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Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1)
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This is our discussion of the classic fantasy novel....

Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1) by Barbara Hambly Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly
(1987)


message 2: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat | 343 comments I really enjoyed this book. I just couldn't put it down!

I think I particularly liked that the protagonists are adults. Not teens. Grown-up adults. Dealing with adult life. It's not often done in fantasy - so often the heroes are young, just barely out of their teens.

The narrative took some unexpected turns - as a result, I loved that ending.

One of the battle scenes approx three-quarter mark was absolutely riveting. It kept me right on the edge of my seat. To the point that I was holding my breath. That for me, is the sign of a good book.


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Cat wrote: "I really enjoyed this book. I just couldn't put it down!
I think I particularly liked that the protagonists are adults. Not teens. Grown-up adults. Dealing with adult life. It's not often done in fantasy..."


Agree, Jenny Waynest & Thane John Aversin make a likable pair, mature adults, neither eager nor reluctant heroes. They have an easy and comfortable relationship.

Hambly has an interesting approach to the story, just jumping in. Those two characters had interesting lives before the story starts, and she gives the reader a solid sense of that background without wedging in a bunch flashbacks. It's just there, a palpable sense of depth without the usual tedious exposition.


message 4: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 2664 comments This was a really great book, I really enjoyed it. I loved how though the book is called Dragonsbane, so we figure it's about John, possibly told from Jenny's POV as a quirk, but in reality, the story really is Jenny's. I love those two characters, their easy yet in some ways strained relationship.

There's some unexpected details, like how the people at court dye their hair, something you don't see in these medieval-setting fantasy stories usually.

And yes! There are people who wear glasses, and while, ok, the two that do here are also sorta bookish/nerdy in their own ways, John is still the Dragonsbane after all.

Most of all, I loved the dragon. He's evil on some level, after all he eats people, and self-centered. Also not evil, since people are simply food to him. But Hambly really gets his alieness, that his name is music, explaining the urge to hoard gold, what it's like to fly and flame. Some of her descriptions are just magical, made me think of the descriptions in Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee that made the unicorn a magical and powerful beast and not some cute rainbow maned little girl companion.


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Andrea wrote: "Most of all, I loved the dragon...."

Why are we not surprised? :)


Andrea wrote: "Hambly really gets his alieness, that his name is music, explaining the urge to hoard gold, what it's like to fly and flame...."

Indeed, I loved her brief excursions into the dragon's mind. Part of it put me in mind of a line from Dickson's The Dragon and the George: "The thought of gold rang in his head like the thought of a fountain of water to a man dying of thirst in the desert. Gold…"


message 6: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat | 343 comments G33z3r wrote: "Agree, Jenny Waynest & Thane John Aversin make a likable pair, mature adults, neither eager nor reluctant heroes. They have an easy and comfortable relationship.f..."

It made a real change from the usual will-they-won't-they common romance subplot! I also loved Jenny's perspective on the younger characters, particularly Gareth and his character development.

It was quite a nuanced view of the dragon - which often happens with books from dragon perspective, but rarely with books from human perspective!

I also did enjoy her writing - so much so that I was considering going on with the series. This book was originally a stand-alone, then about 20 years later she started writing again. And it sounds awful! All the reviews say that it's horrifically depressing and the direction of the characters is unexpectedly disturbed.... So I'm just going to leave it as a stand-alone!


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Cat wrote: "I also loved Jenny's perspective on the younger characters, particularly Gareth and his character development...."

Jenny's take on Gareth is fine, but Gareth came to bother me. He came asking for help, naive and full of youthful certainty and a hero-worship of the legendary Thane Alversin, Dragonsbane,.... but he seems a bit dismissive of John & Jenny's wisdom in his overconfidence, especially concerning safe camping.

Which brings up what seems to me a plotting problem: If the route to Bel through the Wyrwoods is so dangerous, with "Whisperers" (a sort of vampire?), Meewinks, (a sort of Fae?) and bandits, how did Gareth get from Bel to Alyn Hold safely?


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) G33z3r wrote: "Cat wrote: "I also loved Jenny's perspective on the younger characters, particularly Gareth and his character development...."

Jenny's take on Gareth is fine, but Gareth came to bother me. He came..."


It bothers me when your comment could be understood by me, just after I've only read the first chapter. Seems like nothing really happens after the initial chapter.


message 9: by Andrea (new) - added it

Andrea | 2664 comments G33z3r wrote: "how did Gareth get from Bel to Alyn Hold safely"

He took a ship that got him most of the way there and bypassed most of the nasty stuff it seems (a little handwaving I think). The boat then had to leave because of the winter storms moving in so they had to walk all the way back to Bel.

Luffy wrote: "It bothers me when your comment could be understood by me, just after I've only read the first chapter. Seems like nothing really happens after the initial chapter. "

Gareth is a rich spoiled protected kid, you have to give him a least a few chapters to grow up (ok, he doesn't ever really grow up completely, but take any annoying teenage kid you know, how much can he mature in a couple of weeks?). It's like asking a kid who has only ever watched Lion King and then toss him out on the African Savannah all on his own. He'd probably try singing at the lions as they try to devour him. I think Hambly made him that way intentionally.

At least he seemed to be the only character in the entire court that cared enough to do something. Can't blame him for all his flaws given where he grew up and who he had as role models after all.

But a little less whining on the trip to Bel would have been nice I must admit...


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Andrea wrote: "G33z3r wrote: "how did Gareth get from Bel to Alyn Hold safely"

He took a ship that got him most of the way there and bypassed most of the nasty stuff it seems (a little handwaving I think). The b..."


Thanks for the reply. I really look forward to reading the book.


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Andrea | 2664 comments I actually enjoyed the contrast of the down to earth, real world, Jenny and John and the silly people from the court that knew nothing if it wasn't about fashion or gossip. Kind of the "country bumpkins" vs "slick city dwellers".


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Andrea wrote: "I actually enjoyed the contrast of the down to earth, real world, Jenny and John and the silly people from the court that knew nothing if it wasn't about fashion or gossip. Kind of the "country bum..."

You make some excellent points. I wish to read this and other books by the author.


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Andrea | 2664 comments I've read Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Hambly before. I didn't like it much, but then it's kind of hard to take an insane minor character like Renfield and make him a protagonist.

I plan to read the other three Winterlands books this year but I've heard they are not that great. But I bought all them years ago and I never get rid of a book I haven't at least tried to read first.

I know she has a vampire series. And also a series about a wizard (a used bookstore closed in my area and they were selling books at 5$ a box, so I started stuffing things in just based on author names I recognized LOL)


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Andrea wrote: "G33z3r wrote: "how did Gareth get from Bel to Alyn Hold safely"
He took a ship that got him most of the way there and bypassed most of the nasty stuff it seems (a little handwaving I think)..."


Ah, yes, thanks, That bit about the ship slipped my mind. I guess it didn't seem important at the time.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrea wrote: "I actually enjoyed the contrast of the down to earth, real world, Jenny and John and the silly people from the court that knew nothing if it wasn't about fashion or gossip...."

There's also a very different attitude. John Aversin is nobility, too, but he hasn't decked his Hold out in finery (Gareth finds it underwhelming.) John also acts as a servant of those he "rules". He hesitates to leave his people without his protection, and wants to hurry up the dragonsbaning so he can get back to his duties at Alyn.

In Bel, the nobility isn't in that big a hurry to deal with the dragon because its just messing with the rural areas and hasn't affected them directly. (Part of that might be attributable to Zyerne's influence, though.)


message 16: by Andrea (last edited Aug 06, 2018 10:31AM) (new) - added it

Andrea | 2664 comments Anyone else find the climax of the novel amusingly appropriate given the overall theme of the novel?

Spoiler alert for the second to last important bit of the book!!

So we have Jenny on Morkeleb battling the insectoid Zyerne, the kind of battle one would actually write an epic ballad about. However, behind the scenes you've got one knight who is so injured he can barely move and one princeling who is just coming to realize the real world is not a fairy tale, piling dynamite on the Stone. In the end it was the two guys with the glasses and the penchant for bookishness that ultimately wins the battle, Jenny and Morkeleb are just keeping Zyerne occupied in the meantime.

Apparently there is no glory, ever, in dragonslaying (or other monster slaying).

Reminded me also of the short story we read, The Dragonslayer of Merebarton by K.J. Parker. As pointed out in that story as well, the Knight might be the one to ultimately face the dragon, but he doesn't do it alone, after all, he can't even get dressed by himself! Or the moment where everyone is sitting in the bushes waiting for the dragon to show and it's off burning and pillaging somewhere else.

It's how reality becomes legend, you know, kind of polish the truth off a bit to make a better story :) Makes you wonder what the real story is for all those other dragonslayers Gareth so loved to dream about.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) I've completed Chapter V and I'm so grateful to have found such a good book. Maybe the quality will plummet, but so far wow.


message 18: by Isabella (new)

Isabella | 87 comments I haven't got to the dragon yet but am finding some of the description of the land itself so strongly evocative and the early description of the relationships so convincing that I'm expecting great things of the rest of the book.


message 19: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat | 343 comments For those still making their way through it - I don't think the quality drops off at all and it continues to be a great piece of story telling! And the battle scene descriptions are among my favourite parts of this book

Andrea wrote: "Anyone else find the climax of the novel amusingly appropriate given the overall theme of the novel? ..."

When you put it like that yes, it is amusing and certainly fitting with the theme. I didn't particularly notice it at the time because I was just so caught up in the action!

I would definitely love to know the 'truth' behind the other glorious tales!

I loved the ending overall - trying to so this without spoilers.... but I was so excited that a character was empowered to do that and then switch it up! I was really rooting for the non-conventional decision, but then vastly pleased with how it turned out.


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Andrea | 2664 comments Cat wrote: "For those still making their way through it - I don't think the quality drops off at all and it continues to be a great piece of story telling! And the battle scene descriptions are among my favour..."

I concur. I mean the only part I would have changed was Gareth's constant complaints at the start of the novel while traveling to Bel. I'm assuming the point was to make clear he was just an overgrown spoiled child that needed to grow up and learn about the world, but he wasn't 5 years old either so it seemed a bit overly much. The rest was amazingly well done.

Cat wrote: "I loved the ending overall - trying to so this without spoilers.... but I was so excited that a character was empowered to do that and then switch it up! I was really rooting for the non-conventional decision, but then vastly pleased with how it turned out."

I thought that was well done too. I mean we all assume she'll make one choice but the she makes another. It simply added to the interesting relationship between Jenny and John that I absolutely loved throughout this book. I mean, even for adults they were so mature and down to earth, comfortable yet strained, after all, no matter how well lived a life, we all end up with some regrets.

Talking of "regret", the change in Morkeleb made me think of the change The Last Unicorn goes through after having been human for a while (note I've only seen the movie), that she learns regret. Morkeleb also becomes "tainted" in a similar way by human interaction and cannot go back to being the "pure" being of the wild he was before. And interestingly the taint in both cases is love, usually considered a good thing but for the pain it brings.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) I loved most of the book, until the climax kicked in. I'm going to review the book tomorrow.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Here is my review of the book:-

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 23: by Andrea (last edited Aug 13, 2018 10:33AM) (new) - added it

Andrea | 2664 comments Luffy wrote: "Jenny is a lazy witch." - from the linked review

Interesting choice of words...I sort of viewed her as a woman who had to choose between husband/children and a career. If you don't dedicate all your time to your career and ignore your family, then women often are labeled "lazy" or less dedicated employees, which is why there is such an issue where a woman with perfect credentials will get skipped over for a man for a promotion for fear that she will have children one day (even if she has none now) and not devote her full attention to her work. Or she will get paid less assuming she'll perform less. So I thought her internal dialog was rather interesting, I'm sure there are a lot of women out there wondering the same thing.

For what it's worth, I'm a woman with a career but no children, but at the same time don't believe my career should own my entire life. So like Jenny, I will never be "CEW - chief executive wizard" so to speak, but in my case I'm ok with my choice :)

However, perhaps if my career were in magic and if I worked hard enough I could shapeshift, I might have different thoughts on the matter...


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Andrea wrote: "Luffy wrote: "Jenny is a lazy witch." - from the linked review

Interesting choice of words...I sort of viewed her as a woman who had to choose between husband/children and a career. If you don't d..."


You shouldn't take my wording in my reviews to heart. I didn't react to Jenny's life choices. I reacted to her regrets and self doubts she harbored. :o)


message 25: by Cat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cat | 343 comments Luffy wrote: "Andrea wrote: "Luffy wrote: "Jenny is a lazy witch." - from the linked review

Interesting choice of words...I sort of viewed her as a woman who had to choose between husband/children and a career...."


I can understand what you mean Luffy, but I have to disagree with you - my impression from her is that she thinks that she was lazy, so it's easy to take her word for it that she was lazy. However, I suspect that it's like a lot of things - you can do your absolute best at something at the time, but still wonder after if you could have done better... hindsight is a killer! So while I think she thinks she was lazy, I don't think it's actually true, she did the best that she could under those particular circumstances.

It's interesting the way that Hambly deals with regret throughout the book. Almost all the characters come to regret something, except possibly Zyerne - who as, villains go, was deliciously straight-up power hungry. How far can the spoilt brat go!? I quite liked her as someone to hate, if that makes sense.

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't find the ending to your liking, it is always disappointing when that happens.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) I genuinely thought she had been negligent. If the climax had been to my liking, then I would've given the book 4 stars. I only rate books 4/5 stars when they are rereadable. But I loved the journey itself to the kingdom. It had a great effect on me, and I will remember that part long after this month has gone.


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Andrea | 2664 comments I guess I understand what you meant by lazy now. It was just the word that confused me since I pictured lazy being "lying on the grass staring at the clouds go by all day" not "raising kids and building relationship with my husband" which is far from being lazy (after all that takes a lot of work). It does however take away from her magic time so she's "lazy" in her studies in the sense she allows herself to be distracted.

I think the interesting thing she realized at the end, the moment she found she had all the time in the world to learn all the magic she wanted, she found it had no purpose. For example, the whole adventure to fight the dragon took away from her studies too, but what would be the point of having great powers if you never took the time to fight a dragon using those powers?


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Andrea wrote: "I guess I understand what you meant by lazy now. It was just the word that confused me since I pictured lazy being "lying on the grass staring at the clouds go by all day" not "raising kids and bui..."

Good post. Jenny got everything she wanted in life. But what was nagging her in the back of her mind was that there were more powerful witches than her, and that was a flat out regret about the way she studied magic.


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