Tuesday, 6 March 2018
CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEW: FREE LANCE AND THE DRAGON'S HOARD BY PAUL STEWART AND CHRIS RIDDELL
Free Lance and the Dragon's Hoard
Author/s: Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
ISBN: 034087404X ISBN: 13: 978-0340874042
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes
You've read Free Lance and the Lake of Skulls and Free lance and the Field of Blood so here's his new story from the writing team that shows us nothing is ever what it seems for our favourite knight who is always down on his luck.
Boasting of knights, adventure, magic and fantasy, Free Lance is currently in need of cash after his last escapade with his squire, Wormrick. He had to leave him the last of his gold as he had injured his leg, and yes, you've guessed it, Free Lance had to find another "nice little earner" to get him back on his feet. Free Lance didn't have to wait long for an opportunity to come his way; a rich merchant needed someone to help him get his stock to its destination without bandits or wolves stopping him. He saw something in Free Lance he didn't see in the other men who wanted to do business as his personal bodyguard, but this is only the start of the tale. Fifty gold coins sounds like a good enough deal, though when he enters a village where a damsel is being taken out as an offering to a rather hungry dragon, there is only one thing for Free Lance to do.
Free Lance nicknames the merchant "Peacock" and he isn't happy with his choice of campsite, even if it saves his life, relating a story to Free Lance of a fierce battle that left the land tainted with blood and cursed for life; a curse that involves a rather hungry dragon. Free Lance doesn't believe in dragons. The truth is, he should as Peacock has seen a dark shape in the distance where they are camped and it doesn't look good.
Free Lance is the sort of knight who tries not to get involved with people or their problems. He has learned from past experience that wolves can hurt, women can be a pest and old curses can get you killed. Peacock isn't who he seems to be either, he has money and cunning going for him as he sets something up Free Lance has to sort out. I got the feeling Wormrick got an easier time resting his leg as Free Lance has to search for the poor maiden who is about to be eaten by the dreaded dragon. I liked the way it started with what looked like a normal story of a knight finding a merchant who could give him enough money to cope with the cash he had already given Wormrick. The merchant of course had a bigger part to play later on, and the story he tells means more than Free Lance thinks. What I couldn't get out of my head was Wormrick's name. Sounds a little like Baldrick from the Blackadder TV series. Fans of the previous novels are sure to like this one as great effort is made by the author to put in as much adventure, humour and characterisation into the book as possible.
Free Lance and the Dragon's Hoard was first published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2003, and in this version it has dyslexia friendly features such as off white or light yellow paper to make it easier to read, more spacing between words and a decent sized font (Point 14). With the leaving out of complex lengthy words, reading about Free Lance's adventures can be absorbed by young dyslexic readers of varying ages who want to experience the fun and enjoyment of reading. The foil wraparound cover by Chris Riddell is scary with a dragon's face on the front and some images on the back of characters from this book. More of Chris's art can be found inside that compliments its readability.