There is no rest for the wicked, nor for the youngest knights of the realm of Tofte, Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor, as they return home to Lenburh after their adventure of the far north where they faced the dragon Quenwulf only to find their village under attack, but to their surprise and their advantage in the battle they have not only their enchanted swords Biter and Runnel by their sides as they are called to action once again but unexpected allies.
Bilewolves! The cry which went up on the final pages of Have Sword, Will Travel echoing into the opening chapter of Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams have given the sequel the feeling of a wider world, even if the young protagonists have not yet seen it all, putting them in the company of the wandering exiles Egda and Hundred, the old king who abdicated his throne when he was blinded and his former captain of the guard who still serves and protects him.
Where the first book featured magic, this features witchcraft, for it is swiftly apparent that evil is afoot in the land again and that the bilewolves did not attack randomly, that was in fact Egda whom they were targeting as a threat to the ambition of the Regent Odelyn who is preparing to oust Egda’s great-nephew Prince Kendryk from his birthright and seize the throne of Winterset for herself.
Game of Thrones for a more tender reading age than would appreciate the Red Wedding, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie is perhaps not as much fun or as swift moving as the first book but it is an understandable progression; the emphasis more on the burden, the responsibility of their new duties, even Eleanor is aware that things were happier when she and Odo were on their own adventure, answerable to nobody and with no adults in charge.
While it was the correct decision by Nix and Williams not to simply replay the narrative of Have Sword, Will Travel, the sombre presence of Egda and Hundred does inform the mood of the journey and some of the moments which should be magical – a horse-drawn carriage passage over a frozen lake by moonlight, pursued by enchanted creatures – don’t quite convey the excitement and energy which they should.
Regardless, it is a book of honourable and responsible heroes and it represents the next stage in the growth of Odo and Eleanor into the knights they will become: “The best knights are humble and consider no skill beneath them,” Runnel tells his mistress as she grumbles over having to lay out bedrolls, and with the final pages setting up a powerful boo-hiss villain for a future confrontation it is to be hoped that Nix and Williams return to Odo, Eleanor, Biter and Runnel before their target audience grows up too much to appreciate them.
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie is available now from Piccadilly Press