Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon by Aleksandar Tesic, Book Review
A year before the famous and controversial Battle of Kosovo, the monk Gavrilo, the kosingas (leader) of the Order of the Dragon, meets Marko Kraljevic (“kraljevic” means “son of a king”) who turns out to be the Warrior of the prophecy of the Oracle of Fire, the one who will lead the knights of the Order of the Dragon from all over the world against the hordes of Hades.
At the time of their meeting, Kraljevic Marko is more of an arrogant nobleman than anything else; he’s not a bad man and he has a thing for children, but he’s arrogant and ignorant of a lot of things. It is up to the monk Gavrilo to instruct him better, and to prepare him to inherit the position and duty of kosingas.
Accompanied by Lazar, the ruler of Serbia, they go to an oracle to learn more about what to do next, an oracle who is actually much more than an old woman with a gift. After the visit, Lazar goes to prepare the Serbs for the fight against the Ottoman Empire, and Marko and Gavrilo go in search of the legendary weapon for which Marko became famous in Serbian folklore.
On their way they will meet mythological creatures from Hades, but also friendly creatures, some from Serbian mythology, some known in other mythologies too, like a centaur. They will also pass through Serbian country, and readers will learn a lot about the (very) old Serbian customs, which are sometimes cruel, such as the custom of a mining village to throw most female babies into a pit, because girls cannot not become minors.
As with all good books of this genre, Marko will grow as a person, learning more about himself and the people he leads and will one day protect from hordes of evil. He will also learn much more about the old religion and the old gods, because even though he is a Christian, the help of the old wolf deity (legend says that wolves are the ancestors of the Serbs) Strahor will prove necessary.
This novel takes place in 14th century Serbia. Aleksandar Tesic, an avid mountaineer, has visited all the places in Serbia he describes, and it shows in detailed and colorful descriptions. He knows exactly what they look like, and he also asked about the old custom – some of the old beliefs (you should do this, you shouldn’t do that) are still there.
While Serbian folklore and legends are rich, very little is known about them, even among the Serbs themselves. Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon says a lot about them, but never overwhelmingly, it comes naturally through the story. In the middle of the book there are high quality illustrations, mostly showing mythological creatures that Marko and Gavrilo encounter on their way.
A silent war between Christianity and the ancient Slavic faith is taking place in the background of this world. Although not as powerful as before, the old gods are still very present and are not happy to be neglected. Some peace between the old and the new faith will have to be found, or the world itself may be left in ruins.
Kosingas – The Order of the Dragon is Tesic’s first novel, but it makes for a very mature book about heroes, monsters and legends, about gods old and new, about good and evil. The folklore, country, and history were thoroughly researched before writing, but despite a lot of data, the novel manages to be an intriguing and fun read.