by Marvin Kaye



302pp/$24.95/April 2004

The Dragon Quintet
Cover by Stephen Hickman

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Orson Scott Card's dragon in "In the Dragonís House" appears to be a wonderful gargoyle on a Victorian house. Once Card describes the house and focuses on its generations of inhabitants, eventually settling on young Michael, the dragon appears to be left behind, yet because of its importance in the beginning of the story and the title, the dragon is always near to the readerís mind. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Michael has difficulty with his place in the house. While it is his home, it is also home to several foster children being cared for by his great-uncle and great-aunt. He fears that someday he will be turned out from the only home he has known. The story follows his acceptance of his place in the house and its place in his life, at which point, Card cleverly and memorably, reveals the true horror of the dragon.

"Judgment" is perhaps the most traditional dragon story, set in a world populated by humans and elves and dwarves, as well as the obligatory dragons. Ostensibly the story of Ker, who is trying to marry his girlfriend, Lin, Elizabeth Moon focuses her story on the greed of Lin's father, Tam, and his corrupt use of power to destroy Lin and Kerís relationship. Ker, meanwhile, is shown allowing his sense of duty overwhelm the Jobian tribulations he must undergo from all sides and Tam's greed and paranoia works to destroy the life Ker and his mother have in the village. Not exactly a story of good and evil, the reader canít take pleasure in the fate of Ker's nemeses.

Tanith Lee presents an erotic tale of dragonslayers and serving wenches in "Love in a Time of Dragons." Leeís story is rife with atmosphere, often to the point of obfuscating her story. Lee uses a variety of archaic, or simply misspelled words to give the tale a feel of age. Eventually, her language settles down even as the story moves away from the more traditional forms the reader would expect from a story of dragonslayers, the end result is a story which takes some effort to read, but which rewards the reader.

Perhaps the most famous dragon chronicler is Anne McCaffrey, who has been writing about the dragonriders of Pern since the 1960s. Although Kaye does not include one of McCaffrey's stories in The Dragon Quintet, Mercedes Lackey's "Joust" has the feel of a Pern story. Lackey follows the serf Vetch as he is rescued from his wretched life by a jouster and taken off to be a dragon boy. The hierarchical society and the attention to detail in the story makes it feel like one of McCaffrey's stories, but Lackey's world is quite different in its essentials. The story details Vetch's growing relationship, such as it is, with the jouster Ari, and his dragon Keshet. Lackey's characters all come to life and while they are all fish out of water, the only real villain in the story is the culture into which they have all been born.

Michael Swanwick creates a strange textures world in "King Dragon." Although the story has a very distinctively fantastic feel to it, the dragon which takes over a small village when his pilot dies appears to be a mixture of robot and dragon. The dragon co-opts a young boy, Will, to help him in his quest for control of the town. Swanwick's story focuses on Will's increasing isolation from the villagers and his reliance on the dragon (and vice versa) even as Will wants to exert his independence. Will's story is strong and intriguing, although the dichotomies of Swanwick's world tend to overshadow the more personal tale.

Orson Scott Card In the Dragon's House
Elizabeth Moon Judgment
Tanith Lee Love in a Time of Dragons
Mercedes Lackey Joust
Michael Swanwick King Dragon

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