Archive for July, 2018

Todd Lockwood is well known as a fantasy illustrator, but it turns out he’s also a talented writer. The Summer Dragon is the first volume of his series, The Evertide. Based on its exploration of seasons and political fortunes, I suspect future books will feature dragons associated with autumn, winter and spring.

Certainly this is an ambitious work, nearly 500 pages in trade paperback. It combines a coming of age story with religious philosophy, political machinations and grisly warfare against arcane horrors. All this juxtaposed with domestic scenes of life raising dragons. Quite a tapestry!

One of the most interesting things here is the detailed life cycle and descriptions of the dragons, both aerie-bred and wilding. These are not mere animals, but intelligent beings with a limited ability to communicate with their human friends. Baby dragons, or qits, are bonded with human riders in a complicated series of rituals, including matched tattoos on dragons and riders. There is some emotional/empathic connection, although not to the extent as in series like Dragonriders of Pern. 

The main character, Maia, is a teenaged girl who was born and raised in a dragon aerie. She and her brother, Darian, are both of age to receive dragons of their own. However, the aforementioned war against arcane horrors isn’t going well. They are crushed to learn that neither of them will be getting a dragon this season — the empire they serve demands every qit for the war. As they struggle with this decision, both siblings witness an amazing vision: the mystical Summer Dragon, Getig, appears before them! A powerful omen, but of what?

This visitation spurs the plot into its complex web of loyalty and betrayal. The dominant Rasaal faith views Maia and Darian as heretics to be crushed, but they still need the family’s aerie to breed more dragons. Thus the priests cast layers of deception to get what they want. Lockwood drew this out very well.

I was a bit more frustrated with the main characters. Maia is very typical of protagonists in these stories, a downtrodden youth who gets blamed for everything by her overly stern father. Darian is her closest friend, yet he’s all too happy to let her take the blame for shared mistakes, even when people get seriously hurt. After Getig’s visitation, he’s equally happy to take the credit and rewards while Maia is ignored. Near the end of the book, he’s furious that she doesn’t trust him. Gosh, why could that be?

Maia herself is brave and follows her heart toward what she believes Getig is telling her. She speaks her mind when the adults stand fumbling. Yet, even after a harrowing experience, she continues to sneak off alone and get into more trouble. Miraculously, every escapade reveals some new important discovery. Then she wonders why those overly stern adults don’t want to trust her, either.

Yes, Maia and Darian are both kids. But they’re in a world where you’re expected to grow up fast. What else does it mean to be “of age?” I felt like all parties at times were being intentionally blind in order to keep the plot going. There were also some running battle scenes, which were effectively told but went on longer than necessary. Less is more, as they say.

So is this Game of Thrones with dragons? Maybe. (Although nobody ever got into a torrid sexual affair, so perhaps it would be Games of Thrones with dragons and a PG rating.) I did enjoy this book and will look for more of Maia’s adventures.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.


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Gulden Draak, the beer I featured in my last post, is actually named after a statue in the city of Ghent, where the brewer, Van Steenberge, is located. Here is the epic tale of that statue.

The Gulden Draak (“golden dragon”) was created for King Sigurd Magnusson of Norway. It was allegedly a figurehead on his Viking longboat. King Sigurd I (1090 – 1130 C. E.) was also known as Sigurd the Crusader because he personally led the Norwegian Crusade of 1107 – 1110 C. E.  On the way back from this crusade, he made several state visits, including one in Constantinople. There he gifted his personal longboat to Emperor Alexios I. The Gulden Draak was removed from the ship and placed atop the dome of the Aya Sophia cathedral.

There it remained for several decades, until Count Baldwin IX of Flanders (1172 – 1205 C. E.) assisted in the conquest of Constantinople as part of the Fourth Crusade (1202 – 1204 C. E.). The Byzantine Empire was repurposed as The Latin Empire, with Baldwin crowned as Emperor in 1205 C. E. Naturally, due to Baldwin’s success, much wealth flowed back to Flanders. One of the pieces returned to Europe was the Gulden Draak.

Initially, the statue was housed in the city-state of Bruges (modern-day Netherlands). However, Bruges later went to war with the rival city-state of Ghent. After a final battle in 1382 C. E, the victorious Ghentese took the Gulden Draak home with them. There it was installed on top of their Belfry, or city hall, where many important documents were stored. The Gulden Draak would protect these documents while acting as an emblem of Ghentese power and independence.

After all its travels, the Gulden Draak had finally found a forever home.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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IMG_20180716_072515692I’ve already met several beer-bottle dragons. There’s Dragon’s Breath from Bayern Brewery, and Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing. Now my son brought home Gulden Draak, an imported beer from Van Steenberge in Belgium.

The reflections make it a bit hard to see, but this dragon is outlined with rivets. To me, this gives it a distinctive Steamunk vibe.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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IMG_20180303_154747890Here’s another dragon I met in the grocery store. It’s on a tin of Newman’s Own brand mints. These are ginger flavored. Nummy!

This dragon is so cute with his bushy eyebrows and crazy moustache. Not to mention the tongue action.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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Tamatori-hime, or Princess Jewel Taker, is one of the most famous folk stories involving the sea dragon, Ryujin.

Long ago in Japan, there was a powerful family known as the Fujiwara Clan. Their leader was Kamatari Fujiwara, and under his guidance the clan became so influential that one of his daughters was even a concubine to the Emperor of China. When Kamatari died, as all men must, the Emperor showed his affection for his concubine by sending a ship with three rich gifts to the funeral.

One of these gifts was a wondrous pearl. When Ryujin heard about it, he thought that no mere mortal deserved to have such a prize. He created a terrible storm, and in the confusion, he stole the pearl! When Kamatari’s son, Fuhito, heard about the loss, he was horrified. Even a powerful clan like the Fujiwaras couldn’t be so careless as to lose a gift from the Emperor of China. It was a terrible disgrace.

Fuhito set off to search in the area where the pearl was last known to be safe on board the ship. The storm had come up along a remote stretch of coast where only a few villagers lived. There Fuhito met a pearl diver named Ama. Although she didn’t know about any lost pearls, Fuhito thought she was the most rare pearl of all. They were married and she bore him a son.

However, Ama was determined to find the Fujiwara Pearl and restore honor to her husband’s and son’s family. She dove and dove again, searching the deepest crevices of the rocks and reefs. Soon she discovered Ryujin’s palace and all the fearsome sea creatures guarding it. By plucking a stringed instrument, Ama was able to lull the guards to sleep. She dove down deeper than ever and fetched the pearl out of Ryujin’s palace.

Alas, once the music stopped, the guards woke up. Brave Ama swam as fast as she could, but it was clear they swam faster than any human ever would. She made a desperate decision. With her diving knife, she cut her own chest open and hid the pearl inside. Blood gushed out, clouding the water. Ama was able to escape!

Although she did reach the shore, the injury claimed her life soon after.  Ama was buried with great honor because of what she had sacrificed to restore her son’s future. Ever since that day she has been remembered as Tamatori-Hime, or Princess Jewel Taker.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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After all these military-grade Sea Dragons, I’m longing for a truly mythic sea dragon, aren’t you? Well, here you go.

Ryujin was the dragon god who ruled the seas in Japanese folklore. Also known as Ryu-O or Watatsumi, he was a major deity in Japan’s traditional faith, Shinto. Considering that Japan is a group of islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, this isn’t surprising. The sea could be bountiful or turn destructive at a moment’s notice, so everyone wanted to get in good with the sea god.

In addition to being the god of the sea, Ryujin was believed to control fresh water springs and the coming of the rain. He could walk in people’s dreams. As a healer, his skill was supreme.

According to the tales, Ryujin lived in a beautiful palace of red and white coral, far beneath the sea. Using a set of magical gems, he was able to control the tides. Other tales say that he had an underground passage to Lake Biwa, on the island of Honshu, and his palace was actually under Lake Biwa. His court was made up of fish, turtles, jellyfish, and similar sea creatures. When he wanted to operate on land, snakes would serve as his messengers.

Like many of the Asian dragons, Ryujin was able to take human form at will. There are various tales of his adventures, although he seems a bit of a homebody. Most humans encounter him by wandering into his domain rather than him being out and about. Like the sea, Ryujin could be fickle. He might be kind and helpful, or dangerous and sinister. Several of the tales show him stealing things from mortals or other deities, so there’s an element of the trickster-god, as well.

Check back on Saturday for one of Ryujin’s legends.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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In addition to rockets and missiles, the U. S. Navy does have one sea dragon that made it into the real world. That’s the MH-53E heavy helicopter, manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a longtime pioneer in helicopter design.

Sea Dragon helicopters can operate from aircraft carriers or on land. Fitted with weaponry, they can support ground troops when needed. What they’re best known for, however, is mine sweeping. Sea Dragon can be used to tow all manner of detection devices, with or without countermeasures.

Even with these capabilities, the Sea Dragon has a down side. It is considered crash-prone, with a number of deaths linked to the aircraft over time. Since Sea Dragons already are no longer manufactured, there was serious consideration of grounding them entirely. But without a ready replacement, these helicopters will remain in service for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the Sea Dragons would be happier if they were used to find sunken treasure instead of mines?

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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