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Take that, Anne McCaffrey!
While I've been ill (a couple of days where I did little but sleep and visit the loo, then gradual recovery) I've been doing a lot of reading - mostly 'comfort reading' it has to be said, with a lot of detective stuff and some vintage children's lit.

However, what I did do was finish Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven, at which I had already had a couple of stabs and failed to get beyond Chapter 2. This doesn't happen often with McKinley, whose Beauty is on my main comfort-read list, and whose last book, Sunshine I enjoyed.

It is also the first book she has ever written (I think) that makes an attempt to be SF or, at least, to sound scientific. At this she fails completely. Her husband, Peter Dickinson, once wrote a mock-factual book called The Flight of Dragons which made a real (and often-copied) attempt to make the biology of dragons sound reasonable. Dragonhaven's similar attempt is a miserable failure; McKinley plainly realises her dragons are scientifically impossible and does a lot of admitting this and then handwaving it away. (One of the ways she does this is have her protagonist talk a lot about science in a vague sort of way, though we never see any done, and pretend to be horrified at "Woo-woo" while every single time we are meant to believe the woo just because the narrator says so - and no, this is not an unreliable narrator, save that he is a teenage boy. Of course, we must expect this from a homeopathic practitioner - which McKinley is.)

I am much more in sympathy with what appears to be the main aim of the book; "I'll give 'em - particularly McCaffrey - telepathic dragons, 'impression' and what bringing up a dragonet would actually mean..." Though her dragons do not really work as animals, they do work as characters.

The plot is overly simple and is about a boy on a (dragon) reservation trying to save and bring up a baby dragon when doing so is illegal. However, the voice of the hero works well enough, and his characterisation is fine, though, again, all the other people are overly simplistic, though that could, I suppose be explained by the youth of the narrator, except that he starts writing the book in his late teens and ends up in his early twenties. Some of the description is excellent.

However, I personally think this is the weakest McKinley I have read for a long time. (On the other hand, I am probably the only person who dislikes the award-winning The Blue Sword for its lack of imagination and creaky stereotypes.)
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That should be "McCaffrey." Having a frequently misspelled Irish name myself, I'm perhaps more sensitive to such misspellings than most people.

Thank you.


I'm afraid I am very bad at spelling in general, and at names in particular, where I do not have a spell check to help me.

Welcome back to the land of the living.

Right now, it would be vampire dragons that sell books.

A vampire, zombie dragon in love with a 'fiesty' teenage girl would probably sell millions. Sadly, I have some standards below which I won't drop.

Neil Gaiman remarked that he thought that the vampire cycle was beginning to go into its downslide, and there were rumblings from Meyer fans across the blogosphere...

In terms of sales to teenage girls I can't say I've seen any slackening just yet. It tends to be Stephenie Meyer, then Kristin Cast, then LJ Smith and then we have to guide the older/more sophisticated teens (or those with liberal parents) down to the SF/F floor for Charlaine Harris etc.

The entire teen section seems to consist of black jackets with red/white central illos and gothic typefaces. There's even a "Bella and Edward" edition of Wuthering Heights (black jacket, white flower bud in centre, gothic script proclaiming it "Bella and Edward's favourite book" to ehich I went, "Huh?")

Actually Meyer may even start to *genuinely* equal the Harry Potter phenomenon as the demographic seems to be expanding. We've had older teen boys reading Twilight for several months, now (my theory is that for quite a while it was the fastest way for an emo boy to get his leg over...) Lately we're seeing much younger pre teens buying in. We've even had several year six classes (last year of juniors) reading it in school.

And we won't even talk about the *hordes* women of my age who really ought to know better by now...

A vampire, zombie dragon in love with a 'fiesty' teenage girl would probably sell millions

Sir, thank you!!!!

I am inspired! And motivated!

The plot is unfolding in my head as we speak!!!

Though it will be a feisty twenty-something woman who kicks ass as theh lead human; the teen will be the second lead, and her love interest will not be the dragon. Still, we got a winner!

Thank you again! I will dedicate it to you at the beginning!

And his name shall be . . . SNOG.

And on the cover shall be a dragon w/bits of flesh falling off, blood drippng from its jaws as it's mouth is fastened to the body of another dragon from whom Snog is draining blood, standing next to them a beautiful young woman in a white gown . . . while all around them twitch the burning body parts of the other, bad zombies Snog has killed . . .

Snog has to be very careful to eat or incinerate all of everything he kills, lest more zombies be created . . .

And the quote on the back cover . . .

"Though the world end in ruins around us, and soon you shall run out of food to keep yourself in vampiric health and fight off the zombie infection . . . when you are done drinking . . . thought it cause me to become a zombie too . . . kiss me, Snog!"

You're not the only person who isn't that keen on The Blue Sword. Having started with Spindle's End, I was very disappointed by it.

Well, The Blue Sword was written over thirty years ago!

I quite enjoyed Spindle's End but preferred both the Beauty and the Beast retellings, and Deerskin is her best and most adult of the fairy tale novels.

I have a soft spot for Terry Pratchett's exploding dragons!

I picked up the latest McCaffrey, but got bored to death in the first few pages and had to urge whatsoever to continue.

I think I have reached the stage now where I am very picky indeed with my fantasy.

I think we own three McCaffreys (Dragonflight, Dragonrider and The Ship Who Sang) which is all you really need to have. Anne, of course, thought they were hard SF, and Langford's wonderful dissection of Moreta's Ride did not go down well with either her or her fans. I have to say that I heard that in its original form as a talk and was rolling on the floor.

I have a very soft spot for Diane Duane's dragons. Have you read The Tale of the Five? (The Door into Fire, The Door into Shadow, and The Door into Sunset.) They have their flaws (too many magic swords) but the dragons are splendid, as is the world-building. (Not to mention its slashiness.)

Edited at 2009-08-06 04:21 pm (UTC)

Loved AM as a teenager. Can't read her now. Partly I think it's the dated high fantasy style she used as background for the early novels that I find so hard to read today. The way the style rapidly became rather cosy also annoys.

Having said that the Dragon Singer trilogy isn't bad as juvenile fantasy, The Ship Who Sang is great and the Crystal Singer short stories are worth reading.

I first encountered McCaffrey in the issue of Analog that carried Weyr Search, the first part of Dragonflight, that won the Hugo that year (for either Novelette or Novella - I forget which) and was impressed. It's sort of been downhill from there. I gave up, I think, with The White Dragon, and consider I hung on far too long!

McCaffrey's stories started getting too thin in terms of content for me, with very little happening, but reams of padded description. She should have quite while she was ahead, IMHO.

No, I haven't read those. Might take a look, thanks, even though magic swords tend to make me laugh.

Dave did suggest a dragon carved from pure saccharine as an appropriate 'award'.

Diane does ring the changes on the type of magic sword and why they are magic, but they are still... er... magic swords. On the other hand, I think this was the first fantasy series I read with a homosexual love affair at its heart, and then, of course, there are those interesting marriage laws.

LOL! OK, if you like it, I'll give it a try!

Hope you're feeling better.

When I was first laid up at home with ME, a friend turned up with about a dozen different fantasy and science fiction writers, and told me to work my way through them. Neither McKinley nor McCaffrey much appealed. My ten-year-old nephew is besotted with dragons, so maybe I need to recommend them to him.

What crime fic did you read?

What crime fic did you read?

The new paperback Donna Andrews Cockatiels at Seven which is not one of her best by any means, but she is feather-light and funny.

A lot of early Ngaio Marsh, plus Artists in Crime and A Clutch of Constables because I adore Troy, plus a couple of Colin Watsons.

The very early McCaffrey - Dragonflight and Dragonrider are both acceptable fluff. After that it goes downhill. McKinley was always a young adult writer, and her retellings of fairy tales are excellent, particularly Beauty and Deerskin.

Glad to hear you're getting over the lurgy :-)

Thank you. It is now far enough gone that I have to face driving to Sheffield to pick up my father...

Flight of Dragons: read that, many years back. Made into a semi-decent animated film, IIRC, with a laudably geeky hero.

I actually saw Peter D. give an (illustrated) talk on publication at some big Convention or other - certainly at Brighton, so it might have been a worldcon. What I remember most strongly is him tossing pages of his script into the air as the end of the talk grew closer and closer.

I did think he ought to have sued ITV for at least a credit when they did their natural history of dragons thing some years ago, as it had a incorporated a lot of his ideas.

Yayy! Someone else who found The Blue Sword dull and overrated!

I should have trusted the taste of my flist...

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