Well, here it is: the book that started everything! Or at least one of the best fantasy series ever! This was the first Barbara Hambly book I ever read, waaay back when, that got me hooked on this fabulous writer. Its the tale of a pair of unconventional lovers in a sort of Dark Ages land: John Aversin the only living Dragonsbane, and the quirky, bespectacled Thane of Alyn Hold and his lover; Jenny Waynest, the cool, distant Witch of Frost Fell. When the kings son comes to the backwater Winterlands, begging decidedly un-heroic Aversin to slay the black dragon, John agrees. The last (and only) dragon he killed almost killed him, but he hopes that this will be a way to convince the king to send the troops his land so desperately needs. Unfortunately, between the patronizing, pettily obnoxious aristocrats of the kings court; a racist populace in uproar over the dragon displaced gnomes and an evil hidden mage, he and Jenny find that the dragon is the least of their worries!
Hambly, a historian, does an amazing job of illustrating what its like to live in a land with no law, especially one so dangerous and unforgiving that merely surviving is difficult, and far too often impossible. What does it mean to live in an abandoned land? Years ago, the king of the southern capital withdrew his troops and never sent them back. Not only does this mean that protection from raiders and bandits is left to local chieftains like John, it means knowledge itself is lost. Lack of security and the hardscrabble struggle for simple survival means books get used for kindling, papering walls and toilet paper. Peoples lives become smaller and more circumscribed as trade and travel diminishes. The world shrinks and becomes cruder and more brutal. John, not only a leader and the representative of law but a scholar who mourns the disappearance of knowledge, is willing to risk his life in a desperate gamble to stop the slow dissolution of civilization.
[Note: This review is the same for all 4 books of the Winterlands series.]
*** Aahhh... This is what I mean by a good Hambly book! No! A great Hambly book! This is probably my favorite Hambly series, and one of my favorite series of all time. What makes Barbara Hambly books so wonderful is that not only are her stories nail biting-ly thrilling but you come to love the characters. Id compare her to Stephen King they both write exciting stories that have you snapping when they (dare!) try to interrupt, and they both write emotional, three dimensional characters, often outsiders, you truly come to care for. And like all great character driven stories, they change and grow and learn. When you close the last page, you feel like youve completed an epic journey, one where your inner journey is at least as important as the outer. Even the dragon grows!
Like all the great stories its a hard, often heart-rending journey, but one told with some beautiful prose. I cant say much more without spoiling the story youll just have to read it yourself.
Conclusion: Highest recommendation! Dont miss out on this amazing experience!
Be sure to start read the books in order:
1. Dragonsbane (ISBN: 9780345349392)
2. Dragonshadow (ISBN: 9780345421883)
3. Knight of the Demon Queen (ISBN: 9780345421906)
4. Dragonstar (ISBN: 9780345441713)
When the Black Dragon seized the Deep of Ylferdun, young Gareth braved the far Winterlands to find John Aversin, Dragonsbane -- the only living man ever to slay a dragon. In return for the promise of the King to send help to the Winterlands, Aversin agreed to attempt the nearly impossible feat again.
With them, to guard them on the haunted trip south, went Jenny Waynest, a half-taught sorceress and mother of Aversin's sons.
But at the decadent Court, nothing was as expected. Rebellion threatened the land. Zyerne, a sorceress of seemingly unlimited power, held the King under an evil spell, and he refused to see them. Meantime, the dragon fed well on the knights who had challenged him.
In the end, Aversin, Jenny, and Gareth had to steal away at night to challenge Morkeleb, largest and wisest of dragons.
But that was only the beginning of the perils they must face.
Interesting and believable characters the best of this book.
To slay a dragon was nearly impossible. To save a dragon - ridiculous. Or was it?
An exciting introduction to a believable fantastic world, plus John and Jenny are characters that I came to love. The ending is perfect in a standalone setting, but I understand there are more books in the series. You can bet I will be ordering them! Recommended.
This is my all-time favorite dragon story. I have not read the sequel because you cannot improve upon perfection. This is not trite or hackneyed--the words sing in your veins and you ache with sorrow and fear, and come through it to peace.