In the mid eighties Hambly wrote this stand-alone novel, then, at the turn of the millennium, followed it up with a further trilogy featuring the same main characters. The last of that trilogy has just come out, and, before I read the new threesome, I decided to reread Dragonsbane.
John slew a dragon years ago, and has become a hero of legend, the last surviving Dragonsbane. So when Morkeleb, the great black dragon, threatens the kingdom, the idealistic Gareth goes to find him, and enlist his help. But he is horrified to find John is not a chivalrous knight: he slew the dragon with an axe, from behind, after his witch-lady Jenny had helped him poison it. Nevertheless, needs must, and so John and Jenny travel back with Gareth to face the new foe. And they discover that the dragon is the least of the perils facing the kingdom.
Like much Hambly, this has great fantasy genre-twisting characters. John and Jenny are reluctant heroes, solid down-to-earth people who would rather be back home, studying farming methods or ancient lore, than saving the kingdom. I'm not sure I like the ending, although it does capture the agonies of having to make a choice between two incompatible desires. Maybe Hambly didn't like the ending either, which is why she wrote a further trilogy? Anyhow, I'm off to read it.
*** Warning! spoilers for Dragonsbane.
13 years passed in our Real World between the publication of the previous stand-alone book and this beginning of a new trilogy, but only about four years have passed in the world of John Dragonsbane and the witch Jenny. After defeating the Black Dragon, and more importantly, the witch who was subverting the kingdom, they are back in their Northlands, and, as promised, Regent Gareth has sent troops to help restore the rule of law. Suddenly, a dragon is reported, and John must go off to try to kill it. In a flurry of illusion and deceit, they realise something much more serious is going on, with bandits, rogue wizards, enslaved dragons, and demons at large. They must fight again, and maybe even sacrifice their souls, to save the kingdom once more.
This fits the pattern of the first of a trilogy: the inital battle is only barely won, leaving our heroes victorious but greviously harmed, with the foreshadowing of a much more serious conflict to come. Even so, it has a more satisfactory ending than the first stand-alone novel.