Before we start and to be really clear – this is NOT a lesbian fiction title. It is a fantasy based in Eire in the 8th Century set in the Celtic-druid landscape. I don’t normally review non lesbian fiction titles on LRR, but this is such an excellent book, and so many of us also love fantasy, that a book written by one of the best storytellers around needs a shout out to all you Mage/Dragon/Fantasy Fans.
The Dragonmage Saga Book 1 is the story or Ash, a child orphaned by a night- time raid on her village, left to die in the fire, rescued by badgers who raise her as their own. Scarred and apart from the two-legs of nearby villages Ash can talk to the four-legs and learns to live as one of them, scavenging and hunting by night, holed up in the sett by day.
An attack by wolves on her beloved badgers brings out Ash’s magic, untrained and untamed, when she instinctively heals a deadly wound. The reverberations of her power brings a Mage to collect her for training, and so begins her journey into the world of human interaction, magic, druid rites and her destiny.
To say this is an excellent tale is an under-statement. As an avid reader of this genre who considers Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Barbra Hambly and Anne MeCaffrey among the best of the best, I would rate this first book in the series to be right up there.
Ash is a wonderful character. We watch her grow in every way, and her transition from four-legged youth to two-legged power gives Werlinger the perfect vehicle to explain the world. As Ash grows and learns, we learn. What particularly sets her apart is her imperfections, burned by the fire she is disfigured and disabled.
She is surrounded by a varied and deep cast of animals and humans, treated equally and with well rounded characters from those we barely touch upon to those who we come to know in depth. The four-legs are wonderfully drawn with personalities to match their type. The two-legs show how far humans have come from the simpler morality of the animal world, with both good and bad impacted by deceit and the lust for power.
Ireland in the 8th century provides a wonderful setting and the perfect canvas upon which the story unfolds. The forest and lands play an important role in Ash’s journey and are drawn with a perfect balance of description and understanding. Love of the landscape shines through the writing and draws us even further into the story.
Werlinger is an excellent storyteller. The Celtic/Mage/Dragon lore books seem to attract them, perhaps because the whole Celtic/Druid tradition is one of oral history and places such a value on the bard. Her lesbian fiction titles are all intriguing, varied and unusual. Now she has stepped out into the fantasy genre and her light touch of description, intelligent characterisation and stylish writing have created an awesome first novel… I stayed up all night reading this and I literally cannot wait to for the next book in the series.
If you are a dragon lore/ fantasy fan.. you will love it. If you aren’t – give it a try, you wont find a better example of sympathetic writing, elegant prose, a wonderful heroine, and the storytelling of a genuine bard.
(publisher review copy received)