The King’s Dragon (Three Thieves Book Four) – Scott Chantler

5 out of 5

The storytelling trope of comparing a past and present event is generally used in a rather hackneyed fashion: one side of the tale inevitably ends up coming across as obviously forced to match the other, and so, in those instances, does nothing really except to drag out a story.

In book four of his Three Thieves journey, Scott uses this setup, but manages several things in doing so: he uses it successfully, for one, where the flashbacks and the current narrative are interesting, and unique, and yet tightly tied together, with important plot elements contained in both; he doesn’t constrain himself to a pacing – some of the black and white past moments are short, some several pages – and thus tells his tale in an organic and immersive fashion; and most important to Three Thieves itself, he finally gets to the point in the story in which Captain Drake has to get some insight on what Dessa’s actually doing, but also doubles down on the characters he’s been crafting by not using that as an easy out: this is still an escape, and still an adventure.

The King’s Dragon, as the title suggests, is very Drake focused: he and Phineas have tracked the injured Dessa to a healing monastery, prevented from entrance as the healers pledge to not get involved in kings businesses.  While doing their best to find a way in, Drake finds Sir Frayner doing the same, and flashbacks to when Drake was just starting out as a Dragon fill in more about his relationship to Frayner, and to the throne.  And most satisfyingly, turn Drake into an incredibly compelling character, and not just a guy spouting maxims about duty.

Scott’s color work here is interestingly muted to represent the cold season / environment, but it’s really delicately handled, and a good juxtaposition against the black and white pages.  There are also a lot of talking heads here, but no page is boring – animated expressions, a smart use of varied paneling – and it builds up to an exciting concluding sequence.

The King’s Dragon is a nice crossing point for Three Thieves, giving us some good twists in the ongoing story while also flipping points of view to flesh out Captain Drake, presented via Scott’s usual wizardry with visuals and paced storytelling.