The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

SPFBO: The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

Welcome to the Semi-Finals stage of SPFBO 6! As you know, we already cut 25 books from our batch of 30 and announced our semi-finalists. Check out my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page for more info! In the next few weeks, we’ll review our semi-finalists in the same order as we announced them, starting with The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren. We won’t be adding our ratings just yet (I’ll update this post later) to keep the race to the finalist spot interesting. The order of the reviews within a post will be the following: first will be the person who picked the book as a semi-finalist (in this case Jen), and then the others in alphabetical order.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at our first semi-finalist!

About the Book
Series: stand-aloneGenre: Fantasy
Date of Publishing: September 25th 2019Publisher: self-published
The Blurb
The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships.

But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west.

Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire.

With bonus novelette: Forego Quest

What if you were the hero of every song, story, and legend?
What if you didn’t want to be?
Find out in this hilarious fantasy short

Review

Jen

I wasn’t sure about The Dragon’s Banker when I saw it. I loved the cover and I like finance, surprisingly, considering I hate math and balancing my check-book used to mean ‘round everything up a couple of bucks to cover banks fees’ but I did kind of think to myself “hmm a book about a banker…this might be a real good way to fall asleep”. Obviously, it proved me wrong.

***

Sailor, our main character, is kind of like the Warren Buffet of the banking world. He understands money and is pretty good at figuring out where and what to invest in, so when Alkazarian (the Dragon) invited (well, kidnapped technically) him to meet, and hired him on the spot to make his fortune relevant in this new world of paper money, and gave him a timeframe of two years to do it, Sailor, was up for the challenge (though officially, he didn’t have a choice because when dealing with dragons who does?).

Sailor has to somehow convert the Dragon’s fortune, in gold and other raw materials, into paper while making sure all the loopholes and taxes are covered and paid – this is a little like money laundering but legal (mostly) and I had a lot of fun watching Sailor work out how to turn this fortune into a profitable corporation. Especially through the ups and downs and trying to find other ways to make the failed attempts to pay off. 

Sailor was a likeable guy – smart, decent and hardworking, who genuinely seemed to care about people and not just the money, though he definitely cared about that too. So, it was really fun to see someone like that succeed and the little guys he helped along the way thrive with him. Sometimes, I did feel when everything was going his way, that the solutions have been a little on the convenient side…that is until it wasn’t anymore and when it goes to hell, it does it with gusto.

The writing feels more like that classic’s kind of style, it took me a chapter to get with the flow. The book was well-paced and quick, with touches of dry humor here and there. The financial parts are explained just enough to understand and be more exciting you’d ever expect commodity trading could be, but not so over-explained that they are boring as all hell. Or at least I didn’t think they were boring but I do like finance so it may be a “me” thing.

The ending was a bit on the weak side, for me. I loved parts of it, I didn’t love the letter/explanation but the rest worked. Especially everything to do with the consulate guy. Trying to be vague here because spoilers but those weaker parts, in the end, were my only real sticking points in an otherwise really great story. That and that I was not quite as emotionally attached to Sailor as I’d have liked but I did enjoy his character and others a lot. So, for me, even with a few minor quibbles The Dragon’s Banker was just an enjoyable read.

I am hoping this book will hit the mark with my fellow judges’ cos I’d love to see this one make it to the finals.

Belle

I feel quite conflicted about this book. While I didn’t dislike it, it was not a book that particularly engaged me, and at several points I considered DNFing.

The writing style was engaging, and the basic premise is interesting enough, but I often found that the detail given to economic practices was overwhelming and unnecessary. It threw me out of the story several times. That said, I did like how it explored a conundrum I haven’t seen anywhere else – what’s a dragon in possession of a significant horde supposed to do when the world moves on to a cash-based economy?

The worldbuilding was occasionally lacking. By the end of the book, I still had little idea of the world both culturally and geographically, despite trips to several different locations.

The characters were also a bit hit or miss for me. The main character, Sailor Kelstern, was moderately irritating to me the whole time, with occasional flashes of amusement. I didn’t feel like there was much opportunity to get to know the secondary characters, but there were several that I would have liked to know more about.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable enough book and does a decent job of subverting the chosen one trope. If you want to try something a little different, it could be worth picking up.

Nick

This was an interesting and different kind of read for me. It was refreshing in a lot of ways and downright fun at times. The main character being a banker is also not something you see in a lot of fantasy these days. So when I began reading The Dragon’s Banker it really did appeal to me on a number of levels. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of “violent” fantasy lately and this one kind of got me out of that mindset for a while, which I must admit was quite a nice change of pace.

Any story that deals with dragons is also going to pique my interest because I just adore a good dragon fantasy. I found the characters to be a little on the shallow side but the writing is very tight and the story kept me interested even when things lagged a little in the action category. A good amount of tongue in cheek humor is also present, which reminded me somewhat of the humorous fantasies of Robert Asprin and Piers Anthony

The world-building is present in quick glimpses but never lingers for very long, which was a bit disappointing because I’m a huge fan of in-depth world-building.   

I came away fairly impressed with this book and all in all thought it was a page-turner that just lacked that extra punch for me to make it spectacular.  However, I wouldn’t let that dissuade anyone from giving it a try. There’s a lot to like in this adventure fantasy with a good deal of economics thrown in to make it unique. Definitely a worthy semi-finalist that I enjoyed reading, and at around 250 pages, it is a quick read as well for those not looking for a door-stopper. The Dragon’s Banker is ultimately a solid fantasy book that makes me want to check out more from this world and this author.

Peter

I went into this book full of interest and curiosity, it had some real praise from my SPFBO colleagues and I was curious. 

The Dragon’s Banker is a unique and interesting story, you don’t get many stories out there dealing with fantasy economics, this might be where the story could put people off.  It was a good story though, at its heart is the fall and rise of one Sailor Kestern, a banker in this most interesting of words.  Sailor is a bit down on his luck when we first meet him, but through fortune and luck he ends up as the banker to an illustrious Dragon and his intriguing daughter!

I really enjoyed the economic side of the story, it’s not something you really see in fantasy and it was refreshing to read about a fantasy economic system (even if it was based on our own). Sailor is a good character, he is not an archetype fantasy character, he has to use his wits and intuition to get out or in of situations. The world was interestingly built, the take on Elves was interesting to read.

The biggest thing for me was that this was a lot of fun to read, it’s not a very long novel at 265 pages and Sailor is one of the more unique characters I have come across recently.

Timy

The Dragon’s Banker was one of those books that caught my attention when we got our books sorted. Eventually, I let fate decide whether it will fall into my hands or not, and in a way it did, as Jen picked it to be her semi-finalist.

Finances and economy are not topics I’m generally interested in (going to an economy centered high-school was a huge mistake on my part), so I was a bit wary of The Dragon’s Banker, as I had no idea what to expect. Our MC is a banker (surprise, surprise!), named Sailor Kestern, living in an Empire where they about to switch to paper-based money. Which is in itself an interesting premise. Things get interesting when a mysterious lady insists on taking Sailor’s services. Which requires a meeting with her father, who just happens to be a legendary dragon in need of some financial advice. Being a treasure hoarder and all that.

Despite a unique, and pretty intriguing premise, I finally dropped it not long after the meeting, which was about 25-30% into the book. With the intention of picking back up when I was a better frame of mind, but that never really happened. Not necessarily due to the fault of the book, though I admit, what really threw me was the writing style. As Jen mentioned, it had this classic feel to it, which I don’t seem to enjoy as much. Not in English anyway. I would have tried to power through the book nevertheless, but the thing is, Sailor wasn’t an engaging enough character for me and the secondary characters didn’t have enough presence to make it worth for my trouble. As the others, I also would have liked some more world-building and a bit more than passing mentions of a legend regarding the dragon.

Even though The Dragon’s Banker and I didn’t really mesh, I believe that it still might be worth your time if you like to read some lighter fantasy and enjoy them with a bit of finance thrown into the mix. Besides, come on, it has a dragon!

The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

For more SPFBO content, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!

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