Dragons. Humans have a love-hate relationship with these fantasy creatures. My first tutor on the subject of dragons was C. S. Lewis, whose depiction of dragonish attributes in Voyage of the Dawn Treader assumed children of his time would know that dragons were greedy and hoarded gold. I had not known this previously, so my education obviously had been lacking. My later reading of The Hobbit confirmed this general idea. However, my ideas were being tainted by the glorious telepathic dragons of Anne McCaffery in her Dragonriders of Pern Series. The amazing dragons of Ms. McCaffery were a far cry from the greedy, evil creatures that bold knights would slay. Sir Terry modified my ideas about dragons still further, for on the Discworld, dragons are endangered creatures, as tame as pets. The point is that I am open-minded on the subject of dragons.
Tara West is a member of the Eclective, and I thoroughly enjoyed her stories in their Haunted Collection and Apocalypse Collection. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review one of her novel length works, Curse of the Ice Dragon.
According to the author’s blurb, this is what we are expecting from Curse of the Ice Dragon : “Born with mark of the Mighty Hunter, Markus has the skill and strength to feed his people, but not to confront his own tyrannical father. Shamed by his cowardice, Markus releases his frustration on the forest creatures.
The village prophet warns that Markus’s reckless ways will bring down The Hunter’s Curse, and for every animal Markus kills, his loved ones will suffer the same fate. When the warnings go unheeded, the Sky Goddess unleashes her ice dragon. Now Markus must flee the dragon without killing it or his beloved brother will die.
Markus’s flight takes him to the lands of the mysterious Ice People. There, the beautiful maiden Ura helps Markus learn the compassion and courage he needs to face the wrath of the Goddess, but the final confrontation will not be without price, as Markus must choose between the life of his brother and the fate of the girl he loves.”
Curse of the Ice Dragon is a relatively unambiguous title, so my open-mindedness notwithstanding, I had a preconceived idea about the ice dragon in this book. However, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the dragon is not what she appears, which is a reflection of this entire work. Expect the unexpected!
Markus is a sympathetic, although not thoroughly likeable, character in the beginning of the novel, but his growth throughout made me proud of him by the end. The Sky Goddess is treated as a positive force in the beginning but is she really? Each character we meet is not what he or she might appear, and proves this by the end of the book.
The pacing, description and characterizations here are first rate. Ms. West creates a plausible world, and an engaging story. As the beginning of a series, the piece wraps up its own story but builds interest for the next book. I’m grateful to have been given the chance to share this work with you. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I would rate Curse of the Ice Dragon as Heavenly.
“The INDIE ECLECTIVE: What is it, who are they, and why can they spell neither “eclectic” nor “collective” correctly? The Indie Eclective is an ensemble of NINE AUTHORS operating under the assumption that Readers like Good Books. Whether you enjoy light or dark paranormal, YA or adult-themed genres, there’s bound to be a story to suit your tastes. Thanks for reading!”
The Members: Heather Marie Adkins
M. Edward McNally
As you’ll have noted in my choices thus far here at the Irreverent Book Blog, my tastes are eclectic, such that the only unifying factor in all that I love is that very irreverence. So, when Emma Jameson, who is one of my very dear friends, was asked to join such a creatively named group, I was intrigued. Since its most recent release coincided with that most wonderful time of the year, the Hallowe’en season, it seemed a perfect choice to share with you. The Haunted Collection has a little something for everyone.
The stories are described for you thus:
“Empty Vessel” by M. Edward McNally: Captain Wil has command of his own ship, the respect of his crew, and his wife is expecting their first child. But at sea, the winds always become calm just before the storm breaks.
“The Smell of Death” by Tara West: Maggie’s unusual powers bring new threats to her already troubled childhood.
“Safe” by Emma Jameson: In Victorian London, a grave robber makes a nice living off the dead, until he opens the wrong crypt.
“Soulfully Sweet” by Shéa MacLeod: As if helping the living isn’t enough of a pain in her divine hindquarters, Branwen (former goddess of love and beauty) is stuck helping the dead on All Hallow’s Eve.
“May I Go Play?” by Heather Marie Adkins: Micah inherits a southern mansion where ancestors long dead relive their violent deaths. And now, they want company…
“Blehdward, the Vampire who Couldn’t Sparkle” by Pj Jones: Blehdward desperately wants to fit in with the cool vamps. If only he could learn how to sparkle.
“Franscesca” by Alan Nayes: Break a promise to a feiticeira and you will live to regret it.
“Soul Eaters” by R.G. Porter: Kaitlyn never believed in the existence of other worlds. Now she’s in the middle of one where humans aren’t the hunters but the hunted.”
These stories share a common “haunted” theme, but are each very different, as are the authors’ styles and voices. I enjoyed the combination very much, as it seemed to touch on almost everything I enjoy about being a reader. Two stories introduce us to other worlds, one to another time, and they all present spooky stories from a different angle than we may have previously examined them. I cannot choose a favorite from among the stories presented, as each has things to recommend it.
“Empty Vessel” manages to introduces us to a brand new (to me, at least) world clearly and in detail, which is a difficult thing to manage in a short story; it doesn’t lose the chills in that precision, either. “The Smell of Death” is poignant, and maintains my assertions that youthful protagonists do not a juvenile work create. “Safe” is a new twist on the grave-robbing theme we think we know, and creates characters as only this author can! “Soulfully Sweet” was just that, answering questions about life and death in an original and amusing way. “May I Go Play?” is an enjoyable take on the Southern Gothic. “Blehdward, the Vampire who Couldn’t Sparkle” was ridiculously funny; Twi-hards beware! “Francesca” provides an exotic locale to a truly original twist on witches and hauntings. “Soul Eaters” takes us to another dimension, not at all a pleasant place to be, and thankfully gets us back again! This collection as a whole was Heavenly on the Imaqulotta Scale!
Another review and a half? Is this turning into a thing?
Speaking of Emma Jameson, I must mention her “Lord and Lady Hetheridge” Series, which currently consists of Ice Blue and Blue Murder. First of all, let me say that prior to my friend writing one, I had never heard of the “Cosy” subgenre. My taste in mysteries runs much more toward “Thrillers”. However, whatever sort of mystery you like, these are excellent examples. I’ve gotten to observe these works in progress, and in their polished finished form. Whether you read an Emma Jameson or a Stephanie Abbot work, you’ll recognize a depth of character creation unequaled by many authors in many genres. Without the wandering back-stories of my beloved Stephen King, or the dozens of novels with which to fill in character that Sir Terry Pratchett has, Jameson summons living breathing people to the page. This seems effortless, and is a trademark of her work. It’s one of the reasons I count her among my favorite authors. The series is Heavenly, and only leaves us wanting more.