Sunday, May 30, 2010

Voices of Dragons

Dragons on Memorial Day. Kind of a strange thing to write about today, perhaps bordering on irreverent. But the YA book Voice of Dragons, by Carrie Vaughn, caught my imagination as the military takes on a mythical foe.

In this alternative history, detonation of atomic bombs at the end of World War II stirs dragons from their centuries-long hibernation buried under the earth. They wake up mad, and the world is back at war. A truce is made, land is divided, and now there are dragon territories and human territories, and a strict border patrol that prevents anyone from crossing the borders and potentially starting another war. The truce has lasted for sixty years, until one rebellious high school girl, and one rebellious adolescent dragon, decide to break the rules and end up starting an international incident.

Voices of Dragons starts out slow, first developing the friendship between girl and dragon without any significant tension - just the tension of breaking the rules and potentially getting caught. But the author does a good job developing the rules of a modern world with a new version of a cold-war, between man and beast.

It doesn't take long before there is a lot of page-turning action. Imagine Top Gun style dogfights, with dragons instead of MiGs. There are also some casualties. The two rebellious youngsters just about cause thermo-nuclear war with a dragon-fire twist. But by trusting in each other, even when both sides are telling them they should hate each other, they turn a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy into a - well, not exactly a happy ending, but a hopeful one.

I wished the book had let us into more of the dragon side of the world, though (hopefully a sequel?)  Dragon culture is only briefly touched on, shrouded in mystery.

What are the voices of dragons like? With such a title, I expected the author to deliver something uniquely dragony, for voice. Our first introduction to dragon voice, in chapter one:

The growl came again, and with it a word. "Well?" It sounded deep, echoey. Like the word didn't come out of its mouth, but reverberated through it entire sinus cavity. It gave the voice weight, an ancient dignity.
That's exactly how the dragons are developed in this story, with weight and dignity. Like the dragons in the Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin, this book gives them a sense of great majesty, otherworldliness, inspiring fear and awe.  The only problem with this book is that it wasn't long enough - I wanted more of the dragons, and more of how they clash with the humans, and more of our girl/dragon team trying to bridge the gap between the two species. That's one thing I don't like about YA, that it really can't go beyond 75,000-100,000 words (though I realize that YA is primarily written for young adults, not middle-aged adults like me - there is a good reason for the shorter word count).

Fortuanately, many YA books come in trilogies these days! Hoping this one will too.


  1. Hm, I think I'd agree with you on that. It's difficult to strike the balance between finishing the book and then rushing to get it published. I try to set tiny deadlines, but allow them to be flexible, so they do not ruin the quality. Good luck!!

  2. Thanks for the review. I might to try read this one.

  3. I don't think I'll ever finish any of my books. The books sounds out of the ordinary.

  4. I agree; I would rather not rush and get it right than to compromise quality.

  5. You don't know what a gift you gave me today. Thank you SO much. I have been working on my novel for... a long time. I am in the midst of a really important revision, and I have been freaking out about shrinking the word count while keeping lots of juicy story. I am going to let the first worry go for now, and try to tell the best story I can. It's more important that I tell it WELL. This was so inspiring! Bless you!

  6. It's amazing what a difference a little bit of time and experience make in our writing. I imagine (hope!) my books will just keep improving (hopefully enough to get published one day!)

  7. Saumya - it's hard that for published authors with contracts they can't have flexible deadlines for their follow-up books. That'd be my guess, what happened to Voices with Dragons. She had finish it by a deadline.

    Connie & Kay - I do recommend the book - it's a good read! It's just that I thought it had potential for greatness.

    Karen & Susan - glad you agree it is worth the long road to get our fiction "right". I remind myself that many authors wrote many novels, six or seven or sometimes even more, before they came up with one that was good enough to publish.

    Molly - I'm so glad my little post offered some encouragement. In turn I have been so enoouraged by other bloggers - just knowing there are other writers out there struggling with the same issues.

  8. Thanks for the review. Sometimes I am frustrated by the confines of YA too. I also don't want to rush things and ruin my chances of publication, but it's hard bc I am very impatient and the publishing industry is so slow!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. And you are right about the Eagles in LOTR. I found out that's a different plot twist than the deus ex. But I'll blog about that another time, maybe this week. I appreciate the comment!

  9. This does sound like an interesting story. Despite it weaknesses, I might have to check it out. I've never been into dragons, but I love YA, and can see how the story would have potential.



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