Prince Lander and the Dragon War is an exciting, fast-paced, and intense story about the heart of true leadership and courage in dangerous times. In this third installment of the Tales of Old Natalia series, King Whitson and Queen Lily of Natalia and their princeling sons have a kingdom to defend against an alliance of evil rabbits and dragons. In the years that have passed since The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner, a traitor has forged an alliance with the dragons and a growing band of morally depraved rabbits. This story is exciting from the very beginning and invites the reader into an intense and mature battle between good and evil.
Prince Lander and the Dragon War is the tenth Green Ember book released by S. D. Smith, but it is the third book in the Tales of Old Natalia prequels. Sam recommends that readers read in publication order. If, however, you intend to read this book separate from the other Green Ember books, you really must at least read the Tales of Old Natalia in publication order: start with The Black Star of Kingston, then The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner, and then Prince Lander and the Dragon War. To better understand how the stories fit and the order in which to read them, check out our S. D. Smith page here.
In anticipation of the release of this book, Sam references that famous quote from The Chronicles of Narnia about Aslan.
Lucy asks, “Is He safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
In this video, Sam explains that this is not a safe book. But it is a good one. Sam says that “if you love the moral clarity and inspiration of old-fashioned fairy tales, then you will love Prince Lander and the Dragon War.” I could not agree more. I told Sam, after reading it, that I feel like a traitor to the original series, but I think this may be my favorite Green Ember book so far. This prequel has the stuff that makes good legend upon which the main series can build and grow. The content in this series makes us yearn for the Mended Wood with more intensity.
As I read this book aloud to my children, I had to stop in several places to get control of my emotions. These lovable characters are fighting with everything they have to resist the growing evil, defend that which is truly good, and preserve life, even at the cost of their own lives. Also, they make tactical “mistakes” because of risks they take because of their belief in the power of redemption. This story has the heart of a warrior, and it has the capacity to make our young readers more brave and more courageous as they go out into a real-world full of danger and discouragement. Sam asserts that our children need stories like these in our hard times. He is absolutely right.
The Tales of Old Natalia series tell the story of how the rabbits of The Green Ember came to where they are. These stories are the history, the legends, and the mythology of the rabbits. Reading these stories makes it easier to understand what the rabbits in The Green Ember are fighting for, and why. And, more importantly, they are stories that nourish the moral imagination of the reader. Also, they are exciting and fun!
This is a war story. Most of the pages are dedicated to preparing for an ultimate battle, but it is peppered throughout with skirmishes, rescue attempts, and the conversations that people who love each other have when they are deciding to go to war. Rabbits die. Rabbits we care about die. Rabbits suffer. Rabbits worry. Rabbits are in peril. But good does win out in the end with spectacular results.
The gritty, hard, and sad parts of Sam’s stories are never gratuitous. The violence is always explained with grace and care. The stories may not be safe, but they really are good. And they are good for us. And, the stories are funny. Sam loves to include robust humor in each book. The inclusion of Nickel in this one made us laugh for pages and pages.
I will always work to avoid spoilers in my reviews. Below this paragraph, however, I will give some small details that will help parents discern the appropriateness of this story for the readers in their care.
Lord Grimble is a truly evil character who has made a horrific alliance with the dragons. The reality is that dragons eat rabbits. And when Lord Grimble doesn’t have enough enemy rabbits to feed to his allies, he has no problem sacrificing younglings from his own camp. It is hard not to see parallels with our own culture in this. I hate this storyline, but I also appreciate it and love how Sam treats it. The reality of this is understood by the characters, so they boldly take risks to thwart it.
After some key losses, and when it all feels rather hopeless, there is a powerful scene wherein a beloved character radically embraces death in order to live long enough to stay in the fight and do tremendous good for the living before he must die. His sacrifice brings, as Mary says in The Secret Garden, it’s own kind of magic.
My children and I have been reading these books together for almost seven years. They are a part of our family culture. We have mugs, hats, t-shirts, swords, and signed copies. We have even named our dogs after favorite characters. I can’t say that we have that kind of passion for many other living authors. Sam continues to deliver books that affirm what we know to be good, true, and beautiful while also entertaining us with exciting stories that we love to re-read and share with others.
You can learn more about S. D. Smith and find more of our reviews of his books here. You can purchase this book directly from Sam’s store, Story Warren, here or from Amazon, here. You can learn more about the book at Biblioguides, here. Sara has done some Green Ember bookclubs, you can find more here.