Servant of the Dragon is the third book in the epic fantasy series Lord of the Isles, written by David Drake. Published in 1999, it is a excellent sequel and addresses the few issues that I previously had with the series while continuing the better traditions of the first two books. I recommended the series before, I recommend it even more strongly now. If you want to dive into a fantasy setting built on the sunken ruins of an Atlantean past, constructed from the stones of Sumerian mythology and mortared with Greek and Roman poetry, this is the series for you.
At this point I’m going to assume that you’ve looked at the two previous entries. I’ll cut right to the chase and discuss things that might be spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books, so read on at your own risk. I’ll try to avoid ruining the story of this book, but like I said, I make no promises for the first two.
Remember how I kept saying that I was concerned with the repeated use of a Damsel in Distress narrative? When I picked up Servant of the Dragon and read it’s jacket, I despaired; it reads, “The … adventures … continue as Sharina is snatched back through time … Can she be saved?”
Sharina, of course, is the same heroine who has had the least chance to shine on her own. Though she seemed to be on track to become powerful / competent in her own right, she was instead put in terrible situations and then rescued in both the first and the second book, the second time almost as an afterthought. This third book, despite what it said on the jacket, finally gives her a chance to do cool things herself. It isn’t “perfect” per se, but let me put it like this: I read the jacket and despaired, I read the book and rejoiced. She isn’t as relentlessly badass as some of the other characters, but this time her chance to shine isn’t taken away at the last moment and replaced with Damsel-hood. I’m looking forward to seeing her in the next book.
I do have to say that David Drake’s writing style has finally started to take its toll on me. He has a habit of writing the reactions of his characters to things before describing the things in question. I find this disorienting at times, though it usually works in his favor by creating a sense of immediacy. But this means that I sometimes find myself reading back over a given section two or three times, trying to make sense of exactly what’s happening. That might have been compounded by my being distracted while reading this book in particular.
*Here There Be Spoilers*
I’m not going to talk much about the hero’s journey this time. I’ve said it before, and Drake does it again for most of the characters (he even includes an honest to goodness trip to the Underworld for one of them).
If I’m reading things correctly, he sets up the conflict of the next book by following through on his prep, using material that he made clear near the very beginning of this book. This is a lovely change from the “monster of the week” problem he faced at the end of Queen of Demons, and I admire his slick presentation of future problems. It reminds me of a very well run RPG following the principles so clearly outlined in Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. If he keeps doing this smooth a job of introducing future issues, I’d even go so far as to recommend him as a model for aspiring GMs. For more on that topic, check out my post: Player Action, Player Inaction.
Have you been reading these books yourself? Do you have any thoughts on related topics that you’d like to share? Please make use of the comments below!