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 Who writes the best dragons?

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Hippocampus
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PostSubject: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:35 pm

Dragons are something of a cliche in fantasy but every so often, an author manages to breathe new life into them. I particularly like Robin Hobb's dragons in her Liveship Traders trilogy. The life cycle is interesting, with it's sea serpent larval phase, the venomous breath is much more believable than fire and I like the macabre twist provided by "wizardwood". Hobb also puts an interesting twist on the idea of a symbiotic relationship between humans and dragons. Unlike Anne McCaffery's rather domesticated dragons, Hobb's are wild, arrogant and proud yet still able to form strong bonds with humans. I will also be interested to see how George R. R. Martin's dragons turn out in A Song of Ice and Fire. They are still hatchlings at present but look promising. Other authors seem to experience a failure of imagination when describing dragons. Terry Goodkind populated his world with a plethora of interesting fantastic creatures but his dragons are disappointingly ordinary; even their names are boring.

So, who do you think portrays dragons most effectively, and what makes a good dragon anyway?
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:07 pm

To me a dragon is like a living incarnation of fantasy itself. It is fantastic, magical, and awe inspiring. As such it should be anything but ordinary: it should be enormous, beast-like in appearance but unlike any other beast, fearsome in its unnatural (magical) powers, but also incredibly intelligent and cunning, if not also elegant in its appearance.

Unfortunately I haven't really read many books or series where dragons have all that much of a role. The Hobbit was probably the first for me, and it was almost copied from dragons in Norse mythology and folklore. Their role was expanded on by Tolkien in the Silmarillion, which I at least found interesting.

The next I guess would be the Sword of Truth. But like you said, they had a very secondary role.

The most recent is George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The dragons are young, but like you I think they already exhibit certain elements that I find very compelling: their eggs were rare, and fantastically beautiful; their birth was incredible and magical, and almost savage like with the pyre that gave them life being both a funeral pyre and a human sacrifice; as live dragons they inspire awe and amazement in people who even hear that they are alive; and even with their relatively small and young status they have already inspired fables and stories in their use to conquer cities.

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:18 pm

Anytime I need a fix of Dragons, I turn to one of three places ...

The Dragon DeLaSangre (and it's 2 or 3 sequels) by Alan F Troop
Dragonlance Series - The Barbarians trilogy by Paul B Thompson & Tonya C Clark
Dragonlance Series - Damon Saga trilogy by Jean Rabe

I love dragons, but don't care about the size of them - for me it's about the cunning and ferocity of them. And of course, the freedom of flight.

Of the three I listed above, Troop's books are my favorites.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 6:52 pm

The Enchanted Forest Chronicals provided my first real taste of dragons. It's a young adult series, but still very good, and the dragons are....odd. They're a nation, as much as anything else--the Mountains of Morning are a country, much as the United States is, and the dragons rule there by their own codes and traditions. They certainly didn't lack for creative names--Kazul, Warog, and others--or creative lifecycles. Yeah, they're your stock "giant lizards what breath fire and fly", but there's also pride, and ferocity, and cunning. Plus, you see a juvenile dragon, which is funny.

Martin's dragons are more beast-like than I prefer so far. I like my dragons sentient, at minimum equal to human intelligence. But they're young; perhaps they'll grow into their stature.

Tolkien.....You have to understand what he was after to understand any of his characters. He was building a mythology (or uniting scattered mythologies, however you want to look at it). So yeah, his dragons were old. But the thing is, no one knew it. Pretty much NOTHING Tolkien did was new, but everyone follows his lead as if he were because he presented the old to the young, in a way that captured imaginations deadened by literary criticism and assigned readings. So yeah, I'm goinig to rank Tolkien's dragons up there (Smaug sucked, by the way--read Children of Huren if you want REAL dragons), despite the fact that 1) they were pure evil, and 2) they weren't new.

Dragons are special to me. I am the Black Dragon, as much as I am any other name I go by. My username reflects this--in my language (yes, I'm a dork; don't judge me! Very Happy ) the word stands for "dragon-warrior". I'll expand on it more in stories I'm planning on writing. Anyway, the reason I chose a dragon as my symbol is what they are to me--fierce, independent, and free. Almost every dragon you see is flying, and even in battle there's exhileration and exstacy in the fact that they are alive. They are intelligent, though not in ways most humans can understand; their minds simply work differently than those of most humans. And they hold nothing back. It's fly or die. The scales, the wings, the fire-breathing, the riddles, are all what a dragon NEEDS. What one IS, is a creature ruled by none.

My wife and I once saw a dragon table. She thought it was pretty, and asked what I thought of it. I said flatly "I hate it." She asked why--it was a dragon, and it was black. "Look at its eyes," I said. "It's broken. I'ts dead, but its body hasn't realized it yet." The store owner was fairly surprised to hear me discuss a table with that much venom in my voice, but it was, in my mind, diserved. Imagine seeing a picture of yourself as a slave, broken and dead inside. That's what that table was to me.

I haven't seen a series that truly captures what I see as the soul of a dragon. Most simply treat them as throw-away monsters, or as humans with scales and wings. It's annoying. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:03 pm

Dinwar wrote:
Tolkien.....You have to understand what he was after to understand any of his characters. He was building a mythology (or uniting scattered mythologies, however you want to look at it). So yeah, his dragons were old. But the thing is, no one knew it. Pretty much NOTHING Tolkien did was new, but everyone follows his lead as if he were because he presented the old to the young, in a way that captured imaginations deadened by literary criticism and assigned readings. So yeah, I'm goinig to rank Tolkien's dragons up there (Smaug sucked, by the way--read Children of Huren if you want REAL dragons), despite the fact that 1) they were pure evil, and 2) they weren't new.

I knew!

But I only first read his works late in my high school life, when I was already familiar with Norse and Celtic mythology. Not long after I read his literature, I was at university and became aware that he was in fact a fairly renowned scholar in the field of Celtic, Norse, and Anglo Saxon mythology and linguistics.

With my story I am actually following in his footsteps. I was a scholar (or a student to be a scholar) in the field of Celtic, Norse, and Anglo Saxon history, religion, mythology and linguistics before I ever tried to write a story. I am basing or drawing inspiration from my studies when I formulate my story, their names, their histories, the places they live and the history of those places, and so on.

But I'm not trying to create a mythology, as Tolkien did. I am less a world-builder and more of a story teller. I am trying to create something of a historical narrative (fictional of course). In that sense, you could say I am similar to Martin, who seems to write a legitimate history... except that everything is fictional. The difference, again, is that I will be more story or character driven, not world-driven.

[/tangent]

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:21 pm

Frankly the best incarnation I have ever read/seen has been Dragonheart. That is the epitome of what a dragon should be.

Not too far off from how Terry did it in his series.

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carnage rahl
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 7:24 am

the dragons I've ever read about were the ones that were in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles*but they were odd to me and didn't make what dragon would seem like all that real for me*.

the dragons of the Dragon Riders of Pern. They were okay. I liked the teleportation twist. never seen that in a dragons abilities. For a long time I couldn't find any dragons i liked that could beat them.

then I came across E.E. Knight's dragons. His Age of Fire series is written strictly from a dragons point of view, which i must say is unusually rare. I have never found a book series that has ever done that and kept it that way even though the dragons interacted with other creatures.

What really set this series apart from the others I've read was the fact that, there was no one universal language between any one group. for instance: dragons spoke Drakine. Elves and humans spoke Parl*latin* and the dwarves had something that i can't remember at the moment*Razz*

The one cliche that still made an appearance with that series is of course Dragons were hunted, not only because they were a threat to livestock but they had valuable parts*for lack of a better term.*

what made me love it the most is the triumph the hatchlings over come since the moment their parents were murdered and betrayed. that was the offset for me.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 8:13 am

Dinwar wrote:
..........
I haven't seen a series that truly captures what I see as the soul of a dragon. Most simply treat them as throw-away monsters, or as humans with scales and wings. It's annoying. Smile

You may want to give Troop's books a try ... I've read 3 of the 4 he has written and I found them very interesting as they are written from the point of view of a Dragon. They are also written in modern times, which does eliminate a lot of the "mythology" that is usually so badly written (or ... "random" when compared to other books) in the average fantasy book.

I found these books to be a refreshing change from the average story. I think it's a well written insight into the creature's struggle for survival - both as an individual and as a race.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 11:26 am

I love dragons, but haven't read very many books that focus on them, so this thread has given me plenty of literary recommendations.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 12:36 pm

Quote :
then I came across E.E. Knight's dragons. His Age of Fire series is written strictly from a dragons point of view, which i must say is unusually rare. I have never found a book series that has ever done that and kept it that way even though the dragons interacted with other creatures.

He stole my idea!!!

Seriously, I started a story like that about ten years ago. Never came to fruition... LOL

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 3:58 pm

I find someone always stealing someone else's idea in some way or another.

like the name Kazul from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I was wondering for a long time where the hell I came up with that name even though i thought I got it from the top of my head. it just kept sounding oddly familiar lol
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 4:12 pm

Ideas are meant to be borrowed. Using them to create something wholly new is the hard part.

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 5:28 pm

When I discovered that I had been born in the Chinese year of the dragon, I looked up the Chinese zodiac and was fascinated to find that the dragon is the only fantastic beast in it. All of the others are real animals. Dragons must play a very important role in Chinese mythology but I have never followed this up.

To me, dragons portray one side of human nature. They are powerful, independent, solitary, ferocious, acquisitive and proud. All of these traits can be strengths but they can also be weaknesses. Humans also possess the capacity to be adaptable, cooperative, compassionate, generous and humble. Some fantasy authors endow dragons with these latter traits, but this never sits well with my idea of what a dragon should be.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 6:33 pm

As Calwyn pointed out, as dragons go, so does humanity. Dragons (and all mythical creatures) represent a part of humanity, often the part we wish to subdue or repress. As such, we're not so much talking about dragons, as much as we're talking about different views of ourselves. For evidence of this, look at the different views of dragons in Chinese and English culture, and the difference in the cultures in general.

Besides, who said debates have to be about serious topics? A frivolous debate is a very good way to practice debate skills, so that when a more serious debate comes along you're not helpless.

Quote :
They are powerful, independent, solitary, ferocious, acquisitive and
proud. All of these traits can be strengths but they can also be
weaknesses.
I don't generally go for oriental culture (nothing against it, but there's always seemed to be a near obsession with it where I grew up, at least among people my age), but I really like this description. Dragons CAN be slain, after all. I don't fit the "solitary" description,though. I've always enjoyed being with people, but I'm rather picky about WHO I spend time with.

Of course, I'm a rat, if that tells you anything. Razz
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sat May 01, 2010 8:41 pm

I really enjoyed the Dragons of Dragonlance. Not really sure why, I just connected better with them. They seemed more real, I suppose. I also really enjoyed the Dragons of Tolkien's work.

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 11:43 am

Dinwar wrote:
Quote :
They are powerful, independent, solitary, ferocious, acquisitive and
proud. All of these traits can be strengths but they can also be
weaknesses.
I don't generally go for oriental culture (nothing against it, but there's always seemed to be a near obsession with it where I grew up, at least among people my age), but I really like this description.
I was actually talking about Western dragons here. I don't know very much about Eastern ones.

Professor X wrote:
I really enjoyed the Dragons of Dragonlance. Not
really sure why, I just connected better with them. They seemed more
real, I suppose.
I loved the relationship between Kitiara and Skye in the Chronicles and Legends. Other than that, I found the Dragons a little bland and a little too keen to become involved in human conflicts. Really, the whole idea of humans riding dragons seems wrong to me. It goes against my concept of dragons as beings of wild, elemental power. For similar reasons, I also disliked the idea of dragons as representatives of the Gods. To me, dragons are not good or evil, they are just dragons.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 12:00 pm

I very much understand that perspective, HC.

I use the phrase "[insert animal] are people too" quite a lot, but for me, I think it actually means something when I say "Dragons are people too." I want my dragons not to be some other-worldly creatures. I want them to be majestic and beautiful, earthly and intelligent beasts.

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 12:56 pm

Quote :
I want my dragons not to be some other-worldly creatures. I want them
to be majestic and beautiful, earthly and intelligent beasts.
I'll agree, with one qualification--they AREN'T humans. If all they are is another race of humans, but large and with scales, it rapidly gets annoying. They're different, vastly different, and will necessarily have different values, different ways of looking at the world. Not necessarily BETTER ways, just different. Raman, not utlanning. Smile

As another aside, I have the same complaint about most aliens in fiction. They're just humans with different bodies. Or they're incomprehensible Eldritch Abominations. Neither of which, I think, will reflect reality worth spit.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 5:19 pm

One thing that I find fascinating is to consider morality from a dragon's perspective. Most human morality arises from the fact that we are social animals who need to live in close proximity to one another and cooperate to survive. Dragons, on the other hand, are generally portrayed as solitary, independent, few in number and far more powerful than any other creature that they are ever likely to meet. This makes me wonder whether dragons would need any kind or morality at all. Perhaps they would see nothing wrong with murder, for example, or deception, given that a dragon would be unlikely to suffer any adverse consequences from harming another.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 5:43 pm

Dragons are also usually portrayed as beasts, or at least non-human. People usually have the perception that morality is unique to human beings, and so the idea of a dragon being moral OR immoral would be odd to them. No one would ever think of that.

Like any other beast, there is no such thing as murder or morality. The only law is the law of nature, the law of survival, the survival of the fittest. They kill to eat and/or survive.

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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Sun May 02, 2010 6:09 pm

Quote :
Perhaps they would see nothing wrong with murder, for example, or
deception, given that a dragon would be unlikely to suffer any adverse
consequences from harming another.
I'll go with Calwyn that dragons are usually portrayed as...other than human. Personally, I see them as sentient, which means that they must have some sort of morality (by my philosophy, anyway; and obviously, in general). However, because they are NOT humans, they may not have any issues with killing us, for the same reason that we have no problem killing cows. As for dragon/dragon conflicts, I can only imagine that they have their own morality which demands such fighting, or at least condones it.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Mon May 03, 2010 12:09 am

Song of Silence has excellent dragons, perhaps my favorite. There are small dragons that people live with that are just animals and aren't sentient and then there are mythical, HUGE dragons. Just amazing, too. But the one's that aren't sentient...there's a twist to that but I don't want to say without giving away the whole book (part of the reason they're my favorite dragons).
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:22 pm

There are a couple of dragon books that I have encountered that are particularly good.

One is a series of books by Graham Edwards.
Dragoncharm
Dragonstorm
Dragonflame

the stroies are told from the point of view of the dragons themselves. This is Earth with magic, in a time before the earth turns and magic no longer exists, also a time before humans. there are two types of dragons, tha natural dragons without magic and charmed dragons that can still harness it. I find them well written and very entertaining with good plots and pacing. The main dragon characters are engaging. This is followed up with a different but related series where dragons and humans interact, called Stone.

Stone and sky
Stone and sea
Stone and Sun

The other books are by Joanne Bertin. there are two novels,
The Last Dragonlord
Dragon and Pheonix

Both are good books featuring three types of being, true humans, true dragons and dragonlords that have souls of dragon and human. The two souls generally settle for the human soul to be in control until that soul grows weary, then the dragon one comes to the fore. The dragonlords can change between dragon and human forms at will. I enjoyed these books so much we even named one of our cats Rathan, after the main character Linden Rathan (Rathan being the dragon half).

Has anyone else read these?
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:25 pm

I've been reading a lot of Robin Hobb lately, and I really like her take on dragons. I just wish I could explain why (or even say what stories they're in) without giving away MAJOR spoilers. Hobb comes up with a lot of unique ideas surrounding dragons, and those lead to some very unexpected plot twists.
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PostSubject: Re: Who writes the best dragons?   Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:39 am

My first experience of dragons was also with the Enchanted Forest ones. They were my first taste of fantasy and I loved them! I liked the characterisation of the dragons in them but I haven't read many other series that have dragons as a central part.

Obviously SoT has a brief dragon encounter, but really apart from that and the dragons in Tamora Pierce's books (which are briefly mentioned apart from one and she's only little - and I found used more as a story-telling device) I hadn't come across many in the books I read.

But it's funny I've just found this thread as I've been reading Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" books at the moment (Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr) and really really enjoying them. I love the relationship between dragons and Riders and the main dragon (Saphira) is a character in her own right, rather than just a plot device. The dragonlore and mythology that has been created is really entertaining.
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