ARC Review: The Book of Dragons Edited by Jonathan Strahan

From China to Europe, Africa to North America, dragons have long captured our imagination in myth and legend. Whether they are rampaging beasts awaiting a brave hero to slay or benevolent sages who have much to teach humanity, dragons are intrinsically connected to stories of creation, adventure, and struggle beloved for generations.

Bringing together nearly thirty stories and poems from some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers working today— Garth Nix, Scott Lynch, R.F. Kuang, Ann Leckie & Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, Beth Cato, Zen Cho, C. S. E Cooney, Aliette de Bodard, Kate Elliott, Theodora Goss, Ellen Klages, Ken Liu, Patricia A McKillip, K. J. Parker, Kelly Robson, Michael Swanwick, Jo Walton, Elle Katharine White, Jane Yolen, Kelly Barnhill, Brooke Bolander, Sarah Gailey, and J. Y. Yang—and illustrated by award-nominated artist Rovina Cai with black-and-white line drawings specific to each entry throughout, this extraordinary collection vividly breathes fire and life into one of our most captivating and feared magical creatures as never before and is sure to become a treasured keepsake for fans of fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales.

There were actually two reasons I added this anthology to my tbr – the first being obviously dragons, I’m obsessed with these fantasy creatures and reading so many stories featuring them was exciting; the second reason being R. F. Kuang was going to write a short story for it.

I was thrilled when I got approved for the ARC. But when I started reading it, I wasn’t as enamored because so many of the stories in the first half just felt okay. But as the book went on, I really came to enjoy the stories a lot more and I think this is an interesting collection to read for any fans of speculative fiction and dragons.

Below are my individual reviews:

What Heroism Tells Us by Jane Yolen

I’m not someone who understands poetry much so I don’t wanna rate or comment on this one.

Matriculation by Elle Katharine White

This one has a mechanical dragon that responds to symbols and I found it very interesting. But the story is more about how a young magitechnician has to find the funds to pay for her education and I found it so relatable to our real life issues.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hikayat Sri Bujang, or, The Tale of the Naga Sage by Zen Cho

The story of a naga sage who has choose between his self enlightenment or family duties, this was fun and interesting and I loved the way everything is described.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Yuli by Daniel Abraham

There seem to be two parallel stories going on here but I can’t say I understood the point of either of them.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

A Whisper of Blue by Ken Liu

An alternate world in which everything is powered by dragon breath and the number of dragons at a location determines its prosperity, I felt completely immersed in this story. It’s also a story of loss and grief while also being a commentary on the cons of exploiting resources, and I thought the author managed to balance everything very well.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Nidhog by Jo Walton

An interesting poem about a dragon waiting to rise and free all its kind.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Where the River turns to Concrete by Brooke Bolander

The dragon in this story being a water spirit and forming a connection with a human family was told beautifully and the way it ended only makes me want its continuation.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Habitat by K. J. Parker

Told in dual timelines, this is a story of endless war, cruelty and greed and how it all only destroys and nothing good will come of it. Very well written and for such a serious story, the end was pretty funny.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Pox by Ellen Klages

The story of a young girl who loves Le Guin’s Wizard of the Earthsea, wishes dragons were real and goes on a little adventure in Chinatown in SFO, this was a fun story and I particularly loved the mouthwatering descriptions of the various food items.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Nine Curves River by R. F. Kuang

Told in second person, a story of two sisters, jealousy, and sacrifice for the sake of greater good, this was so beautiful and poignant and sad, but also hopeful in some way. And the point about monsters being lonely and we humans not understanding them was quite interesting to think about.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lucky’s Dragon by Kelly Barnhill

A story about soul splitting and dragons, I loved the idea behind this tale as well as the deep affection between the main character and her dragon. Overall this turned out to be quite thrilling as well as cute.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I Make Myself a Dragon by Beth Cato

This was an absolutely beautiful poem about a human being who has been shunned by the world trying to reclaim their life by awakening the dragon within, and pledging to be a protector for others like them.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Exile by JY Neon Yang

I’m not sure I can describe what this was about effectively but it was full of beautiful melancholy, heartbreak and acceptance. But also included was a bit of meta commentary on the ills of human desire to conquer other lands without any care for the original inhabitants. An overall wonderful story and gorgeous writing.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Except on Saturdays by Peter S. Beagle

A spin on the myth of Melusine, this story was full of loss and longing, but also about cherishing the experiences we get to have, even if they never happen again.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

La Vitesse by Kelly Robson

To be honest, this thrilling story reminded me a lot of the movie Speed with its bus full of children being chased by a dragon, and a mother and daughter trying to outrun it. Very interesting writing.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Final Knight to her Love and Foe by Amal El-Mohtar

I thought it was a wonderful love poem until that very unexpected last line. Very cool poetry though.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Long Walk by Kate Elliot

Set in a world where a woman is considered dead when her husband dies, this is the story of a widow in a similar predicament who chooses to finally do what her heart desires because she is free of all her responsibilities. And what a wonderful story it is of empowerment and solidarity and taking back one’s life.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Cut Me Another Quill, Mister Fitz by Garth Nix

The story of a dragon and dragon hunting knight and puppet duo, this was an entertaining story but it also felt a bit incomplete towards the end.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Hoard by Seanan McGuire

Wow. I didn’t expect that a dragon’s hoarding habits could also manifest in this form. This was both a fascinating/terrifying story as well as a commentary on the flawed foster care system.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Wyrm of Lirr by C. S. E. Cooney

This poem seemed nice enough and even though I didn’t understand it completely, I liked its idea of some humans petitioning to free indentured dragons.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Last Hunt by Aliette de Bodard

Set prior to the events in the author’s acclaimed novella In the Vanisher’s Palace, this story gives a bit of background into what actually happened in the world just before the masters disappeared and I liked getting to know this. It’s still only a small glimpse but I’m glad that we got it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

We Continue by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky

A metaphor for the cycle of life and death, this story was heartbreaking but also had the important message that when we lose the ones we love, we have to find the hope and courage to move on.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Bird’s Plea by Todd McCaffrey

A young human girl and a young demon boy set out to save their people from each other’s destructive ways and they decide to band together – it confused me a bit in the beginning but it was also sweet, funny and had a subtle message about all species being interdependent on each other for survival.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Dragons by Theodora Goss

A poem about a woman who can’t let go of the dragons who show up on her porch one day, all little and vulnerable, this was very heartwarming and lovely.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dragon Slayer by Michael Swanwick

This story had dragons, wizards and time travel and it was so much fun. And I loved how the woman are pragmatic warriors but still have to appease the men to keep the peace.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Camouflage by Patricia A. McKillip

This almost felt a bit like a young would be wizard taking his OWLS exam at Hogwarts and then traveling back in time. But I loved the whole world and the vivid imagery the author created, and the concept dealing with the importance of knowledge was very well written.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

We Don’t Talk About the Dragon by Sarah Gailey

This is the story of a young girl from an abusive home who forms a bond with a dragon, and I really loved how she felt she could share all her feelings only with the dragon and the beast seemed to reciprocate in its own way. And that ending was beautiful and powerful.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Maybe Just Go Up There and Talk to It by Scott Lynch

To be honest, this was just batshit crazy but also absolutely wonderful towards the end. However, the author also managed to show some very harsh political realities that I think could happen in real life America too. Very well thought and written.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Nice Cuppa by Jane Yolen

This was a nice way to end the book, almost like with a cup of tea.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

PS: Thank you to Harper Voyager and Edelweiss for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

6 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Book of Dragons Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Add yours

  1. I‘m envious for the ARC, but I preordered it, and the book‘s been sitting on my shelf since a few days. Two anthologies stand need to be finished before I go for this one. And what a lineup! Strahan never failed me, so thanks for your review relieving the tension a bit 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve actually never read anything by Strahan before but I know he always compiles the best SFF collections, so I did have high hopes. And this was really good. Hope you’ll enjoy it too !!

      Like

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