Fantasy Review: Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton

A solid epic fantasy that puts an exciting new spin on the classic "let's go slay the dragon" trope, Dragonslayer won me over with the first glimpse of Alpheratz. Duncan M. Hamilton humanizes dragons, gives them memories and purpose and emotion, and flips our sympathies from cheering on the deaths of monsters to mourning the loss of these magnificent beasts.

In fact, I'd liked Alpheratz far more than most of the humans, but there were two exceptions. Solène is a character I liked from the first moment we met her. She was strong, confident, and charismatic, her magic making her more than a match for a back-alley assault. The whole "she's a witch, burn her!" trope was handled nicely here, with Gil calling out the villagers, shaming them for their deeds, and raising a few philosophical questions in his rescue of the young woman. You might expect that scene to scar her, possibly even define her, but Solène shrugs it off to not only return the favor in saving Gil's life, but in demanding her place in his quest.

Now, as for Gil, he's a man I was prepared not to like. Mysteriously tragic backstory aside, we first meet him as a lazy drunk, too wrapped up in his own problems to do his job and care for his people. He's standoffish, rude, self-pitying, and has trouble sticking to his own vows to better himself. The problem is, he's entirely human, and as we begin to see glimpses of the man he once was and the man he could become, he grows on you. It's just a shame that his rival, Prince Bishop, doesn't experience the same growth, because his weakness as a character not only leaches a little tension from that enmity, it actually feels like it takes away from Gil's backstory.

The writing here was solid, with some nice turns of phrase, snappy dialogue, and well-managed points-of-view. In terms of pacing, beyond a necessary pause for introductions and character-building early on, it moves along nicely. World-building felt a little light, but that might owe something to the fact that I'm not familiar with his Wolf of the North saga, which is set in the same world. Then again, it may be because the wider world simply isn't important here, and this first chapter in a new saga is about one thing - man vs dragon. Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the book is that there are so many unanswered questions as to why things happen, and why characters do things. It's not just that motivations were unclear, but that logical implications of men and magic were simply set aside.

In the end, however, the positives of Dragonslayer far outweigh the negatives, and I am curious to see where the story goes next - even if it will be without a favorite character.


Paperback, 304 pages
Expected publication: July 2nd 2019 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Comments

  1. Wonder if this will be on audible? I miss epic fantasy's. I'll have to check out Wolf of The North.

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