the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘dragons

dragonsbane coverDragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly

published 1985

where I got it: paperbackswap

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Raised on the glorious and romantic epics of old, Gareth knows all the songs and heroic tales. He can tell you verse by verse exactly how the hero slayed the monster with one swing of his gleaming sword. And it must be true, because that is how the story goes. On the words of ballads, Gareth travels north to find John Aversin, the Dragonsbane.  The most honorable man in the kingdom, John slayed a dragon and asked no reward in return. Out of love for King and kingdom, he put his life at risk and returned victorious.

 

All the stories Gareth learned were wrong.

 

To Gareth’s court trained eyes, all he sees in John Aversin is a northern barbarian who is more interested in animal husbandry than slaying dragons. Sickened by the thought that John’s mistress Jenny Waynest is a magewitch, Gareth can barely look her in the eye. John lives his life by living his life – a passionate but untrained naturalist, he fills his libraries with what books can be found, learns from the local farmers, and is more sad that the dragon he slayed decomposed before he could study it than proud that he killed it.  John sees the journey south as a bargaining opportunity. If he saves the capitol from a dragon, the King will have no choice but to send troops and support north to help rebuild the crumbling northern territories, right?

 

As Gareth, John and Jenny journey south, it becomes pretty obvious Gareth isn’t telling them the whole truth. Some of it you’ll guess, and some comes out pretty soon, but there are nasty surprises awaiting them once they reach the King’s court.

 

But that isn’t what this book is about.

 

Let me tell you all about Jenny Waynest.  Because without her, Dragonsbane would be exactly the bland tropey adventure story that the cover art leads you to think it is.

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tropic of serpentsThe Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

published March 4, 2014

where I got: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Tor!)

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This is the second book in Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series. As such, there may be some plot spoilers for the first book in the series, A Natural History of Dragons, which I reviewed here.   This is a case where you shouldn’t worry about plot spoilers, because while the plot of the first book is engaging and compelling, it’s nothing compared to the glorious characterization and detailed worldbuilding.

In her first adventure, I imagine the younger Isabella thought she was being so adventurous, so very daring, so avante-garde (see how I talk about her like sh’’s a real person?). She had no idea how safe she was playing it. She was traveling with her husband on an expedition where everyone assumed she was the dutiful wife who simply had a hobby of drawing. Their assumptions were quickly proven patently false, but it was those exactly assumptions that protected Isabella from the cruelties of her peers.

It’s been three years since Isabella Camherst’s trip to Vystrana. Not yet Lady Trent, she is but a widow with a young son. With few friends, yet class and money on her side, she’s able to continue funding research into the preservation of dragonbone. In this pre-industrial world, there is some sly foreshadowing that preserved dragonbone would make the ultimate material for aeroplanes and other flying machines. With her patron’s granddaughter Natalie at her side, Isabella is nearly as happy as can be.

But she’d be much happier if she could study dragons up close. For the most part, the dragons won’t come to her, so she’s got to go to them. With Lord Hilford’s blessing and funding, a new expedition to the tropical jungles of Eriga is planned. It’s so helpful that there’s a Scirling fort at the bay, so Isabella and her fellows will have at least some compatriots to speak their own language with. But this is far more military force that could possibly be needed to protect some trade goods. Brennan not so subtly  embroils Isabella in the politics of the Scirling colonial intrusion into Eriga. She thinks that her Naturalist and Scholar status insulates her from the politics.

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SAM_2597A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

published Feb 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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In early 2012 I found my favorite book of 2012. I figured it was a fluke, as how can you read something and know nothing else could compare? it’s only March of 2013, and yet again, I can tell you without a doubt, Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons is one of my top reads of this year.

Not into fantasy? Don’t think a book with a dragon on the cover is for you? I don’t care. Read this book.  Like its main character, it transcends expectations.

Marie  Brennan has written a book I’ve been waiting a very long time to read.  All this talk about strong female main characters? Women who fight for what they want, who are strong yet impulsive, intelligent, vocal, protective towards their loved ones? Brennan gave me all of that and took it one step further. She gave Isabella Camherst the most important personality trait of all: she made Isabella completely realistic.

How to describe Isabella? A naive and sometimes thoughtless (not out of malice, simply out of ignorance and impulsiveness) woman who sees nothing odd about being only woman in the room,  and who can’t possibly understand the unintended consequences of not caring about societies expectations for her gender.  forgive the presumptuousness, but it’s as if Brennan spied on me when I was nineteen years old and wrote a book about my imaginary alter ego.  Dragons were never my forte, but I do recall many a college course where I was the only female, being secretly jealous of other women my age who made looking and acting feminine so easy, while at the same time knowing their lifestyle wasn’t for me.  I feel like this book was written just for me.  Like Isabella, I often felt confused and trapped by societies expectations.

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Ok, one new book, and everything else is older, but it’s all new-new stuff for. And so very pretty!

prettiest first:

I know they say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but I have been drooling over this book since I first saw the cover art a few months ago. I’ve read a few Marie Brennan short stories and enjoyed them, and I don’t even know even know what this one is about, I just knew I had to have it. Teh blurb, in case you are interested:

A Natural History of Dragons

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light ofmodern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiousity, of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Wowza!!  When do I get to reward myself with reading this??  I’ll make you a deal: after I review Iain Bank’s Use of Weapons, and finish Athyra by Steven Brust, Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley, and King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, I’ll reward myself with this  beautiful book!

ok, on to some other new-to-me goodies:

Husband got me addicted to Fritz Leiber a few months ago, and we’d picked up the first book and the last book in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series, so it was nice to find all the middle ones in the same printing.  You don’t need to read these in any particular order (book “one” was actually written last), but there is a sort-of chronological order to the lives of the characters.

and speaking of “you don’t need to read them in chronological order because they weren’t written that way”, I’m slowly filling the gaps in my Steven Brust collection. The problem is that I forget what I’ve purchased, so sometimes I end up with duplicates.  I can tell in the first couple pages of a book if I”ve read it before, and at the store I was pretty sure I was missing Athyra, so I grabbed it. I started reading it last night, this one was a good choice, as I”ve read the one that comes right after like 3 times, so it’ll be nice to see how that situation came about.

The Swords Against Tomorrow collection is a little volume of sword and sorcery and sword and planet tales, including a yes, you guessed it, a Fritz Leiber Lankhmar tale, yay!

I couldn’t resist the Rising Stars novel by Arthur Byron Cover. You probably recognize the name J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5, but he also wrote a wonder trilogy of graphic novels called Rising Stars. A little like X-Men, but no exactly. I hope I can find more novels in this series, as I LOVED the graphic novels!

For the most part, all this new stuff is rather slim, which means I can cram it into the remaining nooks and crannies in my bookshelves.

Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara

Published in 2006

Where I got it: purchased used

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A little bit Steven Brust, a little bit Ben Aaronovitch,  Cast in Shadow is a dark fantasy mystery with police procedural scenery. Even magical realms require law and police, and the city of Elantra is no different.  The three branches of law are the Hawks, the Wolves and the Swords, and young Kaylin is so very proud of having grown up to be a Hawk. She is proof that one can come from a very dark place to grow up and lead a life of light.

Kaylin isn’t young per se, but as humans are the most short lived race on this world, all the non-humans around her see her as a child, and treat her as one. Exposed to magic as a young child, Kaylin will go to great lengths to hide the strange tattoos on her arms and legs.

The magic of the world isn’t fully explained, but we know Kaylin is a healer, and that healing magic is very rare.  She’s late to work because she spends her nights healing in the orphanages and birthing caves. Once upon a time there was someone she couldn’t save, and she can’t bear to see that happen again.

When the killings start again, and the children’s tiny mutilated bodies are found with tattoos that nearly match Kaylin’s, all eyes are on her. She’s marked, but no one knows by who, and what for. Partnered up with a man from her past and a mysterious Dragon Lord, Kaylin is went back to the fief that defined her childhood to investigate. She’ll have to face every fear and every truth she’s been spending her entire adulthood avoiding.

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The Cardinal’s Blades, by Pierre Pevel

Published in 2010

Where I got it: library

Why I read it: I like historical fantasy, and how can you say no to that beautiful cover art?

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Over the last few days, Pierre Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades has proven very difficult to review.  I think I will make my life a lot easier if I divide The Cardinal’s Blades in half:  beginning, and end.  To be succinct, the beginning was a mess that suffered from severe putdownability and lack of focus. And the end? well, the end more than made up for the problem-addled start to the point where I am actually quite excited to read Pevel’s recently released The Alchemist in the Shadows  which I’m assuming is the 2nd book in this series.

The premise of the story is as other reviewers have been saying:  Three Musketeers (swashbuckling, duels, blackmail, intrigue, secret societies, and more duels and blackmail) plus dragons (humanoid dragons, half breeds and their not as bright cousins used as pets and messengers)  More alt history than historical fantasy, I wish Pevel had done more with the dragon aspects, and I hope he does in future books.

Paris, 1633 and Cardinal Richelieu has called back his favorite dirty jobber – Captain LaFargue, the leader of an elite group of swordsmen (and women!) known as  The Cardinal’s Blades. A man of unshakeable honor, LaFargue will do any task to protect the French crown, even those unsavory kinds of tasks that caused The Blades to be dishonorably disbanded five years ago. Tasked with “getting the band back together”, so to speak, LaFargue must find his Blades, and convince them by force, if necessary, to join him in doing Richelieu’s bidding once more.  He may be a man of honor, but his blades are a different story. They have their own demons and debts to pay.

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Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

published in 1971

where I got it: husband came with it

why I read it: this is one of my husband’s favorite series, so I wanted to give it a try.

Picking up seven years after Dragonflight (reviewed here), Lessa has come into her own as Weyrwoman, F’lar is a respected Weyrleader, and the “oldtimers” that Lessa brought from four hundred turns ago are having trouble adapting to their new world.  The oldtimers who were once revered above all Pernians are having trouble swallowing that they are no longer seen as demigods by the populace.

The politics between the oldtimers and the contemporary Pernians are my favorite part of this book.  I interpreted it as an interesting little political commentary, how the oldtimers (conservatives) react to the contemporary dragonriders (the progessives). The way the oldtimers see it, everything the progessives do is wrong and to the detriment of society. But the contemporary dragonriders don’t see why they shouldn’t use every tool and every new technology they discover to make life easier for everyone?  When developing new methods and drastically moving away from tradition, how far is too far? Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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