The Storm Dragon's Heart, written by David Alastair Hayden is a nicely put together tale of a young wizard who is severely tested on the road to adulthood.
The world that young Turesobei of the Chonda Clan lives in is remarkably Japanese in some ways, although it is clearly a fantasy world. The people and the places all have distinctly Asian-sounding names and the warrior culture of Turesobei's world is clearly based on the historical warrior cultures of the far east. This makes for a compelling well conceived background against which Hayden's tale is portrayed.
At the outset, 14 year old Turesobei of the ruling Chonda Clan is a sheltered, spoiled young man who makes many mistakes that a self-centered young person might make. He is somewhat arrogant, as he has been tapped from birth to step into the position that his grandfather, Lord Kanenan occupies as the High Wizard when the time comes. Each day he trains rigorously, if somewhat rebelliously. He has been betrothed since birth to a girl who disdains him, but for whom he has exceedingly confused feelings. His father, Noboro, is a great warrior-mage who is obsessed with finding a magical artifact that is both dangerous and evil, The Storm Dragon's Heart. Legend holds that it is actually the heart of the evil Naruwakiru, who has been dead for millenia, and indeed it is an object that has cast a spell upon his father. Noboro can think of nothing but gaining the Heart which has been guarded by the evil Storm Dragon Cult.
Turesobei is overjoyed to be allowed to go with his father when Noboro returns to the hunt. He is allowed to go because his father needs a wizard and Kanenan feels that Turesobei needs the experience and has the ability to handle what will surely be a grueling mission. They depart with 24 guards.
Things go terribly wrong, and in a terrible battle all their guards are killed. Noboro is kidnapped by the cultists. A terrible accident saves Turesobei's life. Suddenly alone in a strange country, and desperate to get his father back, Turesobei finds a friend in Onudaka, an old man who is also the brother of Sobei's enemy. Another unintentional ally is found in the female assassin, Iniru.
Turesobei's journey into adulthood is well told, and draws you in. I found myself thinking about this story when I was not reading it. Hayden colors his worlds well, and his system of magic makes sense as do the intrigues which provide the tension of the tale.
The story is frequently violent. The cultists torture Noboro, and there are atrocities committed. There is no graphic sexual content, but are occasional references to adult situations which illustrate Sobei's deepening relationship with Iniru. The personal transformation of Turesobei from an untried boy into a man to be counted on and respected is not without a few bumps in the road. His growth, both in his ability to use his magic, and in his character unfolds in a compelling series of events. The end of the story provides a satisfying conclusion to the epic-quest tale.
The Storm Dragon's Heart is an excellent stand alone novel, as there are very few loose ends left at the end, but it is apparently the first book in a series, the Storm Phase series. David Alastair Hayden is also the author of the epic fantasy tale, Wrath of the White Tigress which is the first book in a separate series, The Tales of Pawan Kor.