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Review: In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen Lawhead

In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen LawheadIn the Hall of the Dragon King (Dragon King #1)
Stephen R. Lawhead
Thomas Nelson
Published on September 11, 2007 (Originally published in 1982)

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About In the Hall of the Dragon King
Carrying a sealed message from the war-hero Dragon King to the queen, Quentin and his outlaw companion, Theido, plunge headlong into a fantastic odyssey and mystic quest. Danger lurks everywhere in the brutal terrain, and particularly in the threats from merciless creatures, both human and not-so-human.

While at the castle, the wicked Prince Jaspin schemes to secure the crown for himself, and an evil sorcerer concocts his own monstrous plan. A plan that Quentin and Theido could never imagine.

In the youth’s valiant efforts to save the kingdom and fulfill his unique destiny, he will cross strange and wondrous lands; encounter brave knights, beautiful maidens, and a mysterious hermit; and battle a giant, deadly serpent.

My Review
I first read this book when I was in seventh grade or so and definitely in a high fantasy phase of reading. (I was also a huge fan of the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey.) While I don’t read too much high fantasy these days, I still enjoyed the medieval feel and scope of the story and Quentin’s character. I also liked that though the queen isn’t a major character, she doesn’t stay behind the castle walls waiting for things to be solved—she’s right there with the team on the adventure to rescue her king, and clearly is a strong woman unafraid of battle.

I also liked the way that Toli’s people, described as a gentle, reclusive woodland tribe, end up being powerful allies against a pretty fearsome enemy that Quentin and his team face. There’s something Tolkien-ish about that sort of reversal of power, if that makes sense? Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool.

The storytelling is what I would describe as more gentle. It’s not a book that will have you flipping page after page on the edge of your seat but more tells an interesting story with a focused plot and worthy cast of characters. To today’s teens it might feel a bit dated, but I think that actually works in favor of this genre whereas it might be a problem in others.

While there’s some magic content, the story also contains a strong mapping to Christian theology in its exploration of a god known as Most High who desires relationship with the characters and speaks through visions and signs. See the notes below for other information about content.

Fans of high fantasy or authors like Donita Paul and Bryan Davis will want to give this one a read.

Recommended for Ages 12 up. (True story… I was about 12 the first time I read this book.)

Cultural Elements
Most characters appear to be white, but Quentin befriends the brown-skinned prince of a woodland tribe named Toli. Toli voluntarily becomes Quentin’s servant, and tries to explain to Quentin how among his people, to serve is a great honor.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Quentin first serves a god named Ariel at a temple. But once he leaves the temple, he’s no longer eligible to serve the god anymore. He meets a forest hermit, Durwin, who serves another god, called the Most High, which maps to Christian theology. Quentin experiences a call and vision from his new god and commits his life to serve the Most High.

The villain, a necromancer, performs some dark magic, including controlling what appear to be dead warriors.

Violent Content
Some descriptions of battle scenes get a bit gory—they’re brief but sometimes intense.

Drug Content
References to drinking ale (like you’d expect per a medieval culture).