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This is the second of the Lady Trent novels. I reviewed the series starter a week or so ago. Isabella, intrepid as ever, is preparing for her second expedition to study dragons in the war-torn continent of Eriga. She faces opposition from her family, who believe she ought to stay home with her two-year-old son. Inevitably, she also becomes embroiled in the political maneuverings of various governments with interests in the region. In exchange for permission to study the dragons, she ends up making a promise that she might not be able to keep.

In some ways it’s a slower book. Isabella has to find her way in two very alien societies to her own and confront how much she, a wealthy person, is accustomed to being catered to. On the positive side, the author backed off having Isabella take so many crazy chances in order to move the plot. She still takes crazy chances, but they flow more logically from the character than in the first book.

The dragons Isabella is trying to study are wonderfully complicated and wrapped up in the culture of the nomadic Mouleen people. Dragons, lurking in the rivers and swamps, act as a natural barrier to outside invasion and thus protect the people. “The jungle will eat you” is not an idle turn of phrase!

The people, in return, have a priestly class whose duty is to manage the dragon population. They observe matings that involve just a few huge females, and can tend eggs in a way that produces additional females as needed. They also spread eggs all over the swamp, so the hatchlings won’t prey on each other. Baby dragons are like piranhas, it seems, and they play their part in the outcome of the story just as the adults do.

It isn’t what you’d think of as a friendly dragon-and-rider relationship, but dragons and people depend on each other all the same. I enjoyed Brennan’s original thinking here and look forward to the third book.

Pardon this brief commercial announcement. My publisher, Sky Warrior Books, is having a summer e-book sale, now til Friday, July 31st. All E-Books are half-off.

Dragon's Hoard cover

Dragon’s Hoard cover


I have a story in this anthology, which is all about dragons and treasure.

Cover to the MG fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire

Cover to the MG fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire


Here’s my juvenile fantasy novel, Masters of Air & Fire, a family drama where the family are dragons.

The Grimhold Wolf low res
Another recent release is The Grimhold Wolf, a Gothic-style werewolf novel.

7Orders
And don’t forget The Seven Exalted Orders, my best selling book for Sky Warrior!

Follow this link to get the code: https://www.facebook.com/events/486968021477427/

Sungazers

Another type of lizard that’s been styled as a “dragon” are the Sungazers of South Africa. The largest species is Smaug giganteus, named after Tolkein’s famous dragon from The Hobbit. These grow between 7 and 8 inches in length, so they aren’t terribly big compared to other lizards, especially in the Monitor family, but their spiny-all-over bodies give them a distinct, dragon-like appearance.

Sungazers live in dry grasslands, where they dig burrows protected by rocks at the surface. They are mostly insectivores but will take small animals if the opportunity presents itself. Like all lizards, they are cold blooded and must move into the sun to warm up in the mornings. This “sungazing” behavior led to their common name. They are also known as Girdled Lizards, as oulvolk (old folks) in Afrikaans, mbedla by Zulu speakers and pathakalle in the Sotho language.

At one time, Sungazers’ striking appearance made them widespread and popular in American pet shops. Unfortunately, their numbers have fallen due to habitat loss and excessive capture for the pet trade. Sungazers are long lived, up to 20 years in captivity, but they breed infrequently and lay few eggs. Because they live in colonies, an entire group can be wiped out by pet-hunters or development. Thus Sungazers are a threatened species, no longer legally available. If you see a Sungazer in a pet shop, it either was illegally caught or it is something else being mislabeled as a Sungazer.

Flying Dragons

Yes, there really are flying dragons! Draco are a family of lizards native to Southeast Asia. All members of this clan can fly, or more properly glide, by extending “wings” of loose skin attached to their ribs. The best known of these is Draco volans, a gliding lizard that’s popular in the pet trade.

These are not large lizards. An average flying dragon is 9 inches from tip to tail. Their “wings” spread about 6 inches. The head is blunt with a short nose, giving them a baby-like look. Most species have brown and gray mottled skin, providing camouflage in their treetop homes. Brighter patches on the throat and underwings may help them identify others of their species and make displays to drive intruders from their territory.

The native habitat of flying dragons is tropical forest, where they glide from tree to tree. Some varieties can glide up to 30 feet at a time. Females descend only to lay eggs and briefly guard their nest. Otherwise, these lizards stick to the treetops and feed on ants or termites. They will not fly if it is raining or windy.

Species are scattered from India to the islands of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, suggesting they have adapted to local conditions. Fortunately, these little guys have a dragon-like hardiness and have kept up their numbers in modern times. They are neither threatened nor endangered.

My husband was clearing some things away in order to move a dresser, and look what he found!
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It’s very nicely engraved glass, and neither of us has any memory of how we got it. His sister’s name is on the envelope, so perhaps she brought it back from one of her deployments.

At any rate, I went and got a frame the next day, so his “moon dragon” is now proudly displayed in a window near his computer.

During the last week of school for 2015, I walked into the room where I was subbing and what did I see? Tyler D., hard at work.

Photo0299

Tyler was a freshman at North Central High School. He said that he drew this picture on the whiteboard during class about two weeks ago. He kept touching it up and it stayed there until the last day.

This kid has a lot of talent. I hope he’ll keep growing as an artist.

This book, published by Tor in 2013, is the starter of a promising series that combines classic fantasy with a steampunk-inspired setting. The main character, Isabella, is born with keen scientific interests. Her special love for learning about dragons propels the story. Alas for Isabella, her Victorian styled homeland disapproves of women having such interests. The first few chapters detail how her very conventional mother kept throwing away her experiments.

Isabella internalized these negative messages, frequently referring to herself as an “ink nose,” yet she couldn’t let go of her passion for science. While living at home, she enlisted one of her brothers to borrow books from the family library and pass them to her. In her “season” of searching for a husband, she started with a list of men who might be open-minded enough to let her read from their libraries, too.

This character is very telling for modern girls and women who are interested in science but continually receive negative feedback. Yet Isabella also infuriated me in the way the author turned her unconventional drive for knowledge into a very conventional, stupidly reckless “female curiosity.” She made a great deal of noise about being practical, yet continually got into dangerous situations without any sort of planning or escape route. Her poor husband, Jacob, was left scrambling to figure out where she went. I was disappointed in Brennan for falling back on a stereotype that’s just as damaging as the one she was trying to refute.

But… the dragons! There are several varieties, including the charming Sparklings found in Isabella’s garden and hedges. This book revolves mostly around larger, more dangerous Rock-Wyrms that Isabella wangles her way into a field expedition to study. Rock-Wyrms that have mysteriously begun to attack humans all around the study region. One of the most important discoveries their expedition makes is that Rock-Wyrms bury their dead. This behavior raises the possibility that dragons aren’t just savage beasts, but possess some degree of intelligence.

Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this book and plan to follow the series as it unfolds.

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