Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Book review - The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

The Dragon Book is a collection of short stories featuring dragons. It includes prolific fantasy authors such as Diana Wynne Jones, Tad Williams, Bruce Coville, Tamora Pierce, and Naomi Novik.

I was eager to read the dragon book because of the authors attached to it – either I had read their work and enjoyed it, or I had heard good things about them and wanted to see for myself. I also wanted to see how all of these authors dealt with dragons in new and interesting ways. There was certainly a spread of genres and writing styles, from alternate reality to historical fantasy to present day. Each author took a completely different approach to dragons, creating an interesting variety of creatures in a mix of genres that I don’t usually read.

However, just as the dragons varied, so did the quality of the stories. Many were awkward and rushed, some were downright cheesy and painful to read. The vast majority of the stories were spectacularly mediocre. They weren’t particularly memorable – they were clever in their use of dragons, but that seemed for some of them to be their only aim. Those didn’t have enough plot to sustain even the short length of their stories.

There were of course exceptions. Tamora Pierce’s The Dragon’s Tale stars Tortall’s Skysong, aka Kit. It was an entertaining story and up to her usual high standard of writing, but I wonder how accessible it would be to readers who hadn’t read her ‘Immortals’ series. On a side note, I have to say that ‘kraken spit’ may be the best fantasy expletive I have read to date! The definite highlight for me was an author I hadn’t read before, Mary Rosenblum’s Dragon Storm. Of all of them, it had the best premise and an actual plot, one which could have sustained a longer story. I’ll definitely be reading more by this author

To be fair, several others were fairly good and most had at least some good points. Some were simply not my style, as you should expect in any collection of stories. It’s an interesting look at the various takes on dragons, it’s inventive in most cases, and probably worth reading. But I found that there is definitely chaff there. If you are an ardent fan of dragons, this may be worth reading for you. If you like collections of short stories, likewise. Overall, the book is ok. There will probably be several stories that you like. Maybe even one or two that you love. Whether you think that makes it worth trying is up to you. Perhaps one to borrow rather than buy.

Thank you to Anderson Press for sending me a copy.

Pages: 448
Category: I think some stories are for children/teenagers, but some are adult. I’d rate some of them at a 12+
Authors: Cecilia Holland, Naomi Novik, Jonathan Stroud, Kage Baker, Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Liz Williams, Peter S. Beagle, Diana Gabaldon and Samuel Sykes, Garth Nix, Sean Williams, Tad Williams, Harry Turtledove, Diana Wynne Jones, Gregory Maguire, Bruce Coville, Tanith Lee, Tamora Pierce, Mary Rosenblum, Andy Duncan

Teaser Tuesday

The Laurentine Spy by Emily Gee

'The secret passages didn't extend to the newer portions of the citadel - the men's wing and the royal chambers, the rooms where matters of military intelligence were discussed. If they did, there'd be no need to ask questions and draw attention to herself, no need to guide conversations to risky subjects.'

- page 16 US edition

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Book review - Fire by Kristin Cashore

In a world full of beautiful monsters that can bend men to their own will, Fire is that most dangerous of things – a human monster. Exceptionally beautiful and irresistible to all those who cannot guard their minds against her, she could even make men stick a knife in their own eye if she wished. But Fire is afraid of her huge capacity for power and influence, having seen her father abuse his own power so extremely that he almost brought about the downfall of the kingdom for his own amusement. Under her attractiveness, Fire is struggling with her own morality. She lives far away from court, afraid of both her influence and those people who hate her for it. Yet trouble is brewing in the Dells, a generation paying for their fathers’ mistakes, and Fire must master her own power to protect her home.

I’m of the opinion that Graceling was good, but not great. I think I should mention that so you have some context for this review, because I thought that Fire definitely was amazing.
Fire was stunningly crafted and filled with an array of excellent characters. There was a depth to even minor characters, making for a truly believable tale. It’s not hard to believe that these characters have an existence outside of the limited page space given them in the story. Fire herself was a great main character, both interesting and likeable. She’s also incredibly strong, battling the guilt of her own existence, unsure of her place in her world.

I’m beginning to get the impression that Kristin Cashore is incredibly interested in the psychological effects of events, rarely investigated in young adult fantasy. Cashore marries classic elements of fantasy – fighting for a kingdom, love, huge climactic events – with smaller, more individual elements – confusion, loss, subtle power shifts, – producing some of the most realistic fantasy I’ve ever read.

I love this world that Fire lives in, with its beautiful but deadly monsters. The country itself is completely unstable, establishing a world fraught with everyday dangers. It is so rare that a book combines all of these elements so successfully, and it engaged me completely. The plotting was nicely done, and although I predicted most of the revelations early on, still it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it at all. For me, Fire was almost a perfect fantasy novel.

Also, just look at that cover! I mean, how could anyone resist!? (This is written as a YA book in the US, but for some reason, it's printed as an adult fantasy in the UK, so you'll find it in the adult sci-fi/fantasy section instead of the teenage one.)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan

"I have sworn the same oaths." He tilted his head. "Xylara ..."
"You can't get away with disobeying the King, Eln." I flashed him a smile, "he's not your half-brother."

- page 8 UK edition

I'm about halfway through and enjoying it thus far. Life has sort of got in the way for me recently, but I'm going to make an effort to post at least two reviews a week.