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The Dragon Quintet: Five Original Short Stories    edited by Marvin Kaye order for
Dragon Quintet
by Marvin Kaye
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I am not a big fan of short stories, the names of the authors of these five dragon tales caught my eye, as some of my favorites in the genre. Editor Marvin Kaye introduces the beasties as Firedrakes Fierce and Friendly. He speaks of dragons in literature, legend, and the movies. Kaye talks of the 'dragon/devil equation' in Occidental legend and the reverence for dragons in Oriental lore.

Orson Scott Card writes In the Dragon's House. There's a gothic mansion, hiding an old family secret at its heart. It's decorated with gargoyles including a dragon's head. Young Michael has an attic room with locked doors 'from which strange sounds emerged' and there's a place he likes to sit 'on the back stairs and feel the throb, throb of a beating heart.' This story has a slight tinge of horror to it, unusual for its author, and a twisty ending that's reminiscent of early SF.

Next comes Elizabeth Moon's Judgment, about the destruction of a village by the dragon-inspired greed of one of its Elders. I enjoyed the details of village life and customs, like the requirement for an affianced pair to take turns watching each other face an evening of provocation in the village square. After Ker and his mother are shunned and driven away by Elder Tam's lies, they encounter angry rockfolk, and Ker meets a powerful man who questions him and tells him 'Wisdom is caring for afterwards.'

You can always count on something unusual from Tanith Lee. Love in the Time of Dragons is the story of an abused, exploited drudge, a 'slop-slut' named Graynne, who loves fiercely. She does everything she can to help tall, handsome sweord Beolrost, who has come to kill the local drakor ... 'Even the sun obeyed Beolrost. It split between the bottom of the sky and the rim of the earth, ran like an egg, was gone.' Trust me, you won't see this one coming.

Mercedes Lackey's Joust is a more straightforward adventure, but equally engaging. Altan Vetch has been made a serf by Tian conquerors, whose 'Jousters' rode dragons to victory. He's abused, and always hungry and angry, until Jouster Ari takes him on as his new 'dragon-boy'. Vetch works hard and eventually is able to secretly hatch his own dragon egg. I've read similar stories, but Lackey makes her version particularly human.

Last, but very definitely not least, is the most unusual of these five stories, Michael Swanwick's King Dragon. The author combines technology and magic in this very different world. Half-mortal Will is forced to serve an iron dragon (with a 'stench of power' and a 'miasma of hatred'), and to act against those who were his friends. Resistance is futile, but he finds a way.

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