The Hunting of the Last Dragon
Eos, 2003 (2002)
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Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
he story is set in a vaguely medieval England in the year 1356. Its protagonist, Jude of Doran, is dictating the history of his adventures, chapter by chapter, to a Brother in the Monastery of St. Edmund. Despite the fact that the award winning author lives in New Zealand, their distant antipodes, she displays a deep sympathy for the people of the time, their hardships, their occasional virtues, and for that matter for their frequent all-too-human failings.
t was believed that all the dragons in England had been killed by brave knights in the past, but a last one has now appeared, and is burning down whole villages. Jude's father keeps swine in Doran. Despite learning of an attack which has killed his uncle and all his large family in a neighbouring village, Jude journeys to another village to buy a new bow, though he is not very skilfull in its use. At a carnival there he meets the skilled swordsman Tybalt, who keeps a freak in a cage. She is in fact a young Chinese girl with tiny bound feet.
hen Jude returns, he finds that the dragon has burned down Doran and all his family. He goes mad for a while, but is found and succoured by Tybalt, and travels with him. Jude feels pity for the freak and tries to help her as he can. He slowly realizes that she is an intelligent and compassionate girl, who becomes his friend. They are forced to run away from the wagons, and encounter Old Lan, who is believed to be a witch, and is herself Chinese. She helps Jing-wei through the long and agonizing operations to straighten the bones of her bound feet, and they finally persuade a most reluctant and fearful Jude to help to kill the dragon.
n fact, Jing-wei has a much greater role in the attack than Jude, though he does indeed summon up the courage he needs, not only to help kill the dragon, but later to face the even more daunting task of asking Jing-wei to marry him. This is a very enjoyable fable. Though Jude is somewhat of an anti-hero, he has a good heart, and Jing-wei has all the courage and wit that he lacks.
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