Apr 17, 2010


by Barbara Hambly

One of my favorite fantasy series begins with Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane. Here's the basic plot: John Aversin is the only man who's ever slain a dragon. He lives in the remote Winterlands, leader of a people struggling on the outskirts of the kingdom. Gareth shows up unexpectedly, a young prince from the king's court, seeking help against a dragon that has seized part of the city. It's not an easy task for Gareth to convince John -and his wife Jenny, a half-trained witch- to return with him, and when they do get there, things quickly get complicated. The court is riddled with perfidy and corruption. The Gnomes- a separate race of oppressed people, owners of the area now held by the dragon- are in the middle of a revolt. It seems that John and Jenny will never even get near the dragon, but when they finally do, that encounter is nothing like they'd expected, either.

Hambly is one of those amazing storytellers I never tire of reading again and again. I love how realistic everything in this novel feels, even though it's fantasy. The characters all struggle with personal issues. I love the fact that John is something of a self-taught philosopher, always dabbling in old books, searching for archaic knowledge, curious about inventions and how things work. Jenny wrestles with trying to pursue her art of witchcraft, a dedication which usually takes up a person's life entirely, while at the same time raising a family. Even Gareth turns out to be a sympathetic character, though at first he comes off as just a spoiled brat. Another really intriguing thing about the story is all its unexpected turns. Gareth didn't expect to find his hero standing in a pigpen of mud when he arrived in the Winterlands, and it really throws him for a while. John is dismayed to find the court full of conniving elite who don't really care about the dragon- but I love how he handles it! Jenny didn't foresee being able to communicate with the dragon, much less that it would make her a tempting offer, in bargain for its life, one of the most fascinating parts of the story... Well, all I can say is that if you like fantasy, particularly dragon books, I highly recommend this one!

Rating: 5/5 ........ 274 pages, 1985

More opinions at:
Cold Iron and Rowan-Wood
Paper Tiger
anyone else?


Nymeth said...

The timing of this review is excellent! I've just finished a book on the history of fantasy that caused me to add an insane number of books and titles to my wishlist - Barbara Hambly among them. I confess I hadn't heard of her before, but between this book and your review, I think I'm going to love her.

Jenny said...

I checked this out of the library last time I was there on your recommendation. I've even more excited to read it now I know there's a character called Jenny! Hurrah for Jennys! :P

Gavin said...

Why have I never heard of Hambly before? I am adding this to my must read fantasy list!

Jeane said...

Nymeth- I really think you will. I've only read her Winterlands series, and one book about vampires, but I do mean to read some more someday! My husband has read a few Star Wars books she wrote too, and he says those are really good as well.

Jenny- I'm so excited to see what you think about it!

Gavin- Well, I'm glad I've introduced her to you! I hope you like her work. Dragonsbane is my favorite so far, but I haven't even begun to dent her large ouvre.

Chandra said...

My husband is a big fantasy reader. I'm adding this to his list! Thanks for the review!