Monday, 15 October 2007

Here be Dragons...

Without going too much into what my job involves, my mind does wander an awful lot at work and more often than not it’s about what I’m currently reading. More often than not I’m reading fantasy! A few weeks ago I posted something about how I’d like to see more elves and dwarves in fantasy literature, I miss those guys… I mentioned this on a few forums and a lot of people said that if they never saw another elf or dwarf it would be too soon! A lot people also told me that I wasn’t reading the right books, fair point guys ;o) The discussion, along with some other threads, became one about how certain fantasy clichés have been done to death in the genre, I agree with some points but not with others. As a matter of personal taste, I like elves and dwarves but only really if the author at least tries to do something different with them. However, if I see one more prince who has been raised in secret as a farmboy then I will probably gut him with his own ‘magic sword of destiny’ ™…
There’s a lot of fantasy cliché out there a lot of which is trite and shoe-horned into a book in order to sell more copies, a lot of us realise this and try and be a bit more discerning when we buy our books. Unless I’ve missed something though, there’s one fantasy staple that I haven’t seen anyone moan about… yet. I’m talking about dragons.
Dragons have been around just as long as any of the other fantasy stereotypes (if not longer) but we don’t seem to mind if one or more turn up in the book we’re reading. Martin’s got them but only three at the moment. Erikson seems to have hundreds and will quite happily squeeze a few more in at the drop of a hat. R. Scott Bakker has at least one who’s a real nasty piece of work and Naomi Novik, well… I don’t really need to say anymore do I? The list goes on (Williams, Hobb and Barclay for starters) and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the newer, genre re-defining, authors out there sneak a few dragons into their books as well.
So what is it about dragons that we like so much (if we all do, tell me if I’m wrong)? For me it’s that the action (and story) will always kick up about three notches if a dragon gets involved. I mean, it has to as dragons are just so big and powerful, things just happen! Being at the top of the food chain also lends dragons an arrogance that I find compelling, especially in the ones that can talk. Despite some great fantasy out there with no dragons in it, I’ll always have a soft spot for anything that involves one of these big scaly monsters…
What about you though? Do you like to see dragons in fantasy or are they just another over-used cliché? Or have you taken a wrong turn somewhere and are wondering why this blog doesn’t have Dan Brown in it? (Hint: Try Google!)


Chris, The Book Swede said...

I've always been fond of Dragons for much the same reasons as you -- they're just soooo kick-ass cool! :D

Eragon (ugh, that vile tripe) put me off for a little while, though, seeing everyone reading the books and watching the film! But then, I'm just miserable... :)

No dragons in Mayer's books, but there are some quite kick-ass ... things ... which make it interesting. Hope you like them. Like Remy, I get nervous when someone reads a book I really like!

The Book Swede

Good post!

Robert said...

I'm another dragon fan ;) When I was younger, and an aspiring artist, all I used to draw was dragons! Obviously that didn't work out too well :D

John (Grasping for the Wind) said...

anyone read any of E.E. Knight's Age of Fire books? I found them to be great cliche without being cliche. I know that sounds oxymoronic, but its true.

his dragons are everything we want dragons to be, and yet he makes them emotionally interesting too.

Pretty good stuff imo.

Tia said...

I actually didn't think Eragon was too terrible. I just hated that elf-girl, however. I thought to myself, Eragon with that elf??? Please!!! This is obviously a teenage fantasy!!!

But who knows? Maybe it won't work out for them. I have not read Eldest yet and I may not get to it for a long time, if ever. I've never seen the movie, either. Personally, I thought they rushed to make a movie out of that book WAY prematurely. Paolini could easily screw up the ending of the series.

Dragons neither attract me to buy a book, nor do they repel me. Elizabeth Haydon did something a bit different with her dragon. All authors handle dragons differently, which is what makes them so fresh each time.

A quibble I have with elves are races that are obviously elves, but are called something different, like Eika. I actually found Eragon refreshing in that it went ahead and called them elves and dwarves.