Hazel in “The Final Rider” is a kind of protagonist I haven’t encountered before, but hope we get to have more of in the future. Forced to leave her little village, Hazel toils away in a mine, not wanting to be noticed by anyone, when she uncovers a dragon egg. When it hatches for her, she becomes the first, and last, dragon rider since dragons and the majority of magic left their world centuries ago. In a land with tense alliances and creepy, mysterious witches, Hazel is thrust out of her simple life into one of violence and adventure—both of which she doesn’t want anything to do with being so introverted, and easily overwhelmed with people and the luxury suddenly a part of her daily life. Hazel is not the confident YA fantasy heroine that has become so common today, which makes her incredibly relatable and likeable, even if at times I wanted to shake her.
A lot of Hazel’s journey in this first book is simply learning—learning how to read, defend herself, and what it means to be a dragon rider. There isn’t a lot threatening her early on, though many claim that there are others out there who will wish her or her baby dragon harm. It’s not the most exciting of plotlines, but the book does split it’s POV between Hazel and a few other characters that are much more intense and, at times, a little scary with the kind of creatures those characters encounter. While Hazel is oblivious to these other characters, they aren’t oblivious to her—or at least not her dragon. But why those characters need anything from the dragon remains a bit of a mystery, even toward the end.
That was my biggest/only issue with this book. So much of the story is very low stakes, focusing mainly on Hazel and showing her growth—very minuscule growth at times—into someone a tad more confident then how she started the story. Even the “conflict” didn’t seem to warrant some of the characters major decisions at the end of the book. Which made this first book feel a bit too much like a prologue to the world as a whole. Not a ton happens, and what does, is mainly used as a way set up what the true plot of the series is—which will be addressed in a later story. I wish more had happened in this book beyond training and travel, hence the 4 stars, but I do appreciate that Hazel was a softer heroine then is typical in YA chosen-one fantasies. Which, by the way, if you are looking for more chosen-one fantasy stories with sweet romances, and dragons, “The Final Rider” would be a cute one to try! And thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review honestly!
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