The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley is the tale of a quest, book one of the Deathsworn Arc series. I’ll confess I do like fantasy, along the lines of The Game of Thrones (I’ve read every volume), The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
This story has the some of the same basic elements of Lord of the Rings:: a quest, in this case given by the Empress of the land, to slay a Noble Dragon which threatens the northern border of her kingdom, in return for a reward of gold. The band of questers include Saul Karza, a wizard, whose pointed hat doesn’t emerge until facing the dragon; Korhan, son of Brian, a sellsword (sword for hire, if you are not into fantasy); Harald, son of Korvak, another a sellsword; a dwarf, Vortex, who is homeless, having been unable to reenter his home beneath the earth because of magic; Silus Mendelson, an old soldier who was the last man to slay a dragon; a dark elf called Brael the Truthseeker, who was bound by magic not to tell the truth; and the Lady Vashni, a mysterious elf who joins them on their way to the dragon’s lair.
The cover of this book is very evocative, and there are lovely illustrations at the end of the book of the characters, with a brief description of each. I would suggest placing them at the beginning to help the reader identify them.
The story begins rather slowly, and I must admit it took me a bit before I got into the read, largely through the descriptions of the country as the band began its journey. There are the usual roadblocks along the way and you eventually get to know the characters, who are well limned. What changed the story for me was the appearance of Vashni, who has the ability to whisper, that is, to change the mind of the person to whom she whispers. Korhan finds himself enthralled with her beauty and her abilities, and agrees to be her Risine (here I use an s for an elvish rune; the author explains how to pronounce it). A Risine is the cross between an abject slave and a student, and Korhan finds himself not only serving her but being made to do demeaning things such as kissing her boot, while she teaches him how to strengthen his mind and improve his swordsmanship. It’s an interesting relationship, especially when she blinds and deafens him for period and then turns him into a vegetarian! Their relationship is strange and wondrous.
You do learn more about each character during the course of their journey, and their confrontation with the noble dragon is quite exciting. And there’s a twist at the end: did the Empress want them to slay the dragon just because it threatened the kingdom or is something else at play? Of course there is a sequel.
If there was one problem I found with the book, and I know this sounds picky, it was the lack of punctuation. I found myself having to reread sentences because I couldn’t figure out where one ended and the next began, if they did, or where to take a breath. Anytime I have to stop in a read for something like this, it takes me out of time and place.
In any event, it became a rollicking tale with enough swordplay and magic to keep younger readers enthralled. I did enjoy it, and I think this book will have wide appeal and develop a good following with the subsequent books.
Martyn Stanley lives near the Staffordshire/Cheshire border in England, with, according to his bio, his long suffering wife and two small children. He’s always enjoyed epic fantasy novels, so it seems natural that he would write them. His Deathsworn Arc was written to be more than a hack and slash, swords and sorcery series; it examines, faith, companionship, morality, pragmatism and more. He writes that if the characters of The Deathsworn Arc come across as strange, it’s partly because they’re intended to.
I wish him the best with this series.