I have good news and bad news.
Bad news: You’re the Chosen One. Say goodbye to your family, because they’ll be dead by the end of Chapter Two at the latest. And thanks to The Prophecy, you will spend the next 90K+ words traipsing all over creation— probably with a bizarrely assorted posse, at least one of whom will smell really bad—in search of some one-ring-to-rule-them-all/R2-D2/horcrux/Maltese Falcon/MacGuffin that nobody in their right mind would actually allow in their house.And the good news? You get a dragon. (How cool is that?) At least for readers of Caren J Werlinger’s The Portal, (Book 2 of The Chronicles of Caymin), it’s very good news indeed.
The Portal: The Chronicles of Caymin (The Dragonmage Saga Book 2) by Caren J Werlinger
The Dragonmage Saga continues as Caymin and Péist return to Ireland. Together, mage and dragon seek allies to try and stop a pending war with a fanatical monk determined to rid Éire of magic. But the spreading tide of Christianity isn’t the only threat. An ancient evil—one that dates back to the last dragon war a thousand winters ago—threatens the present.
The Portal into the otherworld is the only way to the past, but the otherworld is the realm of the gods and goddesses and other creatures of the old stories, and it is unforgiving to those who do not belong. Caymin and Péist soon learn that, in the otherworld, the deepest desires of their hearts become traps. While there, the young dragonmage and her dragon realize they are pawns in a struggle for power that was set in motion long before they were born. Even those they trust have been using them. Only through their bond with each other can they hope to survive the trials awaiting them and find their way back through the Portal to this realm. But returning may not be an option if they have to sacrifice all to bring peace to a world that no longer holds a place for dragons and mages.
Book Two of The Dragonmage Saga
My Review: 5 stars out of 5 for The Portal: Chronicles of Caymin (The Dragon Mage Saga, Book Two)
Like many ancient societies, early Ireland has a rich history of what we’d call magic and fantasy. From our modern viewpoint, we may find it hard to believe that so much of their society was influenced by the belief that supernatural forces controlled and influenced almost every aspect of their lives. Only…what if that was exactly what was happening? What if there were people with special gifts, trained and honed over a lifetime to wield tools we can’t understand? What happens when that supernaturally-based belief system crashes against the equally supernaturally-based system propagated by Christian missionaries?
This conflict forms the basis for Caren J. Werlinger’s Dragonmage series. Set in an ancient Ireland steeped in magic traditions, it tells the story of a young girl who is the one chosen to fill ancient prophecies while her entire world is crashing against the rapidly spreading new Christian beliefs.
This is the second book in the series, and —while the story arc can stand alone—to really understand the large cast of characters, it would be helpful to read Ash’s story in Book 1 first. Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, Ash survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.
Bonded with the baby dragon Péist, Ash receives her true name—Caymin—and discovers her destiny as a dragonmage, one chosen to travel through a time Portal to save other mages and their dragons, prevent a horrific war, and keep the spreading Christians from destroying Ireland’s magic heritage. But Caymin is torn between accepting her role as the one chosen to save her world, and the certainty that doing so will cost everything she holds most dear.
In a way, it’s like reading stories about the Titanic, because we already know how the tragedy plays out. But author Caren Werlinger continues to balance delicately between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know the Christians were eventually successful.
As with Book One, the world building is wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also see the lure of the “what if”. Caymin and Péist each must consider whether their task really justifies the personal toll. This plays out in a very real sense, as Caymin is offered the ultimate “what if”—the chance to grow up with her family, to see them alive and happy instead of murdered when she was a baby. But everything comes at a price, and the cost for that one is a life lived without the magic and the defining bond with her dragon. Both the young mage and her dragon face trials as this version of the classic hero’s quest sets their coming of age crucibles against a backdrop of a world we as readers know will change despite them.
It’s always tough to create a believable middle book in a series arc, but Caren Werlinger succeeds brilliantly. The story arc takes Caymin and Péist both through adventures and through moral dilemmas, resolving them while still leaving enough threads open and a developing crisis to take us to the next book. I enjoyed the way Caymin’s character develops and grows, even as the slightly more alien dragon also tries to find his path as he matures. Caymin’s confusion about her attraction to another girl is sensitively and beautifully handled, fitting well into the context of the strong women who have guided her.
I wouldn’t hesitate to give The Portal five stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, adventure, and coming of age stories. And I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.
**I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
- Book Title: The Portal: Chronicles of Caymin (The Dragon Mage Saga, Book Two)
- Author: Caren J Werlinger
- Genre: YA paranormal fantasy/alternate history
- Publisher: Amazon (December 1, 2016)
- Pages: 280
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Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twentyfive years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine furchildren. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning Rainbow Awards and a 2014 GCLS Award for In This Small Spot. In The Dragonmage Saga, she is getting to explore her love of fantasy in a series of books that adults will enjoy as much as younger readers.