ninMy first Stephen Lawhead books were his first too. I really liked the three Dragon King books when I read when at age 10. I don’t think I would have liked them so much now. They’re made to fill the niche of “my first fantasy series” and if you have already read 500 fantasy books you need this series like a 21st century logger needs a flint axehead.

The first book tells the tale of a young man called Quentin who must save a king (and a kingdom) from an evil sorcerer called Nimrood. The other volumes find more adve(ntures/rsaries) for him to overcome and more lessons for him learn. He is assisted by supporting characters such as the knight Ronsard and the Atreyu-like Toli. I don’t recall there being any actual dragons, but there are surely enough luscious maidens to support one or two.

The books go heavy on the Christian allegorising, more than any later Stephen Lawhead novel. Quentin is meant to stand in for any Christian struggling in his faith, and it soon becomes clear that the nation of Askelon must undergo a spiritual salvation as well as a carnal one. It’s a more subtle than The Chronicles of Narnia or The Archives of Anthropos. You won’t read any one thing and think “that represents the original sin” or anything like that.

The first two books are better than the third. They feature scary bad guys and a real sense of menace. Book three resolves a few loose ends but it never really seemed particularly necessary to me. Quentin puts some seditions lords in their place, slays a resurrected (and utterly pathetic) Nimrood, and learns an Important Lesson(tm) about pride…great. Books one and two are a stag party with good friends. Book three is those same friends quibbling over the bill.

The books’ strength is their fast pace. The basic story is utterly familiar, but it moves. It goes from point to point quickly and efficiently. This is no 900 page Robert Jordan fantasy travelogue. Worldbuilding is minimal, and the characters are sketched out to the barest outline necessary to support their role in the story.

If you like imaginative fantasy you will have lots of fun with these books…using them to prop up a broken table so you can read The Song of Albion. Good for what they are, though.

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