The Dragon Lord: Arthur As Backdrop

In previous posts I’ve praised David Drake’s Vettius and Dama stories. It was clear to me he had a gift for melding historical accuracy with Sword-and-Sorcery. So I wasn’t surprised to find that his first novel pulled off the same trick.

The Dragon Lord is set in post-Roman Britain with Drake supplying us yet another imaginary, yet historically plausible King Arthurs. I’ve written recently about Arthurian myths. (Sadly, I’ve yet to completely recover the 400+ posts of my web log. The posts do remain available on Goodreads, if you are interested enough navigate to my author page on that site. Unfortunately, I doubt it is searchable.) But in this book Drake is not particularly interested in exploring the myths or what Arthur means. King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gawain, and Kay (Cei) serve mostly as background, with the exception that Arthur’s instructions to Merlin serve as the catalyst for the plot. For the most part Arthur et. al. are off the stage allowing us to enjoy the heroics of Mael of Ireland and his Danish comrade-in-arms, Starkad.

The two make for a terrific S&S duo. Starkad is a massive, ax-wielding berserker, immensely strong and tough. Yet even he thinks Mael is the more dangerous of the twain. Mael is several inches shorter, though still big, a product of the Ard Ri’s guard and thus well-educated by the standards of the early Dark Ages. Drake has clearly done his research and shows his work, painting a picture of a barbaric Saxon invasion of a Britain that still retains its memory of Rome, as well as providing us a glimpse of an early-Christian Ireland. Drake also gives us with lake monsters, demi-goddesses, the restless dead (c.f. The Tale oif Hauk) witches, wizards, and wyverns. And it all works seamlessly. This one really hit the spot.

Will you see any historical S&S from me? The jury is still out. But you could sample some contemporary S&S (Semi-Autos and Sorcery) here. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for a SF homage to ERB’s Barsoom. In which case, try Under Strange Suns.


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