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The Dragon Quintet Hardcover – April 1, 2004
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
There be dragons of all spots and stripes in this solid anthology from editor Kaye (The Vampire Sextette), showcasing original fantasy novellas by five of the biggest names in the genre. In Orson Scott Card's uneven "In the Dragon's House," a Bradburyesque gingerbread gothic, a lonely orphan named Michael discovers a magical but somewhat sinister "dragon" in the old mansion he lives in with other disenfranchised children. Elizabeth Moon's "Judgment" is a wise, Tolkien-toned piece, complete with dwarves and stolen eggs that contain powerful "pretties" capable of turning villagers into dragons. Tanith Lee's gorgeous "Love in a Time of Dragons," the volume's single erotic entry, tells the tale of an abused servant who falls in love with a dragon ring. The most satisfying of the lot is Mercedes Lackey's "Joust," which she later expanded to a novel by the same name. The determination of Vetch, Lackey's serf turned dragon-boy, to escape from a war-torn land echoes the theme of Michael Swanwick's more sophisticated but extremely dark "King Dragon." Swanwick delivers the most chilling dragon, a warship with a monster's mind who tries to enslave Will, another boy transformed by revolution. Kaye obligingly recommends a range of dragon-related novels, films and Web sites in his afterword.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kaye, editor of many notable anthologies, presents five dazzling new long stories by well-known fantasy authors. In Orson Scott Card's gothic "In the Dragon's House," an old dragon with its own mysterious agenda nurtures a lonely boy. In "Judgment" by Elizabeth Moon, a dragon sits in judgment on a boy shunned by his village and on those who would abuse or use him. Tanith Lee's "Love in a Time of Dragons" is a sensual fable about an ill-used tavern wench, who, through sheer determination and a murder, becomes a dragonwife. Mercedes Lackey's "Joust," about a serf requisitioned to become a dragon boy, is the basis of her fine novel Joust [BKL Mr 15 03] and its recent sequel, Alta [BKL Mr 15 04]. Rounding out the book is "King Dragon," Michael Swanwick's grim tale of a sinister bionic dragon that takes over a small village and its inhabitants. None of the stories ever falters, and each puts forth a very different, entirely compelling view of dragons. Sally Estes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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First off, I wanted to start out with the introduction. How could I not when there was information on where the word dragon came from? I was left wondering what counts as a true dragon? Is it a dragon that someone grew up knowing about? Is it a dragon that looks normal (as much as that's subjective)? It would've sounded better if the one requirement was that a dragon had to appear at least once.
The first story up was "In the Dragon's House". I didn't like Herry and Harty at all. I thought it was sweet that they would take in runaways. However, if the child showed no interest in theater, then they were turned out to work with normal social workers. I found this heartwarming at first because, they made sure the kid left in good condition. That was until I realized how much of an immature reason that was. (That's tantamount to refusing to befriend someone for not sharing the same interest as you).
On the other hand, there was one kid who got turned away for a legitimate reason. He wouldn't stop mocking someone one for liking theater. I figured that the grandparents didn't want a kid with potential to give it up over a few rude comments.
I started to dislike Granny when she made that comment about Australians (which I'll get to later). In addition, she was a prude that didn't want to hear pee or shaving yet considered it okay to talk about Michael getting married. (At least, he pointed out how wrong that was). On the plus side, she did comfort him about staying in the attic while the other kids moved out.
On another note, I was left with a couple of questions. First off, why was the comment about Australians left in there? Did it not occur to anybody that it could be taken the wrong way? Also, why wouldn't dragons care about humans, or at least this one? How else would Michael's hand be healed? Also, it seemed as though the dragon received no reward for his deed.
The second story was "Judgment". I didn't mind this story until Tam had to undergo this test to test his temper and faithfulness. First off, there was Dran's daughter was allowed to kiss him on the lips. (That's somehow okay for a girl to do that yet a guy would labeled a creep and might be thrashed). It didn't help that such a test wouldn't matter in the long run. (Circumstances and people change).
In addition, most of the characters were maddening. Ker's mom pretended to believe him yet threw him to the wolves. I said pretended because, when it was just them and Tam, she 'believed' him. When they had to flee, she changed her tune. She also said that they couldn't know fairness because, they weren't gods. What kind of backwards reasoning was that supposed to be? (Wait a minute. There's a variant that claims a standard of absolute goodness is needed to know evil). One last thing: whenever she defended him, she gave such a weak defense, as though she didn't like her.
Of course, it wasn't just her. Every villager counted when they sided with Tam due to him being older. The dragon wasn't much better. He spouted vapid nonsense instead of trying to sound smart.
The one character that wasn't annoying was the main dwarf (the one that spoke). I thought that I wouldn't count him as an exception since it didn't take much for him to get mad. (For the record, I do have a temper. I just have some patience to temper it).
On another this left me with several questions. Does the author know that age doesn't equal wisdom? Do the elders have trust issues when they say that lies destroy communities? Do they not realize that if that was case, then communities would either be non-existent or close to that state? Blood tasting like salt? Who's supposed to believe that? What infuriated me more is that I've read literature where authors got that wrong. (For the record, it tastes like copper. I checked once after I lost a tooth).
The third story was "Love in a Time of Dragons". I was annoyed with the heroine, Graynne, being a bit slow to learn until it was implied that she was slave. (I'm pretty sure that nobody wants a smart slave). In addition, she was uncaring for the most part due to that. (She was raised to not like other humans and think of animals as either slaves or food). That would explain why her 'I Love You's to Beolrast were false. (To be fair, I wondered about that until I remembered what she was).
The bigger issue was the fact that she married a dragon. The last time I checked that was an still an animal and giving consent is more than just saying yes or having both parties enjoying it. Also, it did get gross at one point. (For the record, I get gross and immoral at times. I just have the sense to draw the line at animals). It didn't help that nobody thought it was immoral despite bringing it up!
The final story was "King Dragon". I thought that I wouldn't find this interesting when 'true names' were mentioned. I've come to see that as a cheap gimmick some people use to make their story more interesting. However, I've made an exception for this story because, true names can be used for an instant kill. In fact, that's how Will killed the dragon, who became a tyrant. (That went further than the other stories that I've read).
The other issue I had was about No-Name's crucifixion. For someone who chose this execution method, the author didn't give the impression that he did any research on it. If he had, he'd know that people take a couple of days, not hours to die.
On the plus side, I found a reason to praise him. This story explained itself well. Any answer to my question was either on the next page or a little afterwards. Well, there was one question I almost asked until I remembered the war involving Avalon and how that involved half-mortals.
I found the afterword to worth a read because, I discovered two websites to visit.
The sole uplifting story of the lot, "Joust" by Mercedes Lackey, is good, interesting, and very representative of Ms. Lackey's style. However, I'd already read the novel version of "Joust," which oddly beat this collection to the press by at least a year. Four stars for that.
The next best story was by Elizabeth Moon, and is in her "Paksenarrion" universe but does not feature paladins or elves. Instead, this features dwarves, a dragon, and two very put upon villagers. I liked the villagers very much, and appreciated a return to this universe, one of my all-time favorites. Still, it's a rather dark tale, and I'd rather have had a happier ending. Three and a half stars.
The third best story was by Michael Swanwick. I liked the story up until the end, where Mr. Swanwick basically ruined it by tossing off a fable-type ending that didn't make a goodly amount of sense. In addition, this story only had two likable characters in it, and both were more or less abused throughout the story, something I really did not care for. Granted, this is dark fantasy, and Mr. Swanwick definitely made me hate all his hatable characters. But I'd have liked to have love his likable ones, and I didn't. Three stars.
The remaining stories seemed, to me at least, to be incomplete. Orson Scott Card's story was a sort of urban fantasy about a resident dragon and a boy, and as far as it went, up until the end, I liked it. But once again, a lousy ending ruined it. In addition, the information given by the editor led me to believe that Mr. Card is planning to turn this story into a novel. I really hope that doesn't happen, as this has to be the most downbeat story I've ever read by Mr. Card (not even excepting the last book about Andrew "Ender" Wiggin), and that's not what I've grown to expect from him. Two stars for that.
And Tanith Lee's story, while engrossing and having some truly unseen plot-twists, didn't totally make sense, either. I enjoyed the basic "women done wrong gets revenge" plotline, but the story was either too long or too short; too long in that it makes little sense in this form (even considering Ms. Lee's normal elliptical plotlines and fairytale-esque endings, dark or bright), too short in that in a novel, it might have worked well. Two stars, barely.
And that's basically it; it's an interesting experiment, but it's flawed, and if you don't like dark fantasy or aren't in the mood for it, don't get this book. It's not advertised as dark fantasy, but in my opinion, that's exactly what it is (with the sole exception of Ms. Lackey's stripped-down version of "Joust").