The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse is a retelling of the latter part of Beowulf. I don’t think I’ve ever read Beowulf or a retelling based on it. I don’t know much about this epic tale because we never studied it for school. The Coming of the Dragon came highly recommended by both Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library so I decided to give it a go. Also, I’m very curious about the companion novel, Peaceweaver, because Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers gave it a positive joint review. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that both books are available in the library. Yay for making the most out of my library membership!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Coming of the DragonWhen he was a baby, Rune washed up onshore in a boat, along with a sword and a pendant bearing the runes that gave him his nickname. Some people thought he was a sacrifice to the gods and wanted to send him right back to the sea. Luckily for Rune, King Beowulf disagreed. He lifted the boy from the boat and gave him to Amma, a wise woman living on a farm far removed from the kingโ€™s hall, to raise as she saw fit.

Sixteen years later, Rune spends his summers laboring on the farm. And at King Beowulfโ€™s request, he comes to the hall each winter for weapons training. But somehow he never quite fits in. Many people still fear he will bring a curse on the kingdom. Then a terrible thing happens. On a lonely crag on a mountain that belongs to the giants, someone awakens a dragon. It is time for Rune to find the warrior inside himself and prove to the doubters once and for all that he is a true hero.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now then you’re probably aware that I read all kinds of books but I rarely venture into middle grade territory. I only do that when a book comes recommended by book bloggers I trust. And when I end up enjoying the book, I usually feel like I would have loved to read it when I was in the target age for it. The Coming of the Dragon is one of those novels. I really liked Rune’s character development – he starts off as an insecure young man but grows into something more as the story progresses. I understood how difficult and confusing life must have been like for Rune while growing up. I mean it’s hard enough to figure out what you’re meant to do with your life but with Rune, he had to deal with not knowing who his real parents are or where he came from. He desperately wants to prove himself, he just needs the chance to do so. I liked how the change in his character from the beginning to the end wasn’t drastic, it felt believable based on the challenges that Rune experienced.

There is magic in this book but most of it is subtle, aside from the presence of the dragon. The novel reads more like historical fiction instead of epic fantasy. Maybe I should just describe it as historical fantasy and leave it at that. Like I said, I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to Beowulf or this time period so I’m not sure how accurate the setting is. What I can just say is that I enjoyed reading about the characters and their struggles to overcome their biggest foe: the dragon. I found the first few chapters a little slow but things picked up towards the end. Also, I got the feeling that the kingdom wasn’t that big? I was wondering why there weren’t more people who were there to fight against the dragon. Although that might really be the case, Beowulf’s kingdom might just be a small one. I was really curious about Peaceweaver after reading this one and was a bit disappointed to discover that it’s not a sequel but a companion novel instead. It doesn’t continue the story after The Coming of the Dragon but occurs simultaneously with the events of the novel and features a different character. I’m still interested in reading it though, I just hope Rebecca Barnhouse returns to Rune’s story. Would you happen to have any other recommendations based on Norse mythology?

Other reviews:
Charlotte’s Library
Random Musings of a Bibliophile

14 thoughts on “The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

  1. The setting is perfect. She got it just right. The only person I can think of who might have done the setting of this time period better is Rosemary Sutcliff.

    Here’s hoping we get more of Rune’s story in the next book. (Crosses fingers.)

    • I need to read more of Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels! I keep hearing about her from Sounisians.

      Thanks for recommending this, Brandy. And for answering my questions about the reading order of the books. I’ll try to read Peaceweaver soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Alex, make sure you get Peaceweaver with it because you’ll probably want to read them together. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve heard that Peaceweaver is even better than this one so I’m looking forward to reading that.

  2. I hope you enjoy Peaceweaver, Chachic! I think that one reads just a tad older.

    And do try R. Sutcliff–I’d suggest you start with Mark of the Horse Lord. It is utterly supurb.

    • I’ve read Eagle of the Ninth because it kept getting recommended at Sounis, I didn’t love it though. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Mark of the Horse has been in my wishlist for AGES! I haven’t been able to find a copy of it though.

  3. Rosemary Sutcliff’s books pop up very often in Booksale, at least at the branch I used to go to.

    I just picked up a YA book set in the present time that was built around Norse myths, but for the life of me I can’t remember the title! Will get back to you once I’ve checked. But the trilogy that got me interested in Norse mythology was (would you believe it?) L.J. Smith’s (yes, the same person who wrote Vampire Diaries) Forbidden Game. I know you hate paranormal romance YA, but I wouldn’t classify this one as PR. If you can find a copy, do give it a try.

    • Hah, I have a feeling I’d have a hard time finding a copy of that but will try to keep it in mind. ๐Ÿ˜› I haven’t found good books in Book Sale in ages. I think I’ve stopped trying to hunt for them when my TBR pile grew to gigantic proportions. I wonder if there are any good used bookstores here in Singapore? I wouldn’t mind checking them out since brand-new books are super expensive here. Which is why I usually just borrow from the library.

  4. Okay. I want to read this. BADLY. I am all about character development.

    Also. Norse fantasy recommendation: ICEFALL by Matthew Kirby. It’s soooo good and I think it could either be MG or YA.

    ALSO ALSO ALSO Foxmask and Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier. You already know those books are going to be good, cuz hello it’s Juliet Marillier.

    • April, I have a feeling you’ll like this! Make sure you grab Peaceweaver as well so you can read them together. ๐Ÿ˜›

      I’ll be adding Icefall to my wishlist so thanks for that recommendation.

      *nods head* Juliet Marillier can do no wrong in my eyes. I actually have a copy of Foxmask back home, I should try to bring that here in Singapore. I still haven’t finished reading the Bridei books!

  5. One of the things I love about blogs is that random books always enter our radars from other blogs. Even though I read some of the blogs you mentioned, I can’t recall ever hearing about this book before. I had to study Beowulf in school but I can’t say I enjoyed it:) I think a retelling might be a safer/more enjoyable reading route for me.

    • Flann, I know what you mean. Sometimes it surprises me that I miss hearing about good books even if I follow blogs that have featured them before. That has been the case lately because I’ve been struggling to visit and comment on the blogs I follow. Let me know if you get to read this! I had to return Peaceweaver yesterday but I plan to borrow it again later on.

Comments are like chocolate. :) Maraming salamat / thank you!

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