Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shadowed By Wings - Janine Cross

Shadowed By Wings
The Dragon Temple Saga – Book Two
Janine Cross

Dark Fantasy

Warning: If you haven’t read the first book in this series TOUCHED BY VENOM this review contain plot spoilers.

At 17, Zarq begins an apprenticeship with the dragonmaster of Re. Her very presence is hotly debated by the Temple that governs the land. No woman has ever been allowed to hold such a position, lowly as it is. But Zarq, named for a male rebel, and daughter of poor potters, is determined to succeed. She believes that she will be able to become a dragonmaster, and begin to right some of the many wrongs and injustices that plague the kingdom. Women have very few rights, and the poor are brutally suppressed. Zarq is the living embodiment of rebellion. This makes her extremely dangerous.

She knows that the Temple is against her, as are most of the apprentices. If Temple rules against the current dragonmaster, he will be expelled, along with his apprentices; Zarq threatens not just the social order, which is fairly incomprehensible to these boys, but their very lives, in a very real and immediate way. While Zarq labors to gain at least a modicum of respect, she attempts to hide her addiction to dragon venom. She hates it, but she needs it to keep the ghost of her mother (or the ghost of her mother’s anger) at bay.

Everyone knows that dragons are divine power. And the Clutch, or kingdom, that owns the most dragons is always the most powerful. But there’s a serious problem. No bull dragon is ever born in captivity. They must be captured from the surrounding jungles. No one knows why this is so, but there are many who know of the intimate rite by which the venom can allow a mortal to see and hear a dragon’s thoughts and memories. There are many who are desperate to know the secret of the dragons, and will stop at nothing to get it.

If you like your fantasy bright and cheery and filled with cutesy hobbits and elves, this is not the series for you. Like the previous installment, this is dark fantasy in every sense of the word. The world created by the author is brutal and unforgiving. Death, torture, rape, and grinding poverty are simply realities to be faced. And Zarq is a deeply conflicted character. Her life has been unimaginably hard. She is neither a wilting flower nor an ass-kicking heroine. She lives in the world in which she was born; and while she dreams of changing it, she must still submit to the overwhelmingly male-dominated power structure. It’s her flaws and struggles that make her a believable character, and this a standout fantasy series.

Rating: 8
April 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-46102-5 (paperback)

Minor tech note: Yes, I know the covershot is smaller than usual. That's what I got.


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