Welcome back to Tough Travels! On the first day of every month, Fantasy-Faction leads us on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, with the assistance of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, they guide us in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.
With no more ado, this week’s topic is DRAGONS
The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?
For me, the love affair with dragons begins with the original Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis
and Tracy Hickman
. Said to be the original beings of Krynn, dragons were born of the elements, hence their categorization as Chromatic or Metallic. These, for me, remain the classic archetype of dragons in my fantasy - old, intelligent, full of magic, and able to be harnessed by armies as mounts (and weapons) of war.
Next up would be the dragons of Robin Hobb
, which are hugely important to her Realm of the Elderlings saga. In this case, the dragons are creature of legend, magical beasts unseen by mortals for generations, with only the stone statues of their passing to remind the world of their presence. It takes a long time for readers to ever see a dragon, but there is so much mythology wrapped up within them, it is entirely worth reading through to the eventual big reveal in Assassin's Fate.
For sheer nostalgia, The Obsidian Mountain Trilogy from Mercedes Lackey
and James Mallory
is a series I can't praise enough. It is old-fashioned (some would say tropey and clichéd) epic fantasy, set in the forest and the mountains, complete with humans, elves, unicorns, and dragons. It is very Dragonlance-esque, which is fine, because as much as I do enjoy the grimdark genres, this is precisely what the world needs once in a while.
The Dragon Apocalypse by James Maxey
is another series that immediately comes to mind, and not just because the omnibus edition is still staring me down, threatening to attack if I don't make time for a read and review. Once again, this is classic quest-driven epic fantasy, complete with magical artifacts, inhuman races, and (yes) truly epic dragons. From what I understand, dragons are even more prominent outside the first book, so I am eager to get reading.
Skipping ahead through the years, the most prominent use of dragons that I can think of in recent memory is in Marc Turner's
Chronicles of the Exile. It is the second book, of course, that introduces us to the idea of Dragon Day, where the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to allow a single sea dragon to escape into the Sabian Sea, and the third book where . . . well, no spoilers, but it is a Dragon Day to remember.
That said, I think it's only fitting that we wrap this up by talking about The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
, in which dragons feature prominently. We're talking mean, vicious, bad ass dragons here, threatening to burn the world to the ground. We're also talking dragon blood, which imbues those who drink it with magical powers of their own, creating a vicious cycle of hunting and consumption.
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