In a land of talking animals, pirates, knights, castles, and magic, anything is possible...
Thomas Whitehead, once a simple librarian from Iowa, was magically transported to the mystical land of Carolna.
Through his adventures Thomas became Sir Thomas Whitehead of Hidden Canyon Achievement, Knight Royal, Librarian to the Historian of Overhall as well as to the King of the magical kingdom of Carolna, Dragon Companion to Retruance Constable the Dragon, and husband to the King's daughter, Princess Amanda, and father to Princess Gale.
When word of a possible invasion reaches Thomas, he gathers Amanda, Gale, and Gale’s Maid-in-Waiting Brenda, and with the help of Retruance and his Dragon family, they set off to reach Carolna in time to warn King Eduard.
While en route to Carolna, Brenda is kidnapped by pirates. Now Thomas has to save Brenda and still warn the King before it is too late.
Donald Bruce Callander
March 23, 1930 -- July 25, 2008
Don Callander was the best-selling author of the 'Mancer series and the Dragon Companion series. Don originally worked as a travel writer/photographer and graphic designer before retiring to start his writing.
Don was born in Minneapolis, brought up in Duluth, Minnesota, and graduated from high school there before enlisting in the U. S. Navy in 1947. After serving four years on active duty (including the Korean War) he transferred to the Naval Reserve where he served as a 'weekend warrior' for twenty additional years.
He settled in Washington, D.C., where he married, raised four children, and worked on the Washington Post newspaper and in National Headquarters of the American Automobile Association (40,000,000 members!) until his retirement in 1991.
During his retirement, Don lived in Florida and at the age of 62, began writing his bestselling fantasy books until he passed away in 2008.
Dragon Winter is a fun fantasy replete with dragons. There are three main dragons, two secondary dragons, and six other dragons who wend their way through the story. In addition, there is Tom Whitehead, once a librarian at the Library of Congress, who has been magically transported into a world where elves and magic rule.
The magical land of Carolna is richly described and I found it to be totally believable. In addition, the author has created unique and fully realized characters, whether they are dragons or kings, pirates or scullery maids. I was especially drawn not only to the dragons, but also to Tom and his wife Princess Amanda.
The action in this novel centers on a kidnapping. The kidnappers intended to snatch Gale, Amanda, and Tom’s daughter, but instead they capture Brenda, Gale’s Maid-in-Waiting, a young girl with a lot of spunk.
This is the fifth novel in the Dragon Companion series but like the others in the series, it also works just fine as a stand-alone. Each book has its own distinct story, but there is a thread that runs through the entire series which is finally resolved in this final book. There are advantages to reading the entire series in order and there are also advantages to reading Dragon Winter on its own. I have read the entire series and it was wonderful to re-enter this world and share more adventures with my friends. That being said, the plot was a bit predictable. I knew what would inevitably happen, something that I probably wouldn't have known if I hadn't read the first four books. However, I am very glad I had, because I felt the full impact of the resolution of the common thread and while I knew what would happen, I had no idea how. The author’s creativity in the resolution provides a great deal of fun and excitement even when the outcome is known.
So fantasy lovers, especially dragon lovers, be sure to give this a try. The dragons are among the most wonderful that I have ever shared adventures with.
Storm Clouds Gather
A racing white blizzard blasted across the high passes and over lower peaks of the Snow Mountains, flung itself across Gugglerun Ridge and full upon Murdan’s Overhall.
The thermometer nailed outside the Lord Historian’s bedroom window almost shattered as it showed minus fifteen degrees of bitter cold.
Outside the stables piles of fresh horse droppings steamed like miniature volcanoes but froze to the icy cobbles before a shivering stable boy could run out to shovel it up and away!
Proud young Chanticleer, the Overhall Cock-of-the-Walk, gargled his usually clear salute to the hidden sunrise, shook his red and blue tailfeathers, and pranced back into the nice, warm coop to console his two dozen brown hens and warn them to stay inside as much as possible.
Two little girls—one the daughter of an Innkeeper; the other a Princess and the daughter of a Princess and grand-daughter of a King—slipped and skidded on the new snow in the outer bailey, lugging a bucket of wheat and corn and barley and a bit of stale bread crumbs to the hens in the coop, all the while giggling and shrieking with pretended fear of falling.
On the steep steps from Middle Bailey to Outer Bailey, red-cheeked sons of Overhall guardsmen, and a sprinkling of apprentices from kitchen and armory and buttery, showed Gregor Clemsson how to bellyflop down the hill on their tummies, screaming with glee.
Gregor’s younger brother Tommy at first held back out of sensible caution—and then flung himself down the slope headfirst, shouting his shrill defiance of the danger.
If Gregor could do it, he would do it better! And faster and louder, too.
Sir Thomas Whitehead of Hidden Canyon Achievement, Knight Royal, Librarian to the Historian of Overhall as well as to the King of Carolna, carefully laid aside the bulky book he’d been carefully re-binding—Ancient and Arcane Lore & Essential Charms, one of his employer’s most ancient and most precious tomes—and went to the window of Lord Murdan’s study to watch the boys sliding by with breakneck speed.
“It’s going to be a real killer of a blizzard,” Tom said to Murdan.
“What are you, a weather prognosticator?” grunted his master.
Murdan was writing in a ledger with a long grey goose quill and didn’t look up as he spoke.
“I’m an Iowa boy and I know a blizzard when I see one coming,” Tom insisted. “Even the pigeons are staying in their cote and the corbies under the eaves, too. I bet the cows in the byre are standing as close together as maids watching a Fall Sessions Parade just to keep warm.”
Murdan looked up, at that, and grinned broadly at his friend and employee. He rose and glanced through the window, and then reached for his warmest winter cloak.
“In which case we’re obliged to go try the slope, ourselves, Librarian. Make sure nobody gets hurt, you understand.”
“Of course! Clem made me a pair of cross-country skis. I wonder how I could do. Haven’t skied in years and years.”
Murdan shooed him out the door, saying, “We’ll do it young Tommy’s way—on our stomachs! Ledgers and bankbooks can wait until the snow really shuts us indoors.”
Princess Alix Amanda Trusslo-Whitehead of Hidden Canyon pricked her ring finger with her embroidery needle and swore a very unladylike oath.
“It is getting too dark in here,” observed Mistress Grumble. “I shall order more candles, Princess.”
Manda, as she preferred to be called, sucked her stabbed finger and reached for a bandage from her sewing basket.
“No, no! This is not a morning for sewing, Grumble dear. I’d better see what Gale is doing. Even I get lost here at Overhall, comes darkness!”
“The child, bless her heart, is never in danger at Overhall. I saw her playing with Brenda, from Sprend. The girl from the Babbling Bass, you know?”
“Oh, yes!—happy little pixie, Brenda! They’ve become bosom buddies, staunch playmates, as little girls often do at their age.”
“And the Innkeeper’s family is most respectable. Sensible—if they do always seem to smell of—well, you know! But if my poor old bones tell me true, Manda, this storm is going to be ferocious! Listen to that wind! I think I’d better make sure all windows and doors are shut tight! Will you excuse me?”
“Of course! And I’ll just make sure of the girls. Goodness! The snow on the level is already ankle deep!”
“And just beginning! I hope Captain Graham’s men are clearing the ways. And the drawbridge! Snow gets very heavy, you know.”
“Why not just lift the drawbridge?” asked a guard corporal—who also happened to be Graham’s middle son. “The snow would just—slide off, Daddy.”
“My boy! What if someone should come seeking shelter from the storm? To find Overhall Gate shut tight! Lord Murdan would spout steam from his ears and fire from his eyes.”
“I’ll take care of it, Dad!”
And the young man turned away to fetch off-duty guardsmen who were throwing snowballs at each other in front of the barracks. “Hey! Brooms at the ready! Hartfeel! Fetch a sack or two of rock salt! We’re to clear the draw and plow the Gateway. Everybody look lively, now!”
Tom bent to help the Historian to his feet at the bottom of the slope between Middle and Outer Bailey. The two men laughed like little boys and brushed snow from their clothes.
“Here’s a beautiful snow-maiden,” Murdan cried on seeing Manda, Gay, and Brenda. “No! Three of ’em! Good morrow, ladies!”
“Mama says it is going to snow for a long time,” Princess Gale Thomasdotter bubbled, throwing her arms about her father’s waist and waving to the puffing Historian at the same time. “Can I slide, too?”
“You may— if you don’t mind climbing the hill to Middle Bailey,” her father said. “I’ll go with you! Coming, Mother?”
“Mayhap we should go inside. It’s turning cold! Well, just once or twice, I agree. It’s been a long, long while since I saw or felt or tasted or slid on snow,” Manda said as they climbed. “Mornie says it snows like this up to their cabin several times a winter. Never snows much, ever, in Hidden Lake Canyon, however.”
“All the more reason to enjoy it while it’s here for us,” her husband said.
They all ate lunch—fried chicken and hot baking powder biscuits—in front of a snapping fire of seasoned oak logs in the castle kitchen. It was bright, clean, and, most important, warm as toast.
“You’d think all this stonework would be good insulation,” Tom was saying to Murdan. “I suppose once the walls get cold it takes a magic spell to warm them up?”
“Never thought of it, to tell you the truth! Mostly they’re warm enough in summer, however.” Murdan considered the matter. “Not a bad idea, however, I’ll bespeak Arcolas on it. He’s from the North and ought to know about such things.”
“How much will it snow, Daddy?” Gay asked around a chicken leg she was chewing.
“Don’t talk when your mouth is full,” her mother said. “Swallow first!”
“As to how much, I surely don’t know. Maybe Arcolas can answer that. He has some knowledge of weather, I believe. I haven't seen Master Arcolas in a week or more,” Manda said, carefully swallowing a bit of biscuit and raspberry jam first.
“He probably foresaw this storm and took a vacation down south. He was intending to spend some time helping young Findles in Aquanelle,” the Lord Historian put in.
“He could have warned us,” Tom muttered.
“What good, that? The only thing you can do about storms is endure ’em. Hunker down and tolerate!”
“Well, if you will excuse us, wife and daughter, Murdan and I intend to insulate ourselves with a ton and a half of scrambled papers on the silver-works in Lexor. Formal supper, tonight, Murdan?”
“Yes, it just makes sense. All my people together in one room provide plenty of body heat. And it keeps the servants warm running back and forth to the kitchen!”
They all stopped talking as they heard a booming from far off, through the muffling snowfall.
“Someone’s knocking at the gate,” cried Murdan angrily. “Who closed the gate?”
“I ordered them swung-to,” Captain Graham admitted. “It seemed best. The north wind was shaking the jambs out of the stone. And it helped keep the Lower Bailey clear of new snow!”
“Well, go bring whoever it is in to thaw. Noontide or midnight, Overhall welcomes all strangers in a storm!”