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The Outworlders #1

Dragon's Trail

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"I didn't come here to sell my soul. I came here to buy it back."

Once dubbed “The Deadliest Man Alive,” Jarrod Torrealday is a former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert banned from competition for killing another fencer in a duel. He now scrapes by as a stuntman and technical consultant for low-budget fantasy films.

A young sorcerer from another world offers Jarrod the gig of a lifetime: adviser to the war council for a magical realm teetering on the edge of collapse, with a foreign army massing just beyond its borders.

Swept into a treacherous and deadly world of intrigue and conspiracy, Jarrod soon learns that the enemy mastermind is also from Earth, and has laid the foundations for a new kind of war.

Seamlessly blending hard science with sword and sorcery, Dragon’s Trail is an international bestseller that’s being hailed as the pioneering work of a new genre: the Fantasy Technothriller.


"Malik’s debut novel sparkles with a fresh take on some traditional epic fantasy tropes . . . showcasing Jarrod as James Bond in tarnished armor. Detailed descriptions of equipment and tactics don’t distract from the plot; rather, they add a layer of depth and dimension that carries the tale to the next level. This is a highly enjoyable story for fans of self-aware epic fantasy."
- Publishers Weekly

"Fantasy with a twist . . . executed with verve and intelligence."
"[Dragon's Trail] features immersive detail and hold-your-breath battle scenes."

- The BookLife Prize

"A book to savor and soak in all the details."
-- San Francisco Review of Books

384 pages, ebook

First published October 1, 2016

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About the author

Joseph Malik

2 books66 followers
In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military. He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command.

He has been a longtime panelist and demonstrator at fantasy conventions, speaking as an expert in swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and military tactics and strategy. He has also lectured on fantasy writing and independent publishing at schools and colleges across the Northwest.

His first novel, Dragon’s Trail, became a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in four countries in 2017, reaching #1 in Epic Fantasy in the U.S., Australia, and Canada and #1 in Sword and Sorcery in the UK.

A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Joseph Malik lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. He serves in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a member of SFWA.

Subscribe to his mailing list for updates about new releases, upcoming events, and exclusive offers here.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 88 reviews
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,548 reviews2,934 followers
August 27, 2017
This is one of my SPFBO reads and I have to say this was a mixed one for me. At first, I thought it was an urban fantasy as it focused on our modern-day world, but as the story went on it became clear that this was actually a portal fantasy with the main character being essentially stolen from Earth into another world (a classic medieval one) where he is asked to train the people of that world for an upcoming war.

This book had a lot of potential, but I think for me it just never clicked. The humour of the story is fairly crude and brash and works quite well in a S&S kind of way. We follow Jarrod Torrealday, a famed duelist who turns stunt-man after he's banned from entering more duels after killing one of his fellow contestants, and his adventures in the new world of wizards, magic and war that he's pulled into. It's not a bad concept, except that I found it pretty jarring every time modern-day technology was used or spoken about in the medieval world - for me it didn't 'go' right.

One other very large element of this book is the war, planning for the war, training for the war, and fighting in or before the war. Fighting is a large part of this entire book, and I have said many times before, I'm not a big fan of when fighting and military techniques/training/talk take over the plotline and story. For me personally, I could have easily cut more than half of the fighting and duelling and taunting of this book. It doesn't mean it was badly done, it's just my personal preference that I would rather see character-building and emotion and plot and world-building than fighting.

In the end, this came down to an idea that just didn't work as well as I hoped, and a bit too much fighting. It's by no means a bad read, it was fine, and I read it all, but for me it just never really took off and the fun humour was probably the best part for me. I would give it 2*s, it's an okay read, but it's not a personal favourite of mine. However, I have no doubt that the things I disliked about it will very much appeal to others, so I would recommend it if you do like the things I've said I don't :)
Profile Image for Angel Leya.
Author 77 books78 followers
September 30, 2016
A thoroughly entertaining read!

Once a near celebrity between his skills in fencing competitions and the starlet he was dating, Jarrod's involvement in a duel left another man dead and his life in ruins. So when a sorcerer from another world drags Jarrod home with him and offers him and his friend jobs in their war, it's a bit of a dream come true.

This other world is beautiful, with it's different moons, mythical creatures, and medieval type society (with remarkably better hygiene), and it seems Jarrod was made for it. His mastery of the sword and some accompanying martial arts quickly earns him respect in a world where fighting skills trump nearly everyone.

But he's not up against them.

The true opponent is a sorcerer in the opposing kingdom, whose life on earth gives him much the same advantages that Jarrod has. This is the first rumblings of war, and as such Jarrod may just lose his life in his attempt to redeem it.

This book was incredible. The detailing (from the equipment used to the action in the fight scenes) made the world and characters feel so real and complete, that you don't question anything for a moment.

The action is a slow build at first, and I found myself a little lost among the names of the other world's kingdoms and equipment descriptions, but it's not so lengthy as to slow the pace and there's a map at the front of the book if you need help following along.

The fight scenes are epic, and I felt myself getting sucked in every time, like a fan rooting for a sports team (it would make a great movie!). It was just like "Yaaaasssss! Get him!" And half of that was sparring, but the way Jarrod analyzed the opponent, identifying weaknesses and playing into them, you couldn't help but speed through the scenes with rapt attention. At one point he fights his way out of a situation (that scene REALLY sticks in your mind), but he's not invincible, either.

This is an adult book with a lot of heart, a little humor, epic action, and plenty of swords and sorcery. A fantastic first book, which hits all the right notes.

I received a free ARC of the book, but my opinion is honest and unbiased, especially since this is not my usual read. :)
Profile Image for Assaph Mehr.
Author 5 books385 followers
September 28, 2018
I came across Malik's work through one of his writer's columns which resonated with my experience, and grew very curious to see the results of Malik's efforts. I picked up Dragon's Trail at the soonest opportunity, and enjoyed it tremendously.

What to Expect
An epic fantasy story, wherein a modern-day protagonist is taken from Earth to another world to act as a champion. We are with him as he learns about the politics, culture, and conflicts of the world. Occasional shifts to other point-of-views are interspersed for good dramatic effect.

While the technology is roughly migration-era medieval, society is different than Earth's (more modern attitudes to women's roles). Magic is there in the background, and isn't of the spell-slinging variety. These, taken with the protagonist's modern vernacular, lead to a classic epic fantasy combined with interesting twists.

What I liked
The realistic depiction of historical arms and armour, as well as fighting techniques. The violence is sudden and extremely gory, with the effects and after-effects of the associated adrenaline rush making it all very realistic.

I liked the details in the world-building, the light-touch of magic, and the occasional in-character humour (the scene buying the horse made me chuckle). It's interesting to see how someone highly trained with some limited access to modern tools approaches a medieval society, and the resultant mayhem.

The intelligent language and evocative descriptions lead to an immersive and entertaining read. The concise storytelling style leads to a fast paced adventure. Malik strikes an excellent balance.

What to be aware of
There is an almost fanatical obsession with arms and armour, and those subjects are discussed in depth. For someone with martial arts experience and interest like me this is very engaging, but other readers may find this very much a "guy story". There isn't a great emotional journey for the protagonist (in fact, at time he can be a jerk), but rather this is a very plot-driven epic story of a hyper-competent swordsman leading war in some unconventional ways.

If you love HEMA and want to see some realistic sword fighting in your epic fantasy, this is very much the book for you. Malik achieved his goal, and this book is just as good as many traditionally published epic fantasies. Though the book is self-contained, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the just-released sequel.
Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.
Profile Image for LJ.
408 reviews37 followers
June 26, 2020
I enjoyed reading this book, a first time reading of this authors, strong writing skills. While not something I would ordinarily choose to read, as this book combines two timelines, a present world, and an ability to travel to another world and time. Joseph Malik does an incredibly creative and impressive job of conveying those conditions and abilities with impressive ease. I was immediately captured and enthralled by the story. The author succinctly wrote the story with impressive ease of establishing the worldbuilding, providing logical explanations, likeable characters and blending these elements into an imaginative and captivating story. I am a fan of this trilogy and will read more. Thank you Joseph Malik, impressive work indeed!
4 reviews
May 19, 2018
Dear God, please have someone make this into a movie or a TV series immediately.

Imagine Deadpool running amok through Game of Thrones. Dragon’s Trail combines the “magical-other-world” plot of Magicians, the political machinations of Game of Thrones, and the scientific and technical elements of Jurassic Park, and then turns a horrifically yet hilariously violent Deadpool-style antihero loose in the middle of it. This might be the most fun fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Maybe not the funniest – that honor goes to Discworld – but certainly the most fun. I read it twice, back to back, on KU, and then ordered a paperback.

The research and technical details are delivered in the same way as Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy, as if they had tried their hand at epic fantasy. It's worth reading just for the educational value. At first I kept thinking "that's not right, that's not what this other book said," and then I'd look it up and wow, it's Right. Every. Single. Time. Not just combat, but Malik delves into metallurgy, castle construction, politics, economics, celestial mechanics, and horsemanship. The book takes brief asides out of the story to explain it all, very Crichton/Clancy. I finally just gave up checking his work and let him take me to school. When I got to the end, I had the urge to read it again immediately, applying all I'd learned. It makes me want to go back through all of my fantasy books with a red pen and send them back to the publishers along with a copy of Dragon's Trail. I want to forcefully hurl copies at a more than a few authors.

The worldbuilding and research is what makes the humor even more outrageous. It manages to be side-splittingly funny without being satire. While the author obviously takes this world very seriously, his hero, Jarrod, clearly doesn’t, and the disconnect is genius. Jarrod takes armor and swords made of modern steel into a medieval world, but forgets to take any fucks along with him. The result is like watching someone drive a Hummer through a shopping-mall-sized H.O. train set. And yes, it's every bit as fun as it sounds.

This is my one complaint: he wins almost all his fights. However, it's often hilarious, very Deadpool/Hancock, and every time he wins, he keeps getting himself into worse and worse trouble, because there's a whole Game of Thrones-style political thriller going on around him that he finally gets involved in. What's really remarkable is that the world around him adapts to him as he goes through his own character arc, which is a plot device that I don't remember seeing in fantasy, at least not in other-worlds fantasy. I read a lot of LitRPG, where the hero just tries to adapt and survive the adventure. This book, however, has the world trying every bit as hard to adapt and survive it's encounter with the hero. As fun as this book is, it has surprising depth. It's worth reading several times.

I found Dragon’s Trail by accident on KU as an also-bought while browsing LitRPG. This is not a LitRPG book at all, and I don’t know why Amazon is advertising it as such. (Imagine my shock as Amazon screws yet another promising indie author.) Amazon’s legendary ineptitude may be the sole reason that it isn’t a bestseller. I can't recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for Russell Gray.
400 reviews46 followers
January 25, 2018
A parallel world story more gritty than the usual fare that is very well written and entertaining throughout. Compared to most fantasy authors, Joseph Malik is very informed on fighting and medieval history; and it shows. While it doesn't reach the lengths of Tom Clancy-esque detailing, some readers might find themselves skimming at times as weaponry and armor is described with intricate detail. While I thought it was a little excessive, I also found it refreshing after reading many books where it was obvious that the author knew next to nothing about fighting or history and, after a few google searches, foolishly tried to use terminology as if they did.

The characters are overpowered, but in a very realistic way that's justified by their backgrounds. So while the trope is present, to me it avoided the common pitfalls and maintained a good level of tension and suspense throughout. The main character definitely takes his share of lumps along with his successes.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy, medieval historical fiction, and parallel world stories. I would say it's a must-read for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with a dose of realism and action scenes that are written by someone who knows how to do the damn thing.

2 reviews
June 4, 2017
The new king of worldbuilding.

This blows away every “hard fantasy” I've read. It feels completely real, even though there’s a good dose of magic.

I want to say that again: it feels completely real.

I approached this one with skepticism after reading a comment on a forum about readers contacting this author asking if the book was actually real. I’ve got to say, though, I get it, now. At some points, you do start to wonder if the author has been there. It's unsettling. The details are faultless. The worldbuilding makes perfect sense. The characters are people you want to meet and have a beer with.

It's a brilliant twist on the old chestnut, a boy from Earth goes to a magical world and becomes a wizard. The twist is, he's grown up to be the Big Bad, and our hero is brought in from Earth to advise a neighboring kingdom against him. There’s a taut political thriller under all the swordfights and snark, and the pacing is gorgeous. The writing is skillful and beautiful.

There are no editing errors in this book. It’s written in omni, which is super-old-school, but that gives it a unique charm. The story is told by a fictional narrator, instead of through the POV of the characters like we see in modern fantasy. The narrator injects his personality into the story at points, and he's hilarious, (“his horse, however, had apparently decided that this whole thing was bullshit, because he was long gone.”) All in all, it feels like someone is telling you the story in person instead of feeling like you're watching TV through a book. It's a shame that authors don't do this anymore. (Omni is indeed an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.)

The key is that the worldbuilding details are told to the reader by the narrator instead of told from one character to another ("as you know, Bob . . .") so I can see readers thinking that this is being told from the author's personal experience. This is fantasy, masterfully done. It reads beautifully and goes by much too fast. This will be a binge-worthy series.

I went in a skeptic, and came out a convert. My favorite new author. Book Two, please.
Profile Image for Annie.
3,389 reviews62 followers
October 26, 2017
First published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

Dragon's Trail is book 1 of The Outworlders series by Joseph Malik from Oxblood books.

Scratch beneath the surface of any hardcore LARPer/SCAdian/fantasy/dragon bookworm and you'll likely find someone who deep down really wants to believe that it's possible to hop worlds into a dragon/magic/fantasy realm. Frankly most of us would be up for being a peasant in one of those stories and I bet you most of us would allow ourselves a 5 minute freak out and then say 'I KNEW IT!!'

This book is a crossworld fantasy with a world class fencer/martial artist who's working off a bad load of karma after a duel leaves another competitor dead. He's been drifting from job to job, picking up consultant gigs in the movies, training other martial artists and trying to find his long lost self respect.
Written in 3rd person omniscient, it has such a classic vibe that the entire book almost resonates with pure epic fantasy. The background info and worldbuilding is unparalleled in my experience and I have never seen any novel (letalone a first novel) with such exquisite detail.

This book is intelligently written with complex and believable characters. The dialogue is smooth and the pacing and plotting are beautifully paced and well rendered. I honestly can't find one single quibble and in 472 pages there wasn't one negative note from me. That's not easy for an (almost) 500 page book. I was not yanked out of the story even once.

I really really loved this book and impatiently await the next book(s). Write like the wind, Mr. Malik!

5 stars. Classic fantasy, perfectly executed. A true delight to read!

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.
Profile Image for Pat MacEwen.
Author 18 books7 followers
May 29, 2020
Ever wonder wandered around a RenFaire, or hang out with the Society of Creative Anachronism and wonder what you'd do if somebody offered you (or trapped you into) a jaunt into the midst of the real thing? In this novel, first of The Outworlders series, that's exactly what happens to Jarrod Torealday. He's a master swordsman who was forced to kill another fencer in a duel, and then barred from competition worldwide. He's also an expert on mixed martial arts as well as medieval weapons and tactics. Which comes in handy when he and his buddy, Carter Sorenson (another swordsman, but 7 feet tall!) are recruited to take a year-long sabbatical in Gatesrealm and help their king and his knights figure out how to deal with a sorceror hidden on Earth as a child and brought up knowing a lot of things the people of his home world don't. If they can't figure out how to defeat him and the armies of Gavria backing him, Gatesrealm is doomed. But the pair know their gear and their weapons, they're willing to work hard, and they're smart enough to think outside earthly boxes as well as Gatesrealm's. My favorite exchange between the two comes late in the tale: "I can't believe you brought a gun." "I can't believe you didn't." Well-written, fast-paced battle scenes, excellent descriptions of weapons and their various pluses and minuses.
4,761 reviews52 followers
October 13, 2020
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

A fencing master/martial artist/stunt man/adrenaline junkie is summoned to a high fantasy world, where he is to defend the world against a wizard, who was originally from the fantasy world, but lived on our earth for a while, then went back, and took over a province, once ruled by his family.

Now he's scheming to take over the world.

Our hero bumbles around, killing the occasional mook, then the bad guy kidnaps the princess. Bad mistake.

Fairly good example of the genre, self-aware, but not to its detriment.
Profile Image for Sean.
660 reviews21 followers
January 25, 2019
Received from Oxblood books and Netgalley for honest read and review.
The premise looked really good for this, but I got a bit confused with going back and forth all the time between world's and different characters.

I could not finish this one,not for me
November 7, 2018
Realism in fantasy

I enjoyed this book a lot and found the gritty realism refreshing. I would even say i learned a little about medieval arms and armor along the way. I will definitely be reading farther in this series.
15 reviews
June 24, 2017
So good I read it twice

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not your average reader. I've been around long enough to develop some unique preferences in fiction. But if,like me, you grew up with Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, this might be a book you would enjoy. It's got a flawed wise-cracking disgraced ex-Olympian and ex-stuntman hero - with issues - leaping into a world far, far away and leading a rag tag group of companions in an epic battle of good versus evil. What's not to like?
Profile Image for Sara Robinson.
2 reviews
September 5, 2016
Tense, intelligent, fresh, and very, very funny. There are shudder-up-the-spine moments and stand-up-and-cheer moments, all delivered with dialogue and descriptions so smooth and polished it’s as if they were turned on a lathe. The world he describes is so convincing that I expect we'll eventually see a subReddit devoted to finding it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My honest review is that five pages in I suspected that this might the work of an established author writing fantasy under a pseudonym, and by the scene where the protagonist is sleepless after the first duel I felt certain of it.

Dragon’s Trail is scary, violent, and laugh-out-loud funny, yet also philosophical and thought provoking, as the author seizes on the cross-worlds concept to spotlight the moral issues facing the modern warrior. As a veteran, he could have rammed this idea down our throats, but instead he frames it so deftly and artfully that it ends up making George R.R. Martin's “gray morality” look like it's done with a clown hammer. This promises to be an incredible series, a stand-up-and-cheer alternative for those (like me) who enjoy the tension and the vibrant world of “A Song of Ice and Fire” but find the constant murder grinding and noisy.

My one nit to pick is that he does a lot of technical exposition, although it’s very well done and it all gets worked in as part of the story so it never once lags. You get the sense that he’s explaining it as simply and painlessly as possible. It also helps that the author knows his stuff. This book had me googling local fencing schools about halfway through, and I’m taking my first lesson next week. :) Also, I’d like to see him do more with the female characters because they are awesome but underutilized.

I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars. I would give it 4 stars for the exposition and clearly being a guys' fantasy book (full of fights, casual sex and sword-nerdery) but 5 stars because it's a beautifully-written book with tremendous depth in spite of all that. I still find it hard to believe that this is a first effort by an indie author. It’s what I’d expect from a major literary figure who was starting a fantasy series. There are parts that I bookmarked because I knew I'd want to read them again. 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5. I’m holding my breath for the sequel.
Profile Image for Hayden.
11 reviews
October 7, 2016
Fantastical realism on an unprecedented scale. Hard fantasy of the first order. A masterful work.

Full disclosure: I met Joseph Malik a few years ago at a fantasy convention where he was demonstrating various combat techniques and speaking as an expert on military strategy. He is a brilliant and articulate speaker, with a seemingly endless reservoir of knowledge about the finer points of making war. I have also seen him shoulder-throw a man in full armor while wearing a jacket and tie.

When I learned from a mutual friend that Mr. Malik had written a fantasy novel, I hoped for that rare fantasy novel that gets it’s fight scenes correct. What I got was so much more: an epic-scale fantasy written in breathtaking detail by a master swordsman and brilliant military strategist.

It’s not just the fighting. The details, and the realism are startling. (Sword frogs! Di Grassi thrusts! Riveted maille!) I can’t imagine the amount of research Mr. Malik put into this novel. If you enjoy realism in your fantasy, you’ve been waiting for this book.

Just one example: one of the characters carries a greatsword with the swordbelt on one shoulder, like a purse. I own a greatsword and when I carry mine, I rest it on my shoulder like a spear. It is impossible to draw a large sword from behind your back (Conan-style), the way movies and books always show. But, hanging the belt on one shoulder, the way Mr. Malik writes it, a greatsword carries comfortably and very practically, and very easily-accessible. Here’s the thing: I OWN this sword and this has never occurred to me. That moment when an author knows more about your own sword than you do.

With hundreds if not thousands of details like this, the world turns like a jeweled watch around the characters. The story is an outrageously-witty, new take on the parallel-universes trope, masterfully-told by a man deeply-knowledgable, and obviously a man passionate about his work. This could only have been a leviathan effort and obviously a lifelong labour of love. I am glad that someone finally wrote this book, and I am very glad that it was Mr. Malik. Bravissimo, maestro.
Profile Image for Seregil of Rhiminee.
590 reviews39 followers
May 19, 2018
Originally published at Risingshadow.

Joseph Malik's debut novel, Dragon's Trail, is the first novel of The Outworlders fantasy series. It's a captivating independently published novel that takes readers on an exciting journey into another world.

When I began to read this novel, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it, because Joseph Malik was an unknown debut author to me, but I soon found myself enjoying what I was reading. In my opinion, this novel is surprisingly compelling, because it's refreshingly different from other stories that tell of people who travel to fantasy worlds and become heroes.

Dragon's Trail is a combination of different elements ranging from epic fantasy and science fiction to sword and sorcery. It can be classified as hard and realistic portal fantasy, because it features gritty realism. I think it's good to point out that this novel is not children's fantasy fiction, because it has adult language, adult situations and depictions of violence that are suitable only for mature readers.

Dragon's Trail tells of Jarrod Torrealday who is taken to another world by a sorcerer called Crius Lotavaugus. The wizard has also taken Carter Sorenson there. At first Jarrod doesn't believe what he hears from Carter and thinks that they're in a reality show, but then he realises that everything about their situation is true. Carter tells Jarrod that a war is about to begin in the world and there are people who need both of them to participate in it. Soon Jarrod meets Crius and learns that he has to counter a threat caused by another Earthling who is a great sorcerer.

The story gradually grows from this interesting premise to an enjoyable tale of action, politics, magic and war.

Jarrod Torrealday and Ulo Sabbaghian are intriguing characters. Joseph Malik has created both of them well and writes realistically about their lives, because he fluently advances the story by writing about their deeds and tells of what happens to them. Jarrod was once dubbed "The Deadliest Man Alive", but his life has changed. Although he now has a bit different kind of life, he's still a great and talented swordsman. He has his own strengths and weaknesses that manifest themselves in his character as he prepares himself for war. Ulo Sabbaghian is a powerful sorcerer who was banished to Earth before birth. His father's magic runs strong in his veins. He has used his gift and abilities to achieve many things, including power and stature, after returning to his original homeland.

One of the best things about this novel is that the author has paid attention to several details and has researched many things. His attention to details throughout the story is remarkable. The fight scenes are exceptionally good and detailed. I admit that I'm not an expert on elements related to combat, swordsplay and horsemanship, but the author's way of writing about these things feels realistic and his expertise in them is evident in the story.

The worldbuilding is impressive, because the author has created a vast fantasy world with its own countries, races, creatures and magic. The various areas and places are described surprisingly fluently as the story begins to unfold. The fantasy world is intriguingly beautiful and vibrant place with quite a lot of realism.

The fusion of medieval and modern elements works perfectly in this novel. The author has created an interesting concept and uses it to his advantage by writing about how magic and technology meet each other in a secondary world. The political elements are also handled well and it's interesting to read about them, because things advance at a steady pace.

The author writes intriguingly about behavioural and cultural differences between Earth and the fantasy world. Things concerning sex, sexuality, contraception and violence are handled in a fluent way. The gritty and violent elements spice up the story in a cool way, because the author doesn't shy away from realism.

This novel has bits of humour throughout the story that lighten the story and increase its entertainment values. The protagonist's comments and other characters' remarks are often quite amusing and made me chuckle out loud. It's great that the humour works well, because it's one of the reasons why the story is enjoyable.

There's something about this novel that slightly reminds me of Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Michael Crichton. It's kind of like an exotic hybrid of Clancy, Grisham and Crichton. It's distinctly different from the works written by these authors, but it also has a few things in common with them, because the author builds up atmosphere in a way that echoes the atmosphere featured in them.

Although I enjoyed Dragon's Trail and found it entertaining, I have to mention that it has a few flaws and imperfections regarding character development and the action-packed storyline, because I would've liked to see more in-depth character development and a bit less action. These flaws are, however, easy to overlook due to the author's enthusiastic storytelling and effortless worldbuilding.

I give this novel strong four stars on the scale from one to five stars, because it's good fantasy entertainment with a focus on fast-paced and action-packed storytelling. I look forward to reading the sequel, because it'll be fun to see what happens next. The story has all the makings of a future classic, so I'm excited to see where the author takes it next.

My final words are:

Joseph Malik's Dragon's Trail is delightfully fast-paced and intriguing fantasy entertainment for adults who are looking for something exciting to read. It's easy to like the story, because it's entertaining and moves swiftly forward. This novel is great and immersive fun for adult readers who enjoy gritty and action-filled fantasy stories.
Profile Image for emily.
107 reviews
October 20, 2016
Dragon's Trail is such a great fantasy novel! I really enjoyed it! It was captivating from the first page and what really pulled me in was the language used in the book. It really made me feel in that medieval time period. I do think though, that there was a lot of stuff happening at once in the beginning, which was a tad overwhelming.

Jarrod is a wonderful main character, he is courageous and strong with some humor to him which really lightens up the story. There is so many well-developed characters, it's really nice to see that! Dragon's Trail is also filled with so many awesome mythical creatures!

Anyone who wants a short fantasy-thriller-adventure book should definitely check this one out! Overall I would give Dragon's Trail five stars!
Profile Image for Jordan (Forever Lost in Literature).
806 reviews102 followers
October 20, 2016
Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

If you're looking for some high quality fantasy (or fiction in general) by an indie author, then put your brakes on and have a seat, because you have reached your destination. Joseph Malik combines masterful prose and an intricate, exciting fantasy plot to create an incredible first book in Dragon's Trail.

Where do I even begin?

This hard fantasy, written with great attention paid to every last detail. Malik's writing is both effortless and finely written. The world-building is extremely well done and so realistic that I was able to easily fall into this world and enjoy every minute.

The story begins when Jarrod, one of the world's best fencers, is taken to another and asked to participate in their war. Before we move onto more details about the rest of this book, I'd like to take a brief moment to discuss this other world. I was fascinated by this world, which seems to be medieval-inspired, but also wholly its own. It's brilliantly gripping and fits in perfectly with other classic fantasy books that explore worlds outside of the earth.

There is quite a bit of exposition in the beginning of this book, but it is done in a way that makes you want to keep reading. We, the readers, learn about this otherworld just as Jarrod learns about it; when he wakes up confused and uncertain in an unknown place, we have those same questions, which allows us to learn at the same pace as Jarrod.

Jarrod is an endearing character, and this includes both his strengths and his faults. I loved how ready for adventure he was throughout this entire book. Of course he complained about conditions or events he wasn't thrilled about, but he just kept going. He's humorous and seems easily underestimated, but in only a moment's time he can delve into his deep knowledge and fighting skill, a duality that I truly appreciated in Malik's writing.

Action scenes are available in abundance throughout this book, so if that's something you love you you should pick this up right away. Not only is the action exciting, it is also original and carefully thought out to make it as authentic as possible. Now, I'm no expert on swordplay or any of the like, but I truly believe in Malik's knowledge and understanding of this subject, as he himself has skill in these areas. Overall, I am giving Dragon's Trail four wonderful stars!
6 reviews
March 7, 2018
Dragon's Trail is kind of everything I wanted in a bloody fantasy epic: gritty and violent, earnest and sincere, witty and cinematic, and grounded with the perfect amount of real-world historical and technical fact. Any one of those would have made this a solid read, but together they make something really special.

There's this ring of authenticity to this world that elevates it above usual hack-and-slash fantasy; the swordplay techniques alone thoroughly hooked me, but the entire book is littered with small details that immerse the reader. I have to respect that level of research.

This book is funny as hell, too. There really is an art to banter, to quips, even to toilet humor, and Malik's dialogue and voice absolutely shines. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that my favorite scene involved a hostage, a knighting, and a twist of dramatic irony that is nothing less than beautiful.

There are flaws, but of course there are. It brings me back to what I thought while reading Tolkien for the first time: It doesn't need to be perfect to be amazing. Flaws aren't pretty, sure, but they're weighed against the qualities of any given work. You can forgive a lot, given a few diamonds in the rough.

Dragon's Trail skips around a bit, and is oddly proportioned. Or maybe paced is a better word. There's a great scene where Jarrod's buying a war horse, and it's just hilarious. His horse needs a second, smaller horse. So he gets one. And then, his riding horse is just sorta tacked on. 'And also, he got this other horse, too. It's neat.' Kinda like that. It's understandable to skip the boring stuff and get the reader where the action is, but there's a limit to that thinking, and Dragon's Trail might have cut a little too much away in service to the plot. It's almost narratively jarring, how often we hear a summary of what just happened. Took me out of the story, at times. That's my subjective opinion, anyway.

So, yes, my biggest complaint for this book is that I wanted more of it. I will definitely be buying the sequel when it comes out.
Profile Image for Lisa Lenox.
879 reviews14 followers
February 9, 2018
What an unexpected treasure this is! A different take on the "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" tale (sans Arthur), our hero-Jarrod-is a disgraced Olympic swordsman who is hired by a wizard from another world to assist in a war. In a 21st century-meets-the-medieval-world tale, our hero becomes truly heroic. Helped along by his home-world friend Carter Sorenson-a Viking ancestor of epic proportions, Jarrod makes good use of his martial skills in his new home. Their chief foe-and the reason they've been tapped-is an expatriate wizard who was raised on Earth, but now has his own kingdom, which he's seeking to expand. Jarrod makes as many enemies as friends with his snarky repartee and mad ninja skills.

Malik apparently has a vast knowledge of weaponry and fighting, and makes excellent use of it in some of the best fight scenes I've ever read. Excellent editing (an occasional lapse from past-tense to present, and a single sentence that autocorrect messed up-but just a SINGLE one) make the book a pleasure to read, and makes it easy to slip into the world of swords and sorcerers. Witty dialog adds to the overall awesomeness. There are some tongue-thrashing names which I eventually just bleeped over rather than tried to pronounce, but in a way they added to the book rather than detracting. The fact that I got it for free from Bookbub didn't hurt either. I did check to see if the sequel is out yet, which I would have gladly paid for, but alas, it's not been published yet.

I give Dragon's Trail 5 epic stars. I'd give it 6 if I could!
1 review
December 10, 2018
Having been an avid reader of all sorts of fiction (particularly historical & fantasy) for 5+ decades, I can honestly say I've never read a book quite like Dragon's Trail. The humans, the other humanoids, the animals, the realm, the humor! All are compelling & addicting. Did I need to look up descriptions & photos of some of the uber-complex weaponry, military gear, & martial arts moves described by Mr. Malik? Absolutely! But that's part of the allure of this book. It challenges the reader's imagination... BIG time. The fact that Malik has been deployed back to duty in the Reserves means fans of DT will be forced to wait indefinitely for the second book in his Outworlders series. Sigh. I've no doubt it will be worth it. But if I'd known how hooked I'd become by Jarrod Torrealday's saga, I'd have waited to read it until there were multiple installments already in print. By comparison, everything in my library looks pretty lacklustre right now.
Profile Image for Kay Ling.
Author 6 books81 followers
July 11, 2017
When I read the synopsis: a sorcerer from another world hiring a hero from ours, I knew this was a book I had to read. I'm a fan of portal stories. There's something appealing about being able to step through into another world and travel back and forth at will. My own novels are portal stories, although very different from this one. This book reminded me a bit of Michael Sullivan's novels, in that the characters are humorous and likable, the dialogue is witty, and the situations the characters find themselves in are action-packed and entertaining. The author's knowledge about military tactics and weaponry, particularly medieval weaponry, added a lot to the story. There isn't a dull moment in this book, and despite having it's share of bloodshed and violence, which I typically avoid, I really enjoyed the story and look forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for L. Rice.
Author 9 books373 followers
June 24, 2018
Honestly, I’m torn between a 4 and 5 star here, call it a 4.5, LOL. It’s strength is in some ways its weakness... badassery. It’s a bit like watching John Wick, I find myself enjoying those movies even as I roll my eyes at parts of its over-the-top nature. And yet, like the Wick flicks, that’s exactly what they’re intended to be, so I try not to judge against the author succeeding in writing the story as intended. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but by the end I was kind of used to the “god of war” language. The technical elements are a lot of fun if you are into such things, like myself. And the Indiana Jones moment towards the end was nice, it was pretty much to the point of not wanting to see another fight anyhow.

The modern language of the portal fantasy was also something to get used to... I’m not typically a portal kind of reader.
Profile Image for Caroline Walker.
155 reviews6 followers
April 17, 2018
Fantastic! The perfect meld of Medieval and 21st century technology, fighting, and politics. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a modern knight became a medieval knight? Well you need to read this book.
The fighting scenes were vivid with the perfect attention to detail.
The pace is a bit slow-going at first but gradually builds and picks up speed with some unexpected twists and turns.
I absolutely love books that have the small details that paint a picture for you but without going crazy and describing the details of every freaking leaf on a tree. The book walks this fine line the whole time and delivers the story from a unique vantage point.
April 12, 2019
I really loved the technical details about fighting in armour. I loved the clever understanding of why tech hadn't progressed and really enjoyed the management of intrigue where Earthlings totally have the upper hand not because they're better but there's just so much more of us red in tooth and claw. If you're wanting deep character development, not so much, but hey I've got teenage daughters and I don't need that when I read a book. Would moan and say female characters weren't well developed but actually the blokes weren't that great either. Stayed up far too late reading it and it made me happy.
Profile Image for E.G. Stone.
Author 20 books77 followers
January 7, 2020
Dragon’s Trail by Joseph Malik is a fantasy techno-thriller, which is to say it is a mash of two genres that rarely get seen together. The magical nature of fantasy—with elves and men riding about on horses, wielding swords—combined with the detail-oriented techno-thriller, which uses technology to solve whatever horrid problem is facing the main character and the world that particular day. This story follows two people from Earth: Jarrod, a former fencing and martial-arts master who now works as a stuntman; and Carter, a former linebacker who has a penchant for medieval style fighting. These two are summoned to Gateskeep, where they are tasked with getting the army up to snuff in order to combat a sorcerer named Ulo. Jarrod and Carter do this, only they bring some of the might and knowledge of Earth with them. The result? A fantasy with huge amounts of actual information on fighting and strategy, where the characters have an advantage and are still faced with struggles, and where the major conflict hinges on bringing a gun to a knife fight, relatively speaking.

Definitely an excellent book!
25 reviews3 followers
June 19, 2017
A rare find indeed

It's been a long time since I have enjoyed an epic fantasy as much as this one. Malik has a great knowledge of not just medieval combat but of the weapons, the metallurgy, the armor, and as far as I can tell, personal combat experience to back it up.
He kept me reading without a break until it was done. That doesn't happen often either. I really hope he's going to be around for a long while because he shows every sign of becoming one of the best. I think I'm going to go read it again. Gotta make sure it really was that good, right? Go read it. Great fun!
43 reviews8 followers
June 9, 2020
An interesting merge of the current world to a medieval world via a magician created portal. It is fast paced page turner that I wanted to keep reading. A bit of a military techno thriller meets sword and sorcery (well more sword than sorcery). A little struggle with keeping some of the various characters and locations straight as there are may along with the political slant that runs through it. Overall a great book in a little bit of a hybrid genre. Look forward to seeing where he takes this world and can he build it out further and keep the stories unique that is does not become sword fight after sword fight.
19 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2018
Dragon's Trail scratches a particular itch. An olympic fencer / martial arts wunderkind is recruited by a wizard to come to the wizard's world to save it from a big bad guy who was also from earth. It is super-violent and fetishes medieval arms and armor. It is also compulsively readable. It reminded me of Conquistador by Stirling or the Merchant Princes series by Stross, but with added viscera and gore.
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