Dragons. They are more than a memory from an age of wizards and heroes. These winged, fire-breathing beasts soar through the traditions of many lands, and through our dreams. In their many guises – Western or Eastern, reptile or lizard or serpent, wyvern, hydra, basilisk – dragons embody everything that we humans call magic.
In this volume of the acclaimed ‘Future Chronicles’ anthology series, twelve authors invite you to journey to very different worlds – lands of fire and fury, of legend and lore – but all worlds where dragons roam unshackled from myth, freed from the imagination, and real.
“The Dragon Chronicles” features stories by bestselling authors Elle Casey (War of the Fae), David Adams (Ren of Atikala), K.J. Colt (Klawdia), Terah Edun (Courtlight), and Daniel Arenson (Dragonlore) plus seven more of today's most visionary authors in fantasy and speculative fiction.
[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this book from a contributing author.]
The Dragon Chronicles is the latest in Samuel Peralta's "The Future Chronicles" anthology series. As with the prior entries, he has assembled a strong collection of diverse voices in the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Each anthology presents an overarching theme to unify the various short stories, and we've seen collections centered around robots, artificial intelligence, aliens, and telepaths. Now, we get dragons!
Although the Chinese zodiac calendar says 2015 is the year of the sheep, pop culture seems to think otherwise. And it's a good thing, because I doubt as many intriguing stories could be told about sheep. This year seems to very much be the year of the dragon - Game of Thrones seems to have hit critical mass with the debut of season 5 and rampant speculation on when the sixth novel in George R.R. Martin's beloved series will be released. Author Matthew Reilly put his own stamp on dragon lore with his theme park-centric story, The Great Zoo of China, earlier this year. Even the latest Apocalypse Weird novel, Genesis, by Stefan Bolz, hits on the element of dragons. While it may not be directly relevant, we're even getting another 'Dragon Tattoo' novel later in the year, with Lisbeth Salander making a return under the helm of a new author.
Seems like dragons are everywhere these days. But, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Peralta collects here a group of authors who seem to love, respect, and admire these great mythical creatures, and who have some fun figuring out intriguing ways of presenting stories putting these winged fire-breathers front and center.
As with any anthology, not every story hit the mark for me, but the majority of the entries here work quite well. I'm also not a huge fantasy buff and have a hard time losing myself within this particular genre, so my hat is truly off to these writers for making it somewhat easy for me to find escapist entertainment within these covers. I'm not going to discuss all twelve stories in this collection, but what follows are some brief thoughts about those works that really stood out for me.
The Dragon Chronicles gets off to a very strong start with Ten Things You Should Know About Dragons by Elle Casey, who presents a story about a dragon-rider trainer named Ish. She captures his voice very well and pulls off the direct communication between narrator and reader very well, with some splashes of humor, particularly in relation to the name Ish. This is a very effective short story and a solid beginning to what follows. It's also rather funny-ish!
Daniel Arenson's Of Sand and Starlight takes a turn for a dark with an embittered protagonist who has turned to prostitution to make ends meet. She has the ability to transform into a dragon, but her powers are outlawed by the tyrannical empire ruling the land. Good characters, good ideas, and good world building, all wrapped up into a small story.
More whimsical is KJ Colt's Tasty Dragon Meat, about a butcher who discovers the profits of selling dragon flesh for consumption, and who learns about the horrible aftereffects of such dining when his child begins growing scales. This one was a lot of fun, with much of the story driven by the butcher's increasingly bad choices, all made in an effort to fix his many mistakes, while also being emotionally resonant.
Ted Cross does a beautiful a job with his tale of a treasure hunt gone horribly awry for a group of young Vikings trespassing upon a dragon's lair. The youthful characters of Dragon Play are well done, and I couldn't help but feel a little bit of The Goonies vibe in their doomed sojourn. Kim Wells gives an interesting spin on dragon mythos, and the history of life on Earth itself, with The Book of Safkhet, an ancient scroll that tells the tales of a doomed civilization. Grey, by Chris Pourteau, presents a stirring tale of friendship between a female human child and an ancient dragon who is the last of its kind. The emotion and turbulence on display between these two very different species is wonderfully authentic and may be my favorite of the bunch.
As I said before, not every anthology can please every reader. For my own tastes, this collection felt a little too long, and I was a bit surprised at the number of stories that relied on shape-shifting for its central conceit. It was an interesting approach at first, but one that became a bit dulled through repetition.
Still, those small caveats aside, I found The Dragon Chronicles to be a pretty solid collection overall, and a sturdy addition to Samuel Peralta's ongoing Future Chronicles series. Dragon lovers should find a number of stories to enjoy here (in nicely digestible sizes at that).