I love Susanna Kearsley’s books. I always know what to expect from them: a beautiful setting, some romance, some history, a touch of mystery and an element of the supernatural. Named of the Dragon, one of her earlier novels from 1998, is no exception.
Our narrator is Lyn Ravenshaw, a literary agent from London, who has been suffering from nightmares since being widowed and losing her baby son several years earlier. When one of her clients, Bridget Cooper, a children’s author, invites her to her boyfriend’s home in Wales for the Christmas holidays, Lyn accepts. She’s intrigued by the thought of meeting Bridget’s boyfriend, the author James Swift, and hopes she’ll be able to convince him to sign for her agency.
In Wales, Lyn and Bridget look forward to celebrating a traditional Christmas with James and his brother, Christopher, but Lyn’s holiday is disrupted by vivid and disturbing dreams in which a mysterious woman dressed in blue begs her to take care of her son. The Swifts’ neighbour, Elen, another young widow with a baby boy, is also having nightmares and Lyn soon becomes aware of a connection between herself, Elen and the woman in blue. With the help of the reclusive Welsh playwright, Gareth Gwyn Morgan, Lyn delves into local myths and legends in an attempt to make sense of what is happening.
Although I wasn’t really ready for a Christmas novel just yet (it’s only September!) I did love the Welsh setting. James and Christopher live in a farmhouse in Angle, Pembrokeshire and Kearsley describes the house and the surrounding area beautifully. I also enjoyed the descriptions of Pembroke Castle, where Lyn spends an interesting afternoon. I find that being able to see pictures of where a book is set really adds something to the reading experience and photographs of the locations mentioned in the book can be found on Susanna Kearsley’s website.
I really liked Lyn – Kearsley is very good at creating narrators who are easy to like and identify with, without seeming too good to be true – and there’s an interesting assortment of supporting characters too. Even Gareth’s dog, Chance, has a personality of his own. Bridget was a bit overwhelming at first – she’s the sort of person I would find annoying in real life and find annoying in fiction too – but I did warm to her after a while. I loved the hero of the novel, though I won’t tell you who he is (but if you know your poetry and your Arthurian legends, the fact that Lyn’s full name is Lynette might give you a clue). I just wished his romance with Lyn hadn’t been quite so subtle and that we could have seen them together more often.
There were lots of poems, myths, legends and historical facts worked into the novel, with literary quotes and references introducing each chapter. I was pleased to see that the story of Merlin and King Vortigern was included, having just read The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart! It’s always fun to come across connections in your reading like that, isn’t it? The paranormal aspect of the story, though, didn’t seem to have any real purpose and didn’t resolve itself very satisfactorily. For that reason, this is not a favourite Kearsley novel and doesn’t really compare with her later ones such as The Firebird or The Rose Garden.
I have another of Kearsley’s books, Season of Storms, waiting to be read and am looking forward to it!