The Dragon at the Border
By Gordon Dickson
Published by Au dible Studios
Read by Paul Boehmer
This is the third book in a very popular series and I admit that I really enjoyed the first book, The Dragon and the George. However, as the series progressed I came to enjoy it less and less. I do seem to be a minority opinion on this as most fans I have discussed it with feel the series got better and better. Well that, as they say, is what makes horse races. If we all agreed on such things, the only reason for the Kentucky Derby would be mint juleps and an excuse to wear silly hats.
I think the book is well-crafted. I would expect no less from Gordon Dickson, but the tone of the series, in general, is very different from that first book. The Dragon and the George came off as a parody of Medieval fantasy. It was very much in the mode of the Harold Shea stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt and while the situations were serious, there was always that touch of slapstick as Jim Eckert, a 20th Century academic, coped with being a dragon in a medieval sort of world. Starting with the Second Book, The Dragon Knight, the series stops being a parody and shifts to serious adventure in spite of the inclusion of certain elements that had made the first book very much tongue-in-cheek.
That works for many readers, but I found myself disappointed. The fact that James and his wife, Angie are actually from the 20th Century is not only less important but actually gets in the way of the story, well, for me anyway.
The Dragon at the Border takes place immediately following The Dragon Knight when, after returning from war in France, James and his medieval friends Sir Brian and Dafydd ap Hywel, a Welsh bowman, who turns out to be more than he seems, travel to North Umberland to report the death of a comrade-in-arms, only to find he is still alive (because he and his family are selkies and come back to life when buried at sea). However, once there they encounter a new threat, the Hollow Men. The Hollow Men are fully armed and animated suits of armor on invisible (ghostly?) horses who, if killed, will be resurrected within two days so long as at least one Hollow Man survives.
I did question how anyone knew that. Since no one had yet killed them all, how does anyone know what it takes to kill them once and for all? Perhaps the “Accounting Department” which answers questions, but only when it advances the plot, told someone. However, I was able to let that go.
So if you like good sword and sorcery adventures, you should like this one, but keep in mind that, like the previous volume in the series, it leads right into the next.
I mentioned in previous reviews that one thing that threw me off a bit was the fact that Paul Boehmer pronounces Dafydd’s name correctly. He’s right and I’m wrong on that one, but it still threw me off and got in the way of my enjoyment of the series. He also uses fairly thick accents to delineate his characters, which to some ears may be annoying. However, unlike a lot of readers recording these days the accents he uses are appropriate to the characters, so I might gripe, but he is not wrong. My advice is just sit back and let your ears acclimate to the accents and you should enjoy the reading.
So while I think the book does not quite come up to what I would have expected from the first of the series, it is a good solid adventure and if that is what you are looking for, you will not be disappointed and as for readers, Boehmer does a good job of acting out the characters, rather than simply reading the book.