“The beings commonly called dragons are a peculiar cross dimensional entity. They can a variety of physical forms, given sufficient raw material to do so, including the classical winged reptileian, but also that of a man or woman,”
When you think of the fantasy genre the first thing that comes to mind I’m sure are mythical creatures i.e. dragons! The legend and myth of Dragons have captured our imagination since the beginning of time. They have been embedded into cultures all across the world from South East Asia, to Africa, and Europe. I still remember as a child watching movies such as Dragon Heart, Mulan, The Never Ending Story, and the Lord of the Rings movies. Each of them depicted dragons in different forms with their own unique personalities They can be rampaging beasts that want to destroy the world (Reign of Dragons) or even mentors who have a thing or two to teach us humans (Mulan and Dragon Heart).
The Book of Dragons anthology brings together 20+ short stories and poems by modern day fantasy and sci-fi authors. Some of them I’ve heard of and read books by such as R.F. Kuang, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. Whereas many are very much new to me such as Garth Nix, Zen Cho, Elle Katherine White, Ellen Klages, and many more. The illustrations and doodles in the book are also done by the talented Ravina Cai
What I thought was really cool was that the concept of dragons didn’t stick to your traditional scary winged beast. In fact, stories consisted of small dragons, big dragons, demon dragons, and even shape shifting dragons in human form. I thought that was really cool and different to anything I’ve come across. Not saying dragons in the traditional sense are boring, but it was good to see a new take on what we already know about dragons and switching it up.
Now in terms of the stories, overall they were good. Some I must admit did drag on a fair deal and there were also some i just couldn’t fully connect with. But they were still engaging enough to keep reading on. I loved how diverse the stories were and was really happy that many interpretations took in different cultures, particularly South East Asian culture. There were many stories i loved but the ones that did fully grab me were all 5 stars for me. So rather than discuss every single story, below are some that really captured my imagination.
The Nine Curves River by Rebecca F Kuang
First and foremost my favourite story was most definitely The Nine Curves River by Rebecca F Kuang. I already knew this was going to be amazing because Rebecca is such a fantastic author. Her Poppy War series is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read.
The Nine Curves River tells the tale of a dragon living in a grotto near the Nine Curves River. Every year a human sacrifice must be given to the dragon to prevent the drought However, that person must be willing to sacrifice themselves due to their own accord. We therefore follow two sisters one of whom willingly wants to sacrifice herself for the greater good.
As always, Rebecca Kuang packs a punch at hitting you in the feels and this time in a very short space of time. It was was such an emotional and deep story about a sister looking back at her relationship with her sister and her regrets at not being there for her more. Rebecca Kuang knows how to break your heart.
“You take two steps toward the grotto, then glance back over your shoulder. “You’ve been a good sister. The very best.” Then you smile, and I want to weep.”
Cut Me Another Quill, Mister Fitz by Garth Nix.
I had actually never heard of Garth Nix until recently. I am so gutted that I hadn’t heard of him sooner because this story was so much fun! It basically tells the story of a hunter called Sir Hereward and his puppet Mister Fitz as they travel to Nikandros to hunt down a dragon. The catch is the dragon has shapeshifted into a human so it could be anyone. Both must therefore investigate who the dragon really is before killing it. I thoroughly enjoyed this and even though it is short i really loved the way Garth Nix captured the setting of Nikandros.
Hoard by Seanan McGuire
Now when we thinking of dragons hoarding objects I’m sure we think of gold and jewels. Seasnan McGuire switches it up by manifesting the hoarding traits of dragons into something completely unexpected and different. I can’t say what because that would be spoiling it. But man it was so well done and executed perfectly.
“The gold thing was a bit of a red her ring, I’ll admit. You see, dragons hoard. Every dragon collects something. Gold and jewels were easy before humans developed a concept of money”
Pox by Ellen Klages
The story of Pox takes place in 1969 and focuses on a girl who along with her family travel across the country to San Francisco for a wee vacation. However, their trip is prolonged when the girl and her siblings catch the Pox. Once recovered and bored from staying at home, the girl joins her aunt Polly on an adventure to Chinatown in San Francisco. There she also makes acquaintance with her aunts best friend, Franny. They discuss the myths and legends of dragons while enjoying Southeast Asian Cuisine.
“Well, nearly every culture has a dragon myth or legend. There are too many stories”
Matriculation by Elle Katherine White
Matriculation was the very first story in the book and really kicks things off. It tells the story of a girl called Melee who sets off to Pawn Row in order to buy a book for her studies at the University of Uncommon Arts and Sciences. The store she goes into is owned by Carl a vampire. However, a situation occurs that requires her to consider selling her mechanical dragon in order to fund her education. I thought this was a really great story to settle into and get an idea of what was to come. I found the ending to be pretty heart-breaking because it so should have been longer!
Dragon Slayer by Michael Swanwick
This story was absolutely f****** wild to say the least. It had everything from wizards, to dragons, and even time travelling! The story focuses on the character of Olav an alcoholic womaniser who is sort of on the run from an evil entity that is chasing after him. On his journey he meets Nahal who is after revenge against something that killed his family. Olav trains Nahal how to use a sword and prepare himself for the battles ahead. However, upon arriving in the city of Kheshem, the evil entity finds Olav and prepares to kill him once an for all. Rather than leave Olav decides to stay at which point a time travelling wizard appears out of nowhere with secrets of his own. So yeah this story was exceptional and i loved every moment of it. For a short story it had so many great twists and turns.
La Vitesse by Kelly Robson
Now this brought back memories of movies like Jurassic Park and Reign of Fire. It kept me glued to the edge of my seat because of how intense it was. The story for the most part takes place on a school bus driven by Bea who brings along her daughter, Rosie. As soon as the story begins Bea gets straight to the point and tells her that a dragon is on their tail. Bea and Rosie must work together to drive away from the dragon while also trying to calm down the school children who are also on the bus. We also see flashbacks of Rosie who explains the trouble she has been getting herself into and Bea considers her regrets at the way she raised Rosie.
We Don’t Talk About the Dragon by Sarah Gailey
This was a story about a girl called Cecily who comes from an abusive household. She ends up forming a strong bond with a dragon that lives in her families barn. Over time, Cecily begins talking to the dragon about her issues, feelings, and everyday life. The dragon doesn’t talk back but reciprocates in its own way with grunts and sighs I thought this story was really powerful and seeing the character develop overtime had me glued. The ending is both powerful and empowering. It made me so happy to see Cecily rise above the abuse she had been receiving from a very young age.
“She’s never been able to talk to anyone about the things, and now she can, and they rise up in her like a shiver racing up a spine. Here is someone who will not get angry at her for feeling afraid or alone.”
Overall, there were many fantastic stories written by a wide range of authors. Each story is totally different to the previous and gives a fresh take on what we think when we think about dragons. What awaits you are a wide range of diverse stories that gives your brain a refresher on what you think you know about dragons. But while also reminding you why you love them so much.
I think that this book is full of short stories for everyone and people will be able to enjoy. Even though there were some stories that just didn’t hit the spot for me, the uniqueness of the stories kept me reading on. Also, although I am not really a fan of poetry either but i did enjoy ones such as “A Nice Cuppa” and “What Heroism Is” both by Jane Yolen. Many of the poems were beautifully written and engaging.
So yeah if you’re looking to read a fresh take on the legend and myths of dragons while also enjoying what we already know and love about them, then i definitely recommend this. I have discovered a lot of new authors by reading this who i am looking forward to reading more of!
Finally thank you so much to @HarperVoyagerUS and Holly for sending me a copy! I am so so grateful 😀