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A Guile of Dragons

(A Tournament of Shadows #1)

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  44 reviews
It’s dwarves vs dragons in this origin story for Enge’s signature character, Morlock Ambrosius!

Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.

The dwarves are cut cut o
Paperback, 280 pages
Published August 24th 2012 by Pyr (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.56  · 
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 ·  304 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

James Enge's A Guile of Dragons is actually the first book of a "prequel" series called A Tournament of Shadows featuring his celebrated character Morlock Ambrosius. Not having read the original books, I'm sure my experience is probably going to differ wildly from that of a reader who is already familiar with the world and character, but knowing beforehand that I was going into an origins-type story was good preparation fo
Bob Milne
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it
In this first book of his Morlock Ambrosius origin story, James Enge provides us with a 'classic' epic fantasy tale, centered around the clash between dwarves and dragons, augmented with a little alternative history, a story of parallel worlds, and a really interesting take on the Arthurian legends. It's an odd mix of storytelling elements, but A Guile of Dragons works quite well, despite a few awkward passages.

The opening chapters certainly felt a bit rushed, as if Enge were impatient to have A
Michael Cummings
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
High Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same basic mythos with a highly Western European (and generally, British) composition, many chide that too much of fantasy falls into this trap and needs to be refreshed with something edgier, or something more original. The end result is generally a poor facsimile that inevitably fails to shine in comparison.

"A Guile of Dragons" is not some mere copy.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Okay, this was a weird book. *Damn* weird. It covers the birth, childhood, and young-adulthood of Morlock Ambrosius, so it acts as (part one of) a prequel to the previous Morlock books. But, here's the thing, it turns out Morlock was raised by dwarves. (Maybe this was mentioned earlier, but I forgot.) Dwarves have a complex culture and history, and the humans in that world *also* have a complex culture and history, and none of this history overlaps ours at all, and the upshot is that we're readi ...more
Clay Kallam
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Morlock Ambrosius, son of Merlin and Nimue from the Arthurian legends, has a crooked shoulder, a resistance to fire and a dark pysche that probably would result in a 21st century prescription for Welbutrin.

He returns in “Guile of Dragons” (Pyr, $17.95, 278 pages), which is book one of the Tournament of Shadows, and which appears to be James Enge’s backstory for the Morlock readers have encountered in three previous books. This is all good news, for Enge is a more than capable writer and Morlock
The plot is quick moving; readers might just have to swallow some confusion along the way. Coupled with Enge’s fantastic prose, the pages will probably turn themselves. A Guile of Dragons isn’t long, but it is quite amazing to see how much the author packed into its pages – from incredible world building, to fantastic (if haunted) characters, complex history and some traditional fantasy elements that will put readers in the mind of the fantasy greats. A Guile of Dragons truly proves that a book ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
James Enge's Morlock stories are fantastic. If you're not reading them yet, you should correct that oversight as soon as possible. A Guile of Dragons marks the beginning of a prequel series telling of Morlock Ambrosius's early life (and as a side note, I think you could start either with Guile or the previous trilogy). It takes place in a rich, complex world, and Enge is a master stylist. In some ways, his stories are reminiscent of classic fantasy novels, but there's a unique sensibility to the ...more
Stacey O'Neale
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was reviewed by Michael Cummings, senior reviewer with the Fantasy Book Addict.

High Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same basic mythos with a highly Western European (and generally, British) composition, many chide that too much of fantasy falls into this trap and needs to be refreshed with something edgier, or something more original. The end result is generally a poor facsimile
Dnf at 14%. I didn’t know this was a prequel until after I was bored/lost. I miiiight come back after I’ve read the other Morlock books, but I’m not sure I’ll even get to that point.
Clay Haase
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Review brought by Geekly Review

A Guile of Dragons (A Tournament of Shadows, Book 1), by James Enge, is a high fantasy novel set as a prequel for Enge’s character, Ambrosius, or Morlock syr Theorn. Introducing us to a small cast of recurring characters and with a perhaps initially surprising (short) length, it has a richness and fullness to its plot, world, and characters that is absolutely refreshing amidst the endless list of dark, realistic, and surprisingly non-magical fantasy books out the
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel absolutely lived up to the standard set by the books in the original Morlock the Maker series. There’s something unique about Enge’s writing that I still can’t quite put my finger on – something that marks it as distinctly different from any of the other books (fantasy or otherwise) that I’ve ever read. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I first cracked the spine on The Wolf Age, but it didn’t take long for me to lose myself in it. Enge isn’t the most verbose or descriptive writer, but he ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
A Guile of Dragons by James Enge features the return of Morlock Ambrosius though not in quite the same way as the previous novel, The Wolf Age. I rather loved the The Wolf Age with the fantastic character of Morlock and an original and fascinating setting it was a high water mark for the first three Morlock novels. A Guile of Dragons takes things back to the start detailing the birth and rise of Morlock Ambrosius and marks the beginning of a new serious of Morlock novels.

Of course, given that I
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Normally, I'm all for reading novels in chronological order, even if they weren't written that way. But this book (as I assume subsequent prequels will be) would be far less comprehensible and interesting if I had not already read Blood of Ambrose, This Crooked Way, and The Wolf's Age. Enge's fiction has deep roots; these are stories that feel like they go on forever (in the sense that there's always more to them than is being said, not in the sense that they are boring). This book reveals thing ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Posted on The Qwillery first.

A Guile of Dragons is not your everyday fast-food fantasy book. James Enge writes full-course meal fantasy, and it should be appreciated as such. For anyone looking for a quick and easy hack and slash story, don't be fooled by the page count. Enge packs in a lot of depth and care in a short amount of pages. Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to frighten anyone off from reading this engaging and thoughtful book. In fact, I think it's the perfect blend of o
Brittney Tyler
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book because it is my favorite sub-genre of fantasy-epic fantasy. It was also about one of my favorite all-time characters- Merlin and his descendents. I have to admit that the fact we were dropped into this complex world without a lot of explanation was kind of confusing, but the information in the back of the book was really helpful. There was also a few slow parts where the narrative dragged a little, but once I reached part 3 and 4, the book flew by. A
I finished it. Read the whole thing. But... meh.

Would have liked it better had it been either a story steeped in the Merlin/Arthurian legend, OR a completely unique fantasy story. But as it was, the whole Merlin/Nimue angle seemed lazy, a cop-out. This was fanfic, starting with existing, well known characters so the author didn't need to bother creating his own backstory for his world.

And it could have been such a good world! But... trying to keep tying in the Merlin story just held it back. Di
K.V. Johansen
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In this, Enge goes back to tell a story of the young Morlock Ambrosius we've met as a much older man in this earlier books. Those are written as a series of stand-alones, but this one is the start of a named series so I'm assuming it's going to be an extended story meant to be read in sequence. For those who haven't read the earlier three, A Guile of Dragons might be just as good a starting point with the character as Blood of Ambrose, though I found that knowing where Morlock ends up later cast ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't call James Enge unknown or unsung among fantasy authors these days. Clearly he is known and must sell fairly well, or Pyr wouldn't keep taking chances on him. We seem to be rich with talent in this age, given the Rothfusses and Weekses and Abercrombies, but I still feel that Enge doesn't get the recognition or fame he richly deserves. The tales of Morlock the Maker get better with each book that is released, and this latest - A Guile of Dragons - is no different. Do yourself a favor a ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Only later realized this is a prequel, and I can see now why the beginning was so hard for me to understand. As an Enge-naive reader, I know some Arthurian legends, and the name Morlock, but nothing of the latter's exploits. I am more interested in reading more of this line, but also the books that came before the prequel. Definitely a good, intense and character-depth "quick" read. Lot of ground covered in 300 pages, and lots of story lines that left me scratching my head (refer to my first sen ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked this one, its hard to estimate what's going to be happening and it has an original story idea who is good maintained throughout the book.
just the dragon vs dwarfs is not a new theme but its done with a new touch and a blend of old Norse tales. Then add some stuff like undeads, a magicians son and an expedition that are lost together with deadly dragons that are cunning and smart and dwarfs and yov get this book.
Kelly Flanagan
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A surprise read for me and a happy surprise it is! This was a great book showcasing a talent I'd yet to hear of till now, James Enge. I nabbed this book as a last thought at the library and was thrilled with his characters as well as his take on dragons. Something new in my world and I'd felt tired of reading about dragons for a while and now there's a series that brought me back. Yay!
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Did not finish.

This book was recommended to me and sounded interesting. I began reading it and then found out that it is a prequel. I found the writing style disjointed and I kept trying to remember the Arthurian legends because of the names Merlin and Nimue, but what was written made no sense.

Not a book I'd recommend.
Brian Palmer
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I hadn't realized this was a prequel, which explains perhaps why the book felt so distracted. Characters were introduced for no apparent purpose; the characters of Merlin and Nimue (who occupy the first and last chapters of the book) are completely absent through most of the book. As a standalone book, it's rocky.
Beth Rosen
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just finished this book & really liked it. I loved the dwarf culture - complex and believable. Really absorbing. I didn't realize that it was a prequel. It stands alone as an intriguing book. I can't wait to read the other books in the series.
David Miller
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another first-class fantasy from James Enge. An interesting story about interesting people living in a different place than we do; obviously informed by the author's classical background but not recognizably a retread of any other stories, characters, or places. Very much worth your time.
Darya Kowalski
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, young-adult
A bit difficult to get into the story at first as it provides a lot of foundational information about Merlin and Nimue, but it does eventually pick up the tempo to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. It is a different perspective of the old legends.
Corrie Haffly
Aug 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I've only given up on a handful of books in my life. I really wanted to like this book, because it smacks of Arthurian legend and Tolkein and dragons all in one book, and I even read the end, which was dramatic, but I couldn't force myself to slog through the middle to get there.
Sep 03, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-hold
Moving this off of my currently reading shelf for now. The first 100 pages didn't really grab me, but it's usually not a great idea to start a series with a prequel, so I'll begin at the proper beginning in 2013 and see if I want to come back to this.
David Marshall
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A genuinely impressive fantasy that manages to provide a coherent context for a "Merlin" story.
Dec 01, 2013 added it
My review here.
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James Enge lives in northwest Ohio with his wife and two crime-fighting, emotionally fragile dogs. He teaches Latin, Greek and classical civilization at a medium-sized public university. His stories (frequently featuring Morlock Ambrosius) have appeared in Black Gate , at Every Day Fiction , in the Stabby-Award-winning Blackguards and elsewhere. His first novel, Blood of Ambrose was nominate ...more

Other books in the series

A Tournament of Shadows (3 books)
  • Wrath-Bearing Tree (A Tournament of Shadows, #2)
  • The Wide World's End (A Tournament of Shadows, #3)
“Maybee there is no guile here," Deor suggested. "Perhaps it is just a group of dragons who have come together to raid the hold."
"The diffirence? if they pretend to cooperate ... they must cooperate to pretend. It would be worse than a guile.”
More quotes…