I just finished reading “In the Hall Of The Dragon King”, by Stephen Lawhead. My copy was given to me on my birthday by my son, Leighton—THANKS!
I first heard about these books being re-released in Stephen Lawhead’s online diary, where he says:
First copies of the DRAGON KING books were also in the box. They’re being re-released in the US along with Scarlet. Those are the first fiction books I wrote (early ’80s): unemployed, pregnant wife, wolf at door. Now they’re in yet another edition. Who knew?
So this was Lawhead’s FIRST BOOK, and FIRST FANTASY BOOK! Pretty amazing to have it re-released nearly 30 years later.
So what did I think of the book?
First the good points:
- It had a very interesting story world. Strange creatures, strange powers, strange deities. A fascinating history.
- It had an excellent beginning. Quentin is the main character, and within a very brief amount of time, he goes from a lowly, secluded Acolyte in a temple to risking his life on a journey to rescue the entire kingdom.
- It had 3 dimensional characters. You really feel you know Quentin and his friends, and you care about them.
- The villain is thoroughly evil, and has more tricks up his sleeve than a shoplifter in a watch shop.
- The Christian content is handled subtly and excellently. Starting Quentin in a “pagan” temple shows his transformation to worshiping the One True God. Yet Lawhead surprised me and avoided any “deus-ex-machina” solution to the ending of the book.
- The problem of magic is handled well by showing Durwin laying aside his magic powers so that it would not destroy him, and instead trusting in God to protect him and destroy their enemy.
Now the mediocre points:
I don’t call these “bad” because there’s nothing bad about this book. But there are a few things that make it less than stellar. These I can attribute to the fact that, as stated above, this was Lawhead’s first book. Let me say that his style and storytelling has much improved.
- He uses too many adjectives and adverbs, sometimes repetitively. In doing so, he “tells” too much and does not show. Instead of showing us Nimrood’s evil, he calls him evil, etc. After awhile you just say to yourself, this is how the book is, and you move on and ignore it. No problem.
- The main character, Quentin, is not active enough in bringing about any solutions in the book. Things just “go his way” a few too many times, and sometimes his presence is not instrumental to the plot at all. But he’s still interesting, and you still care.
- His use of the Omniscient perspective. Lawhead JUMPS into anyone and everyone’s head in the space of two heartbeats.
This was another thing that drove me a bit batty at first, but once I got used to it, I realized how much it sped up the story, allowing me information that would be difficult to give me any other way. It’s not my preferred way of telling or reading a story, but I survived, and you can too.
- The cover of the book. I know this is a re-release, but I could have done better as an amateur artist. Maybe Thomas Nelson was trying to save money, and that’s fine. And I bet Stephen Lawhead was just happy they were publishing it. But if they’re going to go for simple, do it like the re-release of the Song of Albion covers … simple, but graphically fascinating.
These books are especially appropriate for the young adult market. The morals and clear depiction of good vs. evil make this book excellent for those voracious book readers in your household.
Adults will enjoy reading them to. Its a pretty good yarn, and a great intro to the series. The other two books after In the Hall Of The Dragon King are: The Warlord’s of NIN, and the Sword and the Flame.
And make sure you get Stephen’s latest book, Tuck, which we will be covering next month for the CSFF Blog Tour.
This is the awaited conclusion to his King Raven Trilogy, Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck.
And next up for Stephen? Bright Empires, published by Thomas Nelson.
I can’t wait.
Well I can, but you know what I mean. This is, after all, Stephen Lawhead.