First of a new series, this book gets off to a slow start as the world of Aeronne with its warring kingdoms of Rosia and Freya are developed and then picks up the pace nicely. Despite generations of warfare, the two countries show no signs of deescalating the conflict as both are engaged in what amounts to an arms race. The Rosia Journeyman who discovered a way of blending magic with metal to create an impenetrable alloy has vanished, immediately generating fears that Freya’s master spy Sir Henry Wallace kidnapped him. Former Lord Captain of the Dragon Brigade, Stephano de Guichen along with a band of friends known as the Cadre of the Lost are ordered to find the Journeyman by none other then adviser to the King, Countess de Marjolaine. The Countess is also Stephano’s mother and there is no love lost between the two making working relations fractious at best. As the Cadre of the Lost follow Sir Henry’s trail they gather an interesting assortment of characters and find themselves pursued by spies, assassins and demons.
Strong character development complete with enough background history to make them feel authentic and plenty of magic make this story work. Flashbacks and changing perspectives fill in blank spots yet by the conclusion there are enough unresolved subplots to provide plenty of fodder for future installments. While the world building is excellent and includes lots of general information about dragons, the beasts themselves have almost no role despite being prominently pictured on the cover. It can be hoped they play a larger part in book two of this promising new epic.