Sword & Sorcery in “Reign of the Dragon Lord”

After reading some other work by C.J. Henderson, most notably his New Pulp offerings, Comics on the Brain was eager to grab another one of his novels. This time, we opted for his effort in the fantasy genre.

 

Available from Marietta Publishing, here’s how the book is described on Henderson’s site:
In the land of Macava, a terrible movement is afoot. Having decided that humanity is too vulgar to be allowed to continue, the witch folk of the frozen north move to eradicate the civilization of man from their world before it is too late. Working behind the scenes, murdering leaders, turning nations one against the other, little stands in their way except for those few willing to sacrifice all to oppose such madness. A gathering of old heroes and those brave but yet untested is begun, but will it be enough to stem the tide of horror and death moving slowly toward them?
The “Reign of the Dragon Lord” harkens back to older fantasy ¬†— think of a less sunny world than what Tolkien offered — where magic is almost always evil and vile creatures slink in the shadows, angry at the world man has carved out for himself.
In other words, it’s very much in the tradition of the Sword & Sorcery genre, which is quite different from High Fantasy that came a little later.
The general plot even plays into the standard Sword & Sorcery tropes: A cabal of evil magic-using creatures is plotting against humanity, conquering country after country. When they reach Macava, they find the Weredodger royal family is willing to put up a stand. Their effort fails and the Lomonians take over. The remainder of the royal family — Princess Elizia and her uncle, Lanhar — then work to take back the crown.
Henderson proceeds to weave an on-the-road tale of their journey back to the capitol.
The best scene in the book is the one depicted on the cover — where the Weredodgers are ambushed by giant-sized spiders in the midst of a magically-summoned ice storm. It’s a great scene and it proved too hard to top for Henderson. The action in the rest of the book seems to pale in comparison to that early scene.
It’s also important to point out that the star of the book is Uncle Lanhar. We should have realized this from the title, but the way the beginning of the story starts out, it seems like the story is going to be about Princess Elizia, with Uncle Lanhar guiding her into becoming a strong ruler, but instead the book’s all about what’s going on with Lanhar and how he’s dealing with things.
That focus, in turn, leaves the sympathetic character behind and forces the reader to follow the “tough guy with a plan.” Lanhar, by his very nature, just isn’t as relatable as Elizia could have been.
We did enjoy bits and pieces of “The Reign of the Dragon Lord.” A few of the other characters proved to be interesting. We loved the cover art. We also were thrilled to find out that the story was actually first used in a 1980s comic that Henderson wrote … (Or at least as best as we can tell).
But even those positives didn’t outweigh the problems we found in the book. We like a lot of Henderson’s other work, but “Reign of the Dragon Lord” just didn’t ¬†make the grade.
“Reign of the Dragon Lord” by C.J. Henderson, $15.99, Marietta Publishing, ISBN 978-1-892669-29-2

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