An Audio-Book Review: War, Huh Yeah. What is It Good For?

The Dragon at War

By Gordon R. Dickson

Published by Audible Inc.

Read by Paul Boehmer


The Book:

I may have lost count, but I think this is the fourth book of the “Dragon Knight” series. It follows on directly after the previous volume The Dragon at War. I’ve gone on record as saying that the sequels (at least those I have read) were unable to repeat the feeling of light fun that I found in the first The Dragon and the George.

Part of that might have been the forced manner in which the main character, Jim, got back into the form of a dragon. In the first book he found himself possessing the body of a dragon after being sent from his own world (ours, I assume) to the fantasy world the story takes place in. In the sequel, he simply wakes up one morning, transformed into a dragon because… magic. Apparently because he had too much magic on his mystical balance the “Accounting Office” decided to use it for him and turn him into a dragon, forcing him to learn how to turn himself back and using magic from then on. Yeah, okay, it had the virtue of getting the story going again.

It soon turned out that Jim, and his wife, Angie, were not just in a fantasy world but in one that was still in the 14th Century. That could be inferred from the first book, but it was not obvious since so many fantasy stories take place in an ersatz medieval milieu. Some even take place in the 20th and 21st Centuries but are still stuck in a medieval technology because… magic. There is no reason having the use of magic means technology cannot keep marching on, but it’s a common theme, although not all authors (myself included) hold by it. However, it is a legitimate category within the fantasy genre, so no complaints. Enough theory, let’s get to the story.

On his way back from North Umbria, Jim encounters a giant, called a Sea Devil, who is missing his “lady,” which is from the figurehead of sunken ship. The giant believes it was stolen by the leader of the Sea Serpents, but he is confused and merely wants to know how to get back to the sea. Jim points the way and the giant promises him any favor within his power. It seems little enough to do considering the story takes place in England so technically, being on an island, Jim might have pointed in any direction and been telling the truth.

On arriving home, Jim learns his old mentor, the Mage S. Carolinus, is ill and being bled to death but a pair of local healers so he and Angie go to save Carolinus and bring him back to their castle where he can get better without the bother of 14th Century medicinal techniques. One thing leads to another and the arrival of Sir John, who I guess is the Premier Chevalier or somet6hing like that of England draws Jim away from the castle because it turns out that King Jean of France has not yet given up on his plan to invade England. So, Jim must find out how and when Jean plans to attack and when it turns out Jean is allied with the sea serpents (which was somewhat predictable) Jim seems to be the one everyone relies on to save England, yet again. Gee… Good thing he didn’t decide to go back to the mundane 20th Century at the end of the first book!

I do not think this story was quite as good as the first of the series, although I think the writing is technically better, but it did bring back more of the fantasy elements that made the first book so much more fun to read. Fans of the series should like this one.


The Audiobook:

Once again Paul Boehmer does a pretty good job of reading this one although I continue to feel that he relies far too much on contemporary accents to delineate the characters. This treads right on the line of “funny voices” and is frequently distracting.

Most of them have accents consistent with those of people who comes from the same locations in this world, but Dickson repeatedly says that everyone in this fantasy world speaks the same language, so why would the accents agree with those we know today? Also some characters are given accents for no discernable reason. The Sea Devil, for example had a thick accent that rolls its “R’s” almost to the point of unintelligibility. And why do the dragons who live in France speak with a French accent? It’s not like they have a lot of conferences with men there.

However, while he does tread the line of the “Funny Voice,” he never quite crosses that line and I think it is safe to say this is a good performance of a pretty good book.

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