Last week, I finished reading the Dragon King trilogy, consisting of In the Hall of the Dragon King, the Warlords of Nin, and the Sword and the Flame (Fantasy) by Stephen R. Lawhead. These were books from my childhood and I was curious to see how well I remembered them.
I think the main character, Quentin, spent a lot of time making me vaguely annoyed. He seemed to be a very passive character, always waiting for something to happen and then reacting. In the first book, he’s a simple temple acolyte who isn’t really happy in the life before him. He’s restless and unsettled, but he doesn’t understand why and it never occurs to him to do anything about it. He doesn’t seem to have any interests or hobbies or anything other than what’s he’s told and it was slightly annoying. He jumps at the opportunity to go on a quest and leave the temple lifestyle behind, which is great, but then he’s just dead weight. I did not get the strong religious connotations when I read this as a kid, but I definitely got them reading it as an adult. It’s like being hit in the head with a two-by-four. I do understand that all the stuff that happens is supposed to be a representation of “God’s will”, but it’s rather frustrating that Quentin didn’t take any action on his own and then everything just sort of worked out for him. It felt like he didn’t have to do any work at all in order to succeed with his quest.
The Warlords of Nin was a bit better with Quentin not being quite so passive, but he still had to wait to be handed his mission and the way to save the day on a silver platter. At least in this book, he forged his own sword and wasn’t quite as much of dead weight. Granted, he does show remarkable courage in standing up to the warlord that captures him, and it was interesting to see Esme as a potential strong female character, but she really doesn’t do much. I feel like this entire storyline could have flushed out the characters better and helped make them less passive and annoying.
Which brings me to the Sword and the Flame. How did this guy get to be king? It reminded me a lot of Anakin’s incessant whining from Star Wars episodes one through three. Quentin spends his whole time being moody and unproductive and then he wonders why all of his friends and family aren’t around when he feels like he needs them most. He strikes down a man begging for mercy and wonders why the flame in the sword goes out when the sword is supposed to be used for justice and truth. They made Quentin king because he showed up at the right time with a scary flaming sword and all the bad guys ran away. But even before his son is kidnapped and he kills a man begging for mercy, he demonstrates zero ability to control his emotions. Honestly, I don’t see him as a very worthy king and I was not surprised when the peasants revolted against him. I certainly wouldn’t be keen on supporting a king who doesn’t have the ability to keep a cool head under pressure. It must have taken huge amounts of loyalty for his knights to go charging after the guy who stole the sword when they were probably questioning his leadership skills themselves.
Overall, an entertaining trilogy, but probably one I only need to read every couple decades.
Lawhead, Stephen. In the Hall of the Dragon King. Illinois: Crossway Books, 1989. Original print 1982.
Lawhead, Stephen. The Warlords of Nin. Illinois: Crossway Books, 1989. Original print 1983.
Lawhead, Stephen. The Sword and the Flame. Illinois: Crossway Books, 1989. Original print 1984.