I Desired Dragons with a Profound Desire: a Selection of the Finest Fantasy!

I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril. — J. R. R. Tolkien

For this month’s showcase we are pointing our spotlight at one of the most popular and enduring genres of them all: fantasy! It’s a huge genre, with crossover works and sub-genres such as comic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, dark fantasy, fairytale fantasy, fantasy of manners, heroic fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy, low fantasy, magical realism, mythic fiction fantasy, romantic fantasy, superhero fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy and weird fantasy, so by necessity this showcase only features a few of our favourite authors and novels.

Even into the 21st century, fantasy as a genre has not only endured but thrived, creating some of the century’s most beloved works in literature, film and art. Some of the world’s most popular authors and titles are also encompassed by this genre, including J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin and C.S.Lewis. Enjoy!

Overdrive cover The Princess Bride, William Goldman (ebook) (print)
Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible—inconceivable, even—to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup, but the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you’ll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that’s home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.” (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin (ebook) (print)
A Game of Thrones is the first volume in the series. Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne. (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien (ebook) (print)
Continuing the story begun in The Hobbit, this is the first part of Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, featuring the definitive text and a detailed map of Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien’s great work of imaginative fiction has been labelled both a heroic romance and a classic fantasy fiction. By turns comic and homely, epic and diabolic, the narrative moves through countless changes of scene and character in an imaginary world which is totally convincing in its detail. (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (ebook)
The men who rode the dragons were a breed apart. Chosen when the dragons were first hatched, they became soulmates for life with the huge, magnificent beasts they controlled – the green, blue, brown and bronzes – beautiful – terrible – the only creatures who could defend the planet Pern from the blood-red star. But without the Queen, the dragons would become extinct. Only the gigantic, golden Queen could breed the new flights. And the Queen was fading . . . dying. Dragonflight is the first book in Anne McCaffrey’s world-famous Chronicles of Pern and has been in print since its first publication in hardcover 30 years ago. (adapted from Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (ebook)
When Rin aced the Keju – the test to find the most talented students in the Empire – it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who had hoped to get rich by marrying her off; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free from a life of servitude. That she got into Sinegard – the most elite military school in Nikan – was even more surprising. But surprises aren’t always good. Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. (Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett (ebook)
Somhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell very much like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it’s carried though space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown). It plays by different rules. But then, some things are the same everywhere. The Disc’s very existence is about to be threatened by a strange new blight: the world’s first tourist, upon whose survival rests the peace and prosperity of the land. Unfortunately, the person charged with maintaining that survival in the face of robbers, mercenaries and, well, Death, is a spectacularly inept wizard.

The gunslinger / King, Stephen
In a desolate reality, on that mirrors our own in frightening ways, a lone and haunting figure known only as Roland makes his way across the endless sands in pursuit of a sinister, dark-robed mystery of a man. Roland is the last of his kind, a “gunslinger” charged with protecting whatever goodness and light remains in his world–a world that “moved on” as they say…and the only way he can possibly hope to save everything is to first outwit and confront this man in black, then make him divulge his many arcane secrets. For despite the countless miles he’s already traversed, Roland knows these will merely be his initial steps on his spellbinding and soul-shattering quest to locate the mystical nexus of all worlds, all universes: the Dark Tower….” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb (ebook)
The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and his is despised. Raised in the castle stables, only the company of the king’s fool, the ragged children of the lower city and his unusual affinity with animals provide Fitz with any comfort. To be useful to the crown, Fitz is trained as an assassin; and to use the traditional magic of the Farseer family. But his tutor, allied to another political faction, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must survive: for he may be destined to save the kingdom.

New Directions for Award-Winning Sci-Fi Authors

As library users may be aware, Wellington Central Library is out of commission, so alas our monthly science fiction and fantasy booklist is much slimmer than usual. However amongst the new titles we’ve recently acquired are some real gems!

There’s the remarkable–and hotly-tipped–The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, as well as Always Coming Home by one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy authors of all time, the legendary Ursula K. Le Guin. There are also great new works such as Ann Leckie’s fantasy foray, The Raven Tower, Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors, completing his vampire trilogy that began with The Passage, and the novelisation of Alita, Battle Angel, the blockbuster movie by Robert Rodriguez (adapted originally from the iconic manga series by Yukito Kishiro).

As if that isn’t enough to tempt you to dip into a new science fiction or fantasy book, there are also now free reserves on books so you can order and collect a chosen item from any open branch library. Enjoy!

The Raven tower / Leckie, Ann
“Listen. A god is speaking. My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle. The castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne. You want to help him. You cannot. You are the only one who can hear me. You will change the world.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon (ebook) (print)
“A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens. The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.” (adapted from Overdrive description)

Black leopard, red wolf / James, Marlon
“Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter – and he always works alone. But when he is engaged to find a child who disappeared three years ago, he must break his own rules, joining a group of eight very different mercenaries working together to find the boy. Following the lost boy’s scent from one ancient city to another, into dense forests and across deep rivers, Tracker starts to wonder- Who is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And most important of all, who is telling the truth and who is lying?” (Catalogue)

Always coming home / Le Guin, Ursula K.
“A long, long time from now, in the valleys of what will no longer be called Northern California, might be going to have lived a people called the Kesh. But Always Coming Home is not the story of the Kesh. Rather it is the stories of the Kesh – stories, poems, songs, recipes – Always Coming Home is no less than an anthropological account of a community that does not yet exist, a tour de force of imaginative fiction by one of modern literature’s great voices.” (Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Alita, Battle Angel, Pat Cadigan (Audiobook) (print)
The official novelisation of the highly anticipated film. When Alita wakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido, a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

The city of mirrors : a novel / Cronin, Justin
“The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place? The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Dragon heart / Higgins, Peter
“The great war ended with the death of the legendary dragon Vespertine. The last gambit failed the wizards lost, and now a final sickness leaks into the earth. There is no stopping it. It unfolds south as a bruise upon the sky, and forces Castrel and Shay from their small home days before their baby arrives. Now they wander, seeking food, seeking shelter, always trying to keep their daughter Hope safe. And then they come upon the dragon. Vespertine.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Fantasy with wings: Recently published Dragon reads!

Dragon's Code

Dragons are a huge influence in fantasy writing. They are embedded in storytelling traditions from European legends of beasts snacking on villages, ripe for a conquering by a hero, to Chinese and East Asian elemental figures, kin to the people of the land. Many authors have worked these figures into tales contemporary and as part of creating new worlds.

There are a wealth of new titles featuring scaled, fire breathing, winged creatures. The McCaffrey clan’s Pern saga has another twist to the tale with Gigi McCaffrey’s Dragon’s codeand the soon to be released Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) by George R.R. Martin, delves into the history of the Dragonlords. Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea stories have all been gathered into a gorgeous new illustrated edition, The Books of Earthsea, celebrating the 50 years since the publication of A Wizard of Earthsea and N K Jemisin’s new short story collection How long ’til black future month? has dragons haunting post hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

See below for more recently published dragon reads.

Syndetics book coverFire & Blood : 300 Years Before a Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History)
“The thrilling history of the Targaryens comes to life in this masterly work by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire. Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen–the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria–took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire & Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories
“In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story The City Born Great, a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’ soul” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDragon’s code / Gigi McCaffrey.Dragon’s Code: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern
“The last time Thread attacked Pern, the world was unprepared for the fight–until the Oldtimers appeared. These courageous dragonriders arrived from the past, traveling four hundred years to help their descendants survive. But the collision of past and present took its toll. While most of the displaced rescuers adapted to their new reality, others could not abide the jarring change and found themselves in soul-crushing exile, where unhappiness and resentment seethed… Now, in a world already beset by Thread, another, more insidious danger looms: For the first time in living memory, dragons may be on the verge of fighting dragons.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScales of empire / Kylie Chan.
“Corporal Jian Choumaliis on the mission of a lifetime – security officer on one of Earth’s huge generation ships, fleeing Earth’s failing ecosystem to colonise a distant planet. The ship encounters a technologically and culturally advanced alien empire, led by a royal family of dragons. The empire’s dragon emissary offers her aid to the people of Earth, bringing greater health, longer life, and faster-than-light travel to nearby stars.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe forbidden city / Deborah A. Wolf.
“The Dragon King is dying. As heir to his throne Sulema must be trained to take his place, yet the more she learns, the less she trusts the sinister agendas that surround her. Knowing that her life hangs in the balance, Sulema seeks to return to the Zeera. Salvation may lie with her mother, Hafsa Azeina, who walks the dark and deadly pathways of the Dreaming Lands. To save her daughter, the dreamshifter will be forced to strike a pact with her greatest enemy, a huntress who would rather kill her than assist her.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe empire of ashes / Anthony Ryan.The Empire of Ashes
“For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fueled by drake blood–and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. Drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Humanity itself is at stake, but with the aid of ancient knowledge, revolutionary technology and unexpected allies, all hope is not lost. Saving the world will require sacrifice, as Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore will see all they know either consumed by flames or reborn from the ashes.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStygian / Sherrilyn Kenyon.
“Born before man recorded time, I lived for thousands of years believing myself to be something I’m not. Lied to and betrayed by gods, Daimons and Dark-Hunters, I’ve struggled to find my way in a world where I’ve been cursed since the moment I was prematurely ripped from my mother and planted into the womb of an innocent woman who thought me her son. Trained as a slayer and predator, I learned to fit in and stay low. To become a tool for evil. Until I was sent to kill the one woman I couldn’t. My hesitation cost her her life. Or so I thought…” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpymaster / Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.
“The start of a swashbuckling adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.
Captain Kate Fitzmaurice was born to sail. She has made a life of her own as a privateer and smuggler. Hired by the notorious Henry Wallace, spymaster for the queen of Freya, to find a young man who claims to be the true heir to the Freyan, she begins to believe that her ship has finally come in.” (Syndetics summary)