Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton

Duncan M. Hamilton’s Dragonslayer (2019) has all the elements one might expect from a fantasy novel: a quasi-medieval-Europe setting, swordmasters, mages, powerful talismans, ancient half-forgotten lore, quests with slim odds of success, powerful clerics, secret societies, etc. And that, unfortunately, is just the problem. It has all the expected elements but little unexpected, and the elements as presented are somewhat flat, as are the characters.

Gill (Lord Guillot) was once the greatest swordsman in the land and a member (currently the last living one) of the Chevaliers of the Silver Circle, a legendary cadre of enhanced mage-warriors who long ago devolved into far lesser men whose rituals were more excuses for drinking. Gill’s drinking became even worse after the death of his wife and son and his ensuing (unfair) expulsion from the court several years before the book’s beginning. But when a dragon, a creature thought extinct for ages, appears and begins taking vengeance on humans for killing its kind, Gill gets called on by the new king to try and kill it, while behind the scenes the sinister high cleric Prince Bishop manipulates events for his own benefit. Another character throws a bit of a wild card into things, a young woman named Solene who is a naturally gifted magic user well beyond the abilities of anyone currently known.

Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsTo begin with the positive, Dragonslayer is well paced, easy flowing, and nicely concise. Hamilton also does a nice job giving us the dragon’s perspective, adding some complexity to battle between humans and dragons.

Beyond that, it’s pretty much as stated in the opening paragraph above. Worldbuilding is quite thin. Characters are flat and rote with little sense of depth, making it difficult to make any sort of emotional investment in them. The book relies on a good amount of clumsy exposition via interior monologue as well as some overly convenient plot contrivances or things that happen too easily. Solene’s magical ability is an example of the latter two, along with Gill’s discovery of a powerful talisman.

Genre will often present us with familiar elements, so something needs to add some spark in those cases. Maybe it’s the compelling characters, maybe it’s the vivid style and unique authorial voice, maybe it’s edge-of-the-seat plotting. Unfortunately, Dragonslayer lacks that “something,” that “spark.” Hamilton does show some facility with pacing, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the book’s too-basic nature. Not recommended.

Published in July 2019. With the dragons believed dead, the kingdom had no more need for dragonslayers. Drunk, disgraced, and all but forgotten, Guillot has long since left his days of heroism behind him. As forgotten places are disturbed in the quest for power, and things long dormant awaken, the kingdom finds itself in need of a dragonslayer once again, and Guillot is the only one left… 


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.