REVIEW: Avian

Avian by Nicole Conway

Avian begins where Fledgling left off—literally with Jaevid in the same scene still reluctantly riding home for the three month interlude. Jaevid returns to find Katty with another boy (another blacksmith!) named Bren and his childhood home abandoned. Katty lives up to her name early on, and it’s clear she has complicated feelings for Jaevid, who has no desire to relate or reconnect with his childhood friend.

Jaevid learns wood-working, finds a mysterious sword, and a note from his brother, who’s now an infantry man at the front. These things (and Mavrik’s company) keep Jaevid from spiraling into self-loathing angst. Jaevid can’t indulge carpentry forever because an urgent letter from Beckah prompts him to go help her, Sile, and her family. Jaevid finds Icarus chose Beckah to be a dragon rider, and even though women aren’t allowed to go to the academy, Beckah is determined to learn, but things take another turn for the urgent when Sile’s wife nearly dies during pregnancy. She’s saved by Jaevid, who triggers a series of new Eleven powers, including super-healing and initiating his own growth spurt into adulthood.

Then, the dreams begin…dreams that aren’t part of Jaevid’s memory. He sees his mother, who talks to him while a mysterious Elf kills the king. At the end, there’s a lone soldier, and for most of the novel, Jaevid wakes up here. The dream begins to impact Jaevid’s life at the academy, and he knows the plot on Sile’s life extended all the way to the king. Jaevid knows his dreams are connected, but he’s struggling to survive his second year at the academy, which includes rooming with his school nemesis, Lyon.

I seriously never wanted to stop reading this book. The slight up-tick in pace, the logical growth in the characters were all great. There’s so much that happens in this second book, and the biggest improvement is that everything feels a bit more organically rooted this time. Jaevid’s relationships with Beckah and Sile are fleshed out, and Felix’s incongruous attitudes become grounded in his family problems.

The training was more practical this time. That has to do with Jace Rodin being an actual character instead of a last-minute stand in for Sile. The sadistic instructor, Thrane, pushes Jaevid to his limits. Thrane’s a racist, and he gets to Jaevid by breaking Lyon’s arm repeatedly and trying to goad Jaevid into a battle fever.

Mavrik, Icarus, and Nova all have actual personalities. The dragons still aren’t the main draw to this novel, but Icarus is a big-softy now. Mavrik has his own frustrations now; he’s being trained to keep pace with Jace’s dragon, Ghost, who is the fastest flyer among the dragon riders.

The one plot I didn’t like: Katty’s. It felt like trying to avoid a love triangle. This worked a little bit because Jaevid becomes friends with Bren, Katty’s new boyfriend. However, I still didn’t quite get the sudden change in Katty’s personality. I suppose that it could be explained because we’re seeing the entire relationship through Jaevid’s perspective, and he’s clearly confused about Katty’s actions as well.

Beckah: a turn for the awesome. I liked her in Fledgling, but I loved her in Avian. Beckah’s plot to become a dragon rider concludes awesomely. There was a scene with Beckah that I expected to go one cliche direction, but I loved her a thousand times more when that scenario was subverted. I don’t want to say anything else more about that scene because it’s worth it. For all the great moments Beckah gets in Avian, you should know where her plot with Jaevid is going. Jaevid and Beckah have ‘forbidden romance’ oozing from their pores, and it’s a sweet romance.

This book was exactly like I expected, and yet, refreshing and different. It grew out of the mold Fledgling provided. The academy is more dangerous, the mysteries behind the conspiracy feel like they matter, and Jaevid struggles with his new powers and strengths. Every character in this story feels like they belonged in this world more.

Notes:

  • Ulric didn’t sell the house because…?
  • Magical puberty! Growth spurts are convenient, but this one has the bonus of almost killing Jaevid.
  • The fantastic inversion of Beckah’s fate at the ball was amazing! I was internally groaning when the scene started, but there’s a level of smartness to Avian that wasn’t there in Fledgling.
  • Everyone gets a personality this time around! You get a personality! And you get a personality!
  • The survival skills kit is solid.
  • Freaking dream. The freaking dreams…they have a purpose, but they haunted me as much as they did Jaevid.
  • One area of disappointment: we never got to see any direct confrontation between Felix and his dad. I was hoping for it, but alas, it never happened—we only get to hear how much they dislike each other.

Rating: 5 stars

The Dragonrider Chronicles doesn’t have a soft more slump. Fledgling felt MG and a little thin on some of the world-building details, but Avian is solidly YA. The finale makes sense, and every scene was fleshed out a lot more.

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