my friends and family, while singing the author’s praises to anyone who will listen.
So, if you’re reading this, please go read the Shadow Wars Saga. Then find me on social media so we can start our own fan club. I’ll make the t-shirts.