Vainqueur Knightsbane is your average dragon: a giant, fire-breathing lizard who loves to take naps on his golden hoard, kidnap princesses for fun, and make the life of adventurers miserable. Vainqueur’s only pleasure in life is to watch his treasure get bigger, one coin at a time. So when a would-be thief turned unwilling minion tells him about “classes,” “levels,” and “quests,” Vainqueur wonders if maybe, just maybe, he should consider a career change. After all, why bother hunting monsters for free when you can get paid for it?
I don’t read much comedy in the genre, and I should probably change that given how good Vainqueur was. The story follows both Victor (the would-be thief from the blurb) and Vainqueur as the former becomes the world’s best minion, and the latter becomes even more overpowered as he rakes in levels.
The two characters carry this book, which is impressive given that everything else in the book is also great. But the interactions between the two, Vainqueur’s growing intelligence (due to level up stat boosts), and their increasingly crazy escapades, had me reading on my lunch break, on the bus, and until the early hours in the morning. Vainqueur is as arrogant as you’d expect from a dragon and views the world through incredibly distorted lenses. The contrast in narrative perspective between Vainqueur’s chapters and other characters is amazing. And then you meet his extended family, and the dichotomy between dragonkind and pathetic mortals only widens.
Victor’s troubles aren’t limited to trying to manage Vainqueur though. He’s pursued romantically by a werewolf that specialises in monstrous cooking, has to negotiate contracts with demons from hell, argues with an angel of his heaven afterlife insurance plan, sends a slime to the moooooon, and so much more. His life is full of delightful and hilarious problems, that both parody the genre and simultaneously lean into our beloved tropes.
The overarching plot is there building in the background, but Vainqueur’s priorities often change (to whatever increases and protects his hoard the most), often to the extreme frustration of Victor, who is just trying to survive.
But throughout it all, the tone remains light-hearted and playful. Characterisation is brilliant. The System is simple—you gain levels in specific classes and this unlocks skills and perks—and therefore doesn’t require formulas or info dumps to make sense of.
It’s really just a super fun read, especially as a palate cleanser between more series and darker fictions. Check it out.