Archive for August, 2015

Whitby is a seaside village in Yorkshire, England. This picturesque town has long been a favorite of tourists and vacationers, but centuries ago it had a much more sinister inhabitant.

You see, a dragon (or wyrm) lived in the mountain overlooking the town. The mighty beast was quite content with its domination of the countryside, but the people cried out to be saved from its cruel whims. A group of Benedictine monks responded by building an abbey in the village of Whitby, around the time of William the Conqueror.

Needless to say, the dragon did not take kindly to this intrusion in its affairs. Before construction was complete, the wyrm attacked and tried to destroy the abbey, but the prayers of the monks were stronger. The wyrm was banished to the deep sea, where it nursed its grievance. Every seven years, it’s said, the beast creeps up to the shore and tears at the rocks, trying to bring the abbey down.

The abbey was disbanded and partly demolished during the reign of Henvy VIII. The site was further damaged by shelling during WW I. Yet even its ruins still retain their power. The Whitby Wyrm is forever exiled from its mountain home.

P.S. — According to vampire lore, Bram Stoker was vacationing in Whitby when the sight of its dramatic ruins inspired him to write his most famous book, Dracula. Vampire exhibits and merchandise are a big part of Whitby tourism today.

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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.

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