Once a month I post a book review for a fantasy novel that I’ve read in the recent past. These reviews are posted on “Magic Monday”, the second Monday of every month.
Today I am reviewing The Dragon Quintet, an anthology containing original short novels about–you guessed it–dragons. Compiled by Marvin Kaye, this book contains stories by several authors I know (Card, Lackey, Lee) and a couple I didn’t (Moon, Swanwick). My sister got me the anthology for Christmas and I forced myself to wait to read it until I was on the bus to see a friend in NH. I’m glad I waited; it only took me the first half of the bus ride and part of my long layover to finish all five novels, but it was a very pleasurable way to pass the time!
The first book in the anthology is In the Dragon’s House by Orson Scott Card. I’ve enjoyed Card’s science fiction novels, and was quite interested in seeing his take on a dragon, Kaye’s instructions being only that the dragon must be real, not metaphorical. This story fulfills that demand, but in a way that was both expected and unexpected, with a chilling twist at the end. Of all the dragons in the anthology, I would say this one is the second-most unorthodox, and one of the most terrifying.
The second book is Judgment by Elizabeth Moon. I don’t believe I’ve read any of her books before, and I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect. Her tale of lies, betrayal, and wisdom, has elements of classic fantasy–set in a village, with dwarfs and dragons seen and unseen–but it’s unique and leads ultimately to, as the title suggests, judgment. The dragon in this tale is unbelievably powerful; a true creature of legend.
The third book, Love in a Time of Dragons by Tanith Lee, is the oddest of the bunch (besides, perhaps, King Dragon, but we’ll get to that one momentarily). A kitchen wretch who provides other services as well to travelers to the inn, one day perchances to see a drakkor while out in the woods. When, not long after, a warrior arrives with the intent of slaying the dragon, she heads into the mountains with him. What happens next is not what you might expect… While not my cup of tea, this tale was quite different from your typical dragon tale and some might find it a breath of fresh air.
Joust, the fourth book, is by far my favorite, and written by Mercedes Lackey, an author I’ve read and enjoyed in the past. Her story follows the tale of a lowly serf, who is rescued from a terrible life by a Jouster–a dragon-riding warrior–and becomes the caretaker of the Jouster’s dragon. Although shunned by the other boys who see themselves above him because they are not serfs, he throws himself into his new life, eventually finding a chance at something he never thought possible–freedom. Lackey was so excited by this short novel that she later expanded it into a series; I haven’t checked it out yet but I plan to!
The last book, King Dragon by Michael Swanwick, is definitely the most unorthodox of the group. The dragons of this story are great hulking machines of metal and oil raining destruction down from the sky. When an injured one finds itself in a village, unable to take flight, it forces a boy to help it stay alive, and the resulting story is a dark one. King Dragon is an excerpt of the longer novel, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. Although I found the story bleak, it was an unexpected twist on the common dragon trope, and for originality it certainly takes first place.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this anthology, and not just because I’m an avid fantasy fan who’s always ready for another story about a dragon. These were five intriguing and unique takes on what a dragon is, and they make me want to go write my own stories about dragons! Nothing like a good book to inspire the creative process.
Intrigued? The Dragon Quintet is available on Amazon.
Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below!