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Monday, February 1, 2021

The Book of Dragons by Jonathan Strahan



Order The Book of Dragons over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jonathan Strahan is an award-winning editor, anthologist and book reviewer. He co-hosts the multiple-award nominated Coode Street Podcast.

FORMAT: The Book of Dragons is 576 pages long and it contains 29 short stories and poems. Published on June 7th, 2020 by Harper Voyager (a division of Simon & Schuster) it's available in all fortmats from most retailers.


OVERVIEW

Dragons. This anthology is all about the dragons. Not sold yet? Look at the list of the authors.

The stories show a remarkable range both in ideas and in tone. The Book of Dragons is a well-balanced collection of serious and lighthearted, introspective and explosive, realistic and uncanny. Featured stories and poems draw from different myths and cultures and show many faces (snouts?) of dragons. Above all, though, they entertain. There were, of course, a few that did not appeal to me or that I flatly disliked. With almost 30 stories, there’s zero chance of a reader loving everything, though.

Stories that stood out for me include Where the River Turns to Concrete by Brooke Bolander, which blends climate fiction, crime story, and a love story (of sorts). Plus, Bolander’s take on dragons awed me. Michael Swanwick's Dragon Slayer is absurd but wildly entertaining. It throws dragons, wizards, fallen heroes, and time travel into the mix and the end-result is insane. Kudos for the clever use of gender-switching and darkly humorous use of time-travel.

As a die-hard fan of K.J. Parker, I enjoyed Habitat. With his usual dry humor, he proves that all heroic deeds need some dirty work to happen. It made me laugh and appreciate the satisfying ending. We Continue, by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky set on a planet where dragons live in hives and human colonists struggle to survive gut-punched me in a good way. While heartbreaking and sad, it shows that when we lose those we love, we have to continue and move on. Such is the cycle of life and death.

My favorite story, Matriculation by Ellen Klages, blends humor, imaginative worldbuilding, and personal drama. Melee, a future student of magitech, needs expensive books to study. The story follows her haggles with pawnshop owners believing education should have a steep price. I loved the characters, the tone, and the setting (including mechanical dragons). And I want more.

As for the weaker stories, The Exile by JY Yang didn’t click with me. I liked the idea and the mix of sci-fi and fantasy, but not the execution or story-telling. I felt the gender topic (both the dragon and its caretaker are non-binary and addressed as xir/they) was more important than the story itself. Other than this one? I love Seanan McGuire’s writing, but I found her story, Hoard, predictable and disappointing. Her name sells books so I understand why the anthology features her story, though.

Strahan's choices provide a diversity of voice, subject, and form and a balance between fresh and established voices. I recommend The Book of Dragons to all speculative fiction readers. In addition to the richly varied stories, it provides a fascinating perspective on dragons across cultures.

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