The Burning Sea and Dragonfall Mountain are books 1 and 2 of a new children's fantasy series by veteran Australian spec fic writers Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. There are to be six, one published each month.
I say series, but it feels more like a single novel broken up into parts, with a cliffhanger at the end of each. This isn't the first time I've come across this in recent months. It might be argued that handing a child a thick book to read all at once might be off-putting. Or maybe it might be more off-putting to have the novel break off in the middle of a scene. At least the young readers won't have to wait long for the next one.
And this is definitely a children's book, despite the hero's age, fourteen. He thinks like a child and is, in fact, working as a cabin boy on board one of the ships of the Dravinian fleet, on its way to conquer the Kingdom of Savaria. He wishes he didn't have to be there. His father, the warlock of the title, (battle warlock), had insisted on having both of his children with him, so Dantar and his sister Velza have jobs on board. Velza is an officer, a fire shapecaster, and a stickler for the rules. The two of them don't get on, needless to say.
In this world, humans used to be able to produce wizards who could control all four elements - earth, air, fire, water - until they stuffed it up a thousand years ago. The dragons, who have control of all four magics, stopped this and broke it up so that each person who can do magic can only do one kind. Using magic in this way - as opposed to the far more powerful magic of Dantar and Velza's father - is fairly ordinary; each ship has specialists to produce fogs, arm the weapons, etc. And the enemy can do the same. But they can also use mirror technology to set ships on fire, the cads!
And the dragons are interested in the fleet. Somewhere on board one of them there's a dragon chick. And Dantar has noticed that anyone who tries to harm him ends up as a pile of ashes...
There's enough humour in these two books to keep the tone light. There's certainly enough action to keep young readers continuing on, wanting to know what happens next. Dantar is a bit of a whiner, but will hopefully improve over the next few volumes; meanwhile, his understandable terror of being burned or drowned in the next few minutes adds to the humour.
Some words are a bit hard for younger readers, but they are more or less explained by the "show, don't tell" bits surrounding them.
The cover art, by the wonderful Marc McBride, is gorgeous, reminiscent of the style of the Quentaris books(I think he may have done some or all of those too).
Recommended for children ten years and up.
Buy the series from April on in all good bookshops or check it out here.