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
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Cold Iron and Rowan-Wood