- Note: Different versions of this story have been published. I’m reviewing the one which appeared in the Swords Against Darkness anthology edited by Andrew J. Offutt (1977).
The novelette “Dragons’ Teeth” (1975) by David Drake follows an expert archer and Roman Legate named Vettius who’s tasked with defending his province against an army of enemy Samaritans. These Samaritans have somehow gained the assistance of some powerful giants which are incredibly strong and difficult to kill. Vettius valiantly slays one of them by shooting it through the narrow eye slits of its helmet but learns the Samaritans have a whole host of giants fighting for them. Bolstered by these titanic juggernauts, the Samaritans destroyed ten Roman outposts in one night – the eleventh would have been Vettius’ had he failed to stop it. Due to this success, Vettius is ordered to take a small band of men to a village called Torgu where a Samaritan shaman chieftain has been raising the giants from the earth. The shaman named Hydaspes, along with his monkey familiar (spell caster’s animal assistant), uses loose teeth and his magic to raise and control them. Finding themselves on enemy turf against overwhelming odds, Vettius and his friend Dama must find a way to stop these machinations to save the empire.
There are a number of excellent stories featuring giants out there – the classic “The Colossus of Ylourgne” (1934) by Clark Ashton Smith, for instance, which I reviewed here a couple years ago ( https://horrordelve.com/2016/02/03/the-colossus-of-ylourgne-by-clark-ashton-smith/ ), and more recently, “We Who Sing Beneath the Ground” by Mark Morris (2017). “Dragon Teeth” starts fast, throwing you into the action as the protagonist Vettius is pitted against one of the giants. All the action scenes in this novelette are well done and exciting, making you wonder how Vettius can survive. The descriptions are good, and I found Hydaspes and his strange monkey familiar interesting, as is the unusual way the giants are brought forth from holes in the ground. While this doesn’t reach the heights of something like “The Colossus of Ylourgne”, it’s still a fun, worthwhile read.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan