A hero kills a dragon: So what is he going to do now?
One of the hallmarks of a remarkable fantasy world is that the tales the author tells feel like just the tip of the iceberg. For every story readers hear, there are 10 they’ll never know. Such is the case with Tolkien’s Middle Earth and George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. The same could be said of Hagenspan, the land in which Tompkins’ (Owan’s Regret, 2018, etc.) novel is set. Hagenspan, readers are told, once existed in the North Atlantic—perhaps during the Middle Ages; it was inhabited by men and women, trolls, dragons, and fairies, all of whom fought and loved, strove and died. Like Middle Earth and Westeros, Hagenspan is a sprawling, richly imagined realm peopled with dozens upon dozens of intriguing characters. This volume is the first of nine books in a series. (The author is currently writing the 10th.) Its hero is Sir Cedric Roarke of Lauren, Slayer of Dragons. True to his name, Roarke kills such a foul beast. But the ingenuity of Tompkins’ series opener is that the daring deed happens before the book even begins. The tale, then, grapples with all the unlikely questions that crop up in the aftermath. How does Roarke prove he killed the dragon? How does he protect the booty? Does he keep the castle the dragon stole? How does he pull off that feat? And on and on. In County Bretay, where the castle Blythecairne is situated, law and tradition dictate that the slayer of a dragon must hold the bastion in question for a full year before the warrior can lay claim to it and the surrounding lands. Roarke’s valiant efforts to do so take up the bulk of the story. The author is an assured fantasy writer, and his prose rolls on without affect or pretense (“Men would have called Roarke an adventurer, but it would not have been accurate. While it was true that he had experienced many adventures in his half-century of existence, he did not love sleeping on the ground, or eating bad food, or going without food at all”). And while Tompkins is building a medieval world, he never stretches for the faux feudal diction that has doomed similar, lesser efforts.
A lengthy new fantasy series that gets off to an auspicious start.