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First edition cover
AuthorBarbara Hambly
Cover artistMichael Whelan
CountryUnited States
GenreFantasy novel
Published1985 (Del Rey Books)
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Followed byDragonshadow 

Dragonsbane is a fantasy novel written by author Barbara Hambly and published by Del Rey Books in 1985.

Plot summary[edit]

A witch, Jenny Waynest, and lord, John Aversin, who live in the decaying Northlands are approached by a young southern noble, Gareth, who requests they slay a dragon in the capital city of Bel to the south. The pair agree on the condition the king send troops to the north to fend off bandits. On arriving, it is revealed that Gareth is not a mere noble, but the prince of the realm seeking aid against the wishes of his father. The dragon is revealed as Morkeleb the Black, an ancient and powerful dragon, now inhabiting the caverns of the gnomes. In addition, the sorceress Zyerne is revealed to hold the king in her power, dominating him with the goal of capturing the power of the Stone in the heart of the gnomish Deep. John is persuaded to kill Morkeleb, with Jenny's assistance, but is himself wounded and Jenny is forced to save the dragon's life in exchange for that of John's. In saving Morkeleb's life, Jenny's weak powers are much augmented, allowing her to confront Zyerne but also tempting her to transform into a dragon and abandon the concerns of humanity. Zyrene enters the Deep, attempting to claim its magic, but is defeated when the Stone is destroyed by John, Jenny and Morkeleb. Jenny accepts Morkeleb's offer to transform into a dragon, but later returns to the North, unable to live without her humanity.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Dragonsbane was a Locus award nominee in 1986[1] and 1987.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Overall, the critical reception to Hambly's book has been positive. A reviewer from Curled Up with a Good Book wrote, "Dragonsbane has everything you could look for in a fantasy book: wonderful characterization, non-stereotypical dragons, beautiful prose--and it's self-contained as well." Speaking more on characterization, the reviewer notes, "Hambly's characterization is first-rate, and she plays most of her characters against stereotype. ... I would be remiss if I didn't mention the dragon. Hambly has created a truly three-dimensional character in him.... He's not your normal dragon, and he's more than just an adversary."[3]

And the Fantasy Cafe site gave the book an 8 out of 10, writing, "While it was a somewhat slow paced book, Dragonsbane managed to pull me in immediately with the way it introduced the characters in the very first chapter. ... Hambly took what felt like a very traditional fantasy story and made it unexpectedly unique." Moreover, the unique love story also received the Fantasy Cafe reviewer's approval: "It was about established, mature love that’s existed for a while.... It was a nice change to read about a couple who has been together for a while instead of romance filled with significant glances and conversations and wondering when/how the two people would end up together."[4]

Locus praised the novel as well, stating, "This is literary alchemy of a high order, and it confirms Hambly's place as one of the best new fantasists"; moreover, Locus advises, "When the author is Barbara Hambly, prepare for something special."[5] Betsy Shorb from the School Library Journal also observed, "This fantasy is peopled with appealing, fully delineated characters, even the dragon Morkeleb. The conflict between the need to love and the need to develop one's talents add even more interest to an already interesting quest."[6]


  • Dragonsbane (ebook)

Published March 29, 2011, Open Road Integrated Media ebook, 342 pages

  • Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1)

Published March 23, 2011, Open Road Kindle Edition

  • Dragonsbane (Mass Market Paperback)

Published May 12, 1987, Del Rey Mass Market Paperback, 341 pages

  • Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1)

Published December 12, 1985, Del Rey Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "1986 Locus Awards". 1986. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  2. ^ "1987 Locus Awards". 1987. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  3. ^ Roy, Dave (2006). "Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly". Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Review of Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly". Fantasy Cafe. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  5. ^ Miller, Faren (Dec 1985). "Dragonsbane". Locus.
  6. ^ Shorb, Betsy (September 1986). "Dragonsbane (Book Review)". School Library Journal. 33 (1): 152.