On a lark, and having found a copy that I bought but never read, I packed this novelization of the 1981 film for a vacation. In the film, Peter Mcnichol plays a sorcerer's apprentice who fights against a dragon when his mentor dies. "Dragonslayer" is actually the story of a battle between two evils - both the dragon and a corrupt king who holds lotteries to choose who will be sacrificed to the dragon to placate it. The novel adds many elements, but doesn't do much with them. The place is Urland, an ancient British kingdom in England about the time of St. Patrick, with the ancient ways of magic and similar superstitions giving way to a new existence basd on the cross. Few take the Christians that seriously and look for salvation to the magicians when Vermithrax, the evil dragon, takes up residence in Urland's heartland. The author seems to want to draw a picture of what life was like in those days as a new faith swept Europe and the Roman occupation remained very real in the people's minds. He even draws a better picture of the relationship between the Dragon and the magicians without having to explain it so succintly that there's no mystery. unfortunately, he doesn't get that far before he goes back to battle with the dragon. He also misses one important plot element - the Dragon itself. With the world at a crossroad between the lore of magic and the faith of the cross, the dragon has a meaning that also changes. To Galen, the young magician, the Dragon is the last of his kind, a bitter old monster intent on making life miserable for whoever it sees. For the Christains, the Dragon is not a stubborn remnant of a dying age, but the devil itself, intent on aborting a nascent religion. Though Galen and magic is the hero, it's the christian viewpoint that seems more compelling. This book is the one that teaches that Vermithrax means "Worm of Thrace".