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Dragonslayer

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Title: Dragonslayer

Author: Duncan M. Hamilton

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 304

Format Read: Kindle

Set in a faux-French medieval-esq setting, “Dragonslayer” features dragons and knights and mages, and frankly, it was engrossing. It is also the first in a trilogy of novels.

Guillot is a man of some disrepute. Once a feared and much renowned swordsman now fallen on hard times, he drinks his way to a hangover every single day. He drinks so much that his demesne calls him by name, refuses to address him as “Lord.” He drinks so much that he can’t get a flagon of wine at the inn in his own Villerauvais because the innkeeper has decided he has had enough. Very embarrassing.

All that changes though when a dragon is awoken from its deep slumber by a group of investigating busybodies who manage to disturb its rest and get themselves incinerated (and eaten) in the process.

Gill is thrust back into a world of politics and action that he thought he had left behind.

There is also Solene, a woman with magical skill who has the uncanny ability to defend herself in the most creative ways in a land where magic is more or less forbidden and greatly feared.

I thought “Dragonslayer” was engaging as it moved in and out of its characters’ lives. There is hope and tragedy and some humour. And what really set the plot going, for me at least, was the straightforward, clean storytelling. You may find a few familiar themes in this book. Outlawed magic. The great evil that has motives that go beyond what is obvious. A group of warriors dedicated to staving off said evil.

Nevertheless, all of that came together pretty well. “Dragonslayer” is fast paced and rather short, which actually works in its favour.

I did find a few too many “shrugged” and “nodded” especially towards the end of the novel and those were a bit distracting. There were a few moments too when the plot moved a little too fast. Characters figure stuff out too quickly, and the magic system, while very intriguing, is a little undefined to the point where characters need to figure it out themselves. Which also means non-healers can perform impossible bouts of healing without any training. That was odd.

In any case, I thought this was a very enjoyable book, and I’m really looking forward to the sequels, “Knight of the Silver Circle.”

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Ivanhoe

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Title: Ivanhoe

Author: Sir Walter Scott

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 531

Format Read: Paperback, Mass Market

Some books, for inexplicably inexplicable reasons, stay on with you for years. Ivanhoe, for me, is one such book. The first time I read it was many years ago and it has stayed with me since – that story of knighthood and jousting and romance and its intricately immersive medieval world that was fascinating . And frankly, the story of Wilfred of Ivanhoe’s redemption was an exciting one.

You follow the feuds and rivalry between the Normans and the Saxons in Ivanhoe. The evil prince John of England wants to crown himself king in the absence of the righteous Richard. And Richard returns from the Crusades, discovers the plot, and must defend his throne. Only he needs allies, and he finds one in Wilfred of Ivanhoe.

The story is pretty fast paced and full of adventure, although I confess I had to read a few pages to really get used to the style. It is a little archaic but eminently readable. Once you do get going though, you’re plunged into a world of bloody feuds and battles, knights and outlaws and a dash of romance. Ivanhoe, that fallen hero, holds strong in his darkest moments and his quest to reclaim his lost glory is as engrossing as it is exciting.

The characters are very well defined, from the tragic heroine Rebecca and the intrepid Richard to the fiery Rowena. As for Ivanhoe, he is a typical knight – chivalrous and loyal and righteous and sometimes infuriating in his steadfast, almost zealous devotion to knightly honour.

And perhaps that is one reason, and the main one, that really hooked me to Ivanhoe – you experience a range of emotions reading the work. The characters (and the events of the story) exasperate, sadden, and draw your sympathy. Some events cheer you up, others not so much.

Through it all, Ivanhoe remains an exciting tale that I enjoy rereading. And that, I think, is what makes this book so very likeable and a classic.