Dragonsong by Michael Forester. Book review

Dragonsong by Michael Forester, Matador 2016, £ 8.99, ISBN 978-1-78589-127-4

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

Anyone who sets out these days to write epic poetry with some rhyme, rhythm and iambic meter deserves our respect. This isn’t Milton, but then it wouldn’t be, would it? Cromwell’s secretary is long dead, more’s the pity. Whereas this is a work of whimsy, the delightful satisfying pleasure of the writing art. It has no deeper message other than a tale told in a fun way.

The tale begins with Book the First entitled `Lady Attie of the Lake’, in a land strangely called Freedom beside a lake in a cabin rude with a miraculous beggar who encourages a barren woman to give birth to a child called Natalie or Attie for short. Oberon, the King of Elfindom seeks to kidnap Attie but is frustrated by powerful magic. Being a sore loser Oberon curses young Attie with lifelong solitude. Thus, this young champion of goodness can find none to love her as herself. Then she encounters a seer from Arthur’s court in Albion seeking a love lost called Harmony. Out of kindness Attie supports him in his quest only to discover that Harmony is in truth a dragon. This dragon has the seer, one Michael bewitched so Attie sets out to break the spell to free Michael. She slays the multi-headed beast, but does she save Michael?

Book the Second, entitled `The Seer of Albion’ is about Michael. This requires that we go back in time to Michael’s birth in Albion. He and his sister were orphaned by plague. An evil carer sells Michael into slavery. A slaver takes him to the royal palace where the aforementioned miraculous beggar turns into a tiger and slays the slave dealer. It appears that Michael possesses The Sight and can foretell events. He identifies the beggar as Merlin who promptly enrols him as Arthur’s seer. Arthur’s kingdom is at war with Oberon’s Elfindom, but the seer frustrates every military incursion made by the elves into Albion by ensuring that Arthur’s knights are always to hand to defeat every elfin attack. Sadly, a human youth by name Alfred is resentful so betrays Michael, the seer to Oberon. Alfred’s treason is rewarded by death at the hand of Oberon. Now Oberon enters into a pact with Hell and enrols three witches to summon the dragon Harmony. She adopts the identity of a human girl to distract the seer’s vision. Thus, Michael is seduced, yet Harmony also manages to fall in love with Michael herself. Harmony rebels against Oberon and the witches, smashing their cauldron so that she cannot be returned to Hell.

In Book the Third called `Dragonsong’ the whole story matures. The political structures of the world are described along with the kings and judges, all ordained by the gods. Once upon a time mankind, the elves and the gods lived harmoniously until they separated. The gods went to Asgard, the elves to Elfindom and man to the three kingdoms of Norsedane, Albion and Freedom. The reader is left with the clear impression that this Book is the meat of the tale, implying that the previous two books are just adjuncts to this one. Oberon is clearly classed as the wicked baddie who overthrows all other authority on Elfindom in order to attack Albion. This is where the tale assumes its full complexity as Oberon draws on all cunning and contrivance to prosecute his war. Harmony had begun life as a child of Merlin who fell in love with Vidar the king of Norsedane. Oberon and a party of elves, disguised as retainers of Albion, murder Vidar and violate Harmony. To seek revenge Harmony sells her soul to Hell to become a dragon. She holds Albion responsible for the death of Vidar so she ravages the land. In retaliation Merlin banishes her, his only child back to Hell and in contrition surrenders all his titles and offices. Michael is freed from his trance by Merlin, who, in so doing loses his own magical strength.

By the time, we reach Book the Fourth, `The Sleep Stone’, Michael is full restored and Attie is back in the tale. This Sleep Stone is deployed to subdue Oberon’s demon army whilst Michael begs the gods to intervene. As the gods are busy constraining the movement of time itself, Attie kills Oberon. Sadly, nobody seems to live happily ever after, although some promotions are achieved, but then such is the nature of the human condition.

This style of story qualifies for a `C’ for Courage as few will attempt this form of narrative presentation. To be honest the tale could have been better told in prose because the story would have been tighter in style and better described. Verse has tremendous virtues but also terrific failings. It can be seen in this tale that explanations given in verse can become lengthy whilst actual events are disposed of in a couple of lines. This can generate a certain tedium for the reader as he or she navigates the necessary linkages. If the verse had been more concise, and a little less proud of itself, the tale would clip along in a fast and exciting manner. In the end, it is all a matter of taste. Sadly, this work is not for this reviewer, but this does not detract from the sheer skill of this presentation.