Dragonfired is J. Zachary Pike’s exhilarating final entry to the Dark Profit Saga, a fantasy satire that targets capitalism, racism, classism, role-playing games, and many other ripe topics. It concludes the hilarious, incisive, and moving tale of Gorm Ingerson and the Heroes of Destiny and their struggle to overthrow the evils that have corrupted the land of Arth.
It is perhaps the most serious of the trilogy, as it tackles heavy themes of love and redemption, duty and honor, and civil rights. Yet the mood is consistently counterbalanced with clever jokes, wordplay, and social commentary that mirrors our own society’s inadequacies. While it never strays too far from the central theme of how money corrupts, the book also successfully lampoons lawyers, business strategies, marketing, and evolving technologies. The commentary never feels forced or shoehorned; one of Pike’s greatest strengths is weaving these topics so tightly into the plot that they feel necessary and pertinent.
The characters are one of the book’s greatest strengths. Although there is a wide cast of characters and many points of view, each voice felt distinct and relatable. A silent character is written so well that he conveys some of the most emotional moments using only stares and body language. Almost all character arcs had powerful conclusions, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one antagonist’s fate was a bit of a letdown. The trilogy seemed to be pointing toward a final confrontation between a Hero and this villain, but it went in a different direction.
One of my favorite aspects of the entire series is how well Pike consistently subverts tropes. At various times, I felt comfortable in thinking I knew where it was headed, only to be upended and proven wrong time and time again. There are some truly excellent bait-and-switch moments, many of them infused with laugh-out-loud humor, that made the book a joy to read. I snorted on one page, while being gutted on the next. Excellent stuff.
Having been a fan of Orconomics since it hit the SPFBO scene years ago, this has been one of my most anticipated series to finish. From the brilliant scene transitions – a series highlight – to the raw moments of Pratchett-like wisdom, Pike has crafted a witty and emotional conclusion to one of the most entertaining fantasy sagas I’ve read. If you’re looking for a series that is humorous, insightful, and pure fun on every page, then pick up the Dark Profit Saga.