Vern was once Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie, but now he hides out in a fishing cabin in the Louisiana swamp, subsisting on vodka and entertaining himself by watching Flashdance and Netflix. He’s the last of his kind, and no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness of his life and the sadness of the end of his glory days. Until he meets Squib Moreau, a local swamp rat doing the best he can to make his momma proud, even if that means working for a smuggler and witnessing a murder.
Squib wants to stay out of trouble and make enough money to pay off the debts his momma’s ex left them with—and move the two of them far, far away from Regence Hook, a local constable with an eye for his momma. But Hooke isn’t just a dirty cop. He’s also eyeball-deep with the local crime syndicate—and determined to destroy the witness to his crime—even if he must take down everyone in his path. Even a dragon.
This is not your typical dragon-disguised-as-a-human story. For one, Vern isn’t disguised. And who would imagine a dragon who loves Flashdance? Vern’s tough exterior is a mask for centuries of loss and strife, so it’s easy to see just why he has trust issues. Squib loves his mom enough to do anything for her, even when he lands in trouble over his head. This was a fun adventure story with a unique premise and a voice that fits the Louisiana swamp it’s set in.
Eoin Colfer lives in Ireland. He’s the author of the Artemis Fowl series. Highfire is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.)
Sky Hawkins’s family fell from grace and lost some of their wealth and most of their good name when her mother disappeared after a heist gone bad. Sky lost her mom, her friends, and her boyfriend all at the same time, as well as becoming a social media and paparazzi pariah. Sky is a wyvern (a were dragon), after all, and the media is fascinated by her family and culture.
No one will talk about her mother’s disappearance, and Sky wants to know what really went down, so she starts to plan her first heist to find out. The first heist is a coming-of-age for wyverns, and Sky is determined to succeed at hers, and save her family’s good name, her mother, and her relationship at one time. Until she learns more about the mysterious jewel her mother was after—and realizes someone has been hiding dark secrets about wyvern history for years.
This is a clean read, and suitable for even younger YA readers. The wyvern society is intriguing and well-thought-out. It makes sense for were-dragons, and I loved how it tied in historical figures to the wyvern worldbuilding. Sky is kind of an innocent about life, so I’d say this is skewed a bit towards younger readers, and a few things seemed a little too easy, but it was a an entertaining and fun read.
Sarah Beth Durst writes fantasy books for all ages. Fire and Heist is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)
Jeryon has been a sea captain for years. He counts on the rules to keep him—and his crew—safe and successful. But not all of his crew agrees. After a dragon attack, the crew takes matters into their own hands, and offer Jeryon and the apothecary who supports him the “captain’s chance”: a small boat with no sails, no food or water, and only the clothes on their backs.
The island Jeryon and the apothecary land on isn’t as deserted as they thought, between the killer crabs and the dragon egg they find. Jeryon decides to raise the dragon in his quest for justice, but as he grows closer to the dragon, he realizes that the outside world has changed, and if he wants revenge, he’ll have to take it for himself.
The Dragon Round is set in a world far different from our own; a world of violence and mayhem (Okay, so maybe not that different from ours.). Revenge is the driving force of the novel, although Jeryon prefers to think of it as “justice.” But “justice” is rarely as bloody and cruel as seen in this novel. The world is very vivid, and the characters are well-realized, even if I found them mostly unlikeable. (Not going to lie, the dragon was the most likeable character for me.) I’ve seen this novel compared to the Temeraire books, which are currently sitting on my To-Be-Read pile. If so, I may have to give them a miss. Not because this was a bad book, but because I prefer my books with a bit less gratuitous violence and bloodthirsty revenge.
(Galley provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.)
Okay. I admit it: I’m not happy with Witches because it’s written in third-person POV, not first-person (which is what I’ve been writing in for years now). I admit it. Happy? It actually doesn’t make me happy (and yet it does. Both at the same time. I may have some identity issues.). Changing third-person to first-person is not the hardest thing I can imagine revision-wise. (I’m not saying it’s easy, just “not the hardest”.) However…doing alternating first-person view points well (and clearly) can be tricky. And I need about six POV characters to tell this story fully.
That’s a lot of character voices to keep straight. Not to mention, formatting the manuscript so as not to confuse readers. Because, like juggling six viewpoint characters isn’t enough, they’re also going to be in different countries, which will be need-to-know info. That won’t be difficult at all.
To be fair, most of the book will be in Kahleena’s or Bali’s POV, a good chunk will be in either Casimir’s or Julien’s POV, and the rest will be in Siobhan’s and Eodin’s. So, I need to make it clear at the beginning of each chapter where we are and whose head we’re in. I’m going to re-start this revision with that in mind and keep on keeping-on.
I’ve decided that I can’t go through the rest of the HTRYN process with this version of Witches. The distant POV and voice are just too much for me to ignore comfortably, even while revising. And the little voice in my head–I think it’s the Muse’s other personality–is jumping up and down and screaming so loudly that I can’t think straight. I even gave up on reading through the last ten chapters or so. I don’t think I have a copy of the very first draft of Witches, which is probably a blessing, but my writing has changed so much since this version, that it is proving difficult to read. My voice is SO different now!
I know it’s not always possible to “fix” a first novel, but I think this one is salvageable. If not, at least two of the characters are going to be extremely angry with me…
Update: I just found my original first draft of Witches. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to read it…
Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com.
You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . . All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know 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 of modern 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 curiosity; 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.
Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.
‘A Natural History of Dragons’ brings the Victorian era to life with stunning details and such lifelike depictions that the reader will truly feel like they are on an expedition to study dragons. From the very beginning, when Isabella was just a child and fascinated with sparklings, the majesty and mystery of dragons shrouds every page. Though mystical, magical creatures to the reader, Ms Brennan brings them to startling life with each tiny detail revealed. The beautiful illustrations bring the entire world to life.
Isabella is no shrinking violet, and her rather madcap adventures grow from the natural curiosity of a child to mould her into the Darwin of dragons. Ms Brennan masterfully and evocatively tells this memoir-style tale of one girl’s love of dragons, and her willingness to sacrifice everything to study them.
P.S. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always loved Victorian-era fiction, if done well, and this one is done extremely well. I could totally relate to Isabella searching for sparklings behind the house, since I used to always be on the lookout for different animals and plants when I was a child. If there had been tiny dragons around, well, my joy would have been boundless. I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Brennan several years ago at Conestoga Writers Conference, and really enjoyed her thoughts on the different panels. She was nice enough to answer questions from aspiring writers, and her kindness made a huge impression on me. I’ve read most of her books (Witch, Warrior, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie), and loved them all. If you’re looking to read something a little different, I highly recommend them.