If you’re tired of wizards and zombies and vampires and the same-old/same-old in fantasy lit; if you’d like a YA book that’s solidly “PG” (some violence and language) rather than “R”; and if you want a respectful multicultural story with solid female characters, have I got an offer for you. Have I mentioned yet that it costs you no money?
I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival on September 28 to sell copies of Dragontamer’s Daughters, but I’m giving away free electronic copies of both books to any and all who pledge to give an honest review on Amazon. Just e-mail me and I’ll get those out to you as soon as I get your request.
For those of you who are new in these parts, Dragontamer’s Daughters is my two-part young adult fantasy novel about a pair of sisters in an alternate Old West who adopt an unusual dragon they find injured after a storm—whereupon complications ensue.
I often tell people that DTD is like “Little House on the Prairie…with dragons,” but really, the story is much more than that. There’s nothing like it in the current fantasy genre. If you prefer, here’s a longer description:
It is the unforgiving high desert of the Old West—but the Old West of an alternate Earth. Where the native people defend their lands with dragons very different from the fire-breathing monsters of our legends. Where Isabella—who is almost 13 years old—and her sister Alijandra—who is almost 8—scratch out a meager life with their parents.
Their home is a shack deep in the lands of the Diheneh, the indigenous people, far from the family’s former country of Ysparria. Isabella dimly remembers a better time, years before, when they were rich and respected because their father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for Ysparria’s armies. But now their father is an outlaw who spends many weeks away from home on futile efforts at prospecting. Their mother, aided by the old native woman who raised her, struggles to grow food, earn money, and keep Isabella and Alijandra safe.
Into their lives comes a small, wingless dragon from far away. Finding the dragon near death after a fight, the girls take it home and begin tending it back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after its tiny white eyes. While Pearl heals, the family begins to learn where the dragon came from, as well as the strange and terrifying powers it possesses.
As the family ponders what to do with Pearl, they learn that the hunt for the former dragontamer has intensified. At the same time, Pearl grows more and more compelled to complete the mysterious journey that brought her to these lonely lands.
DTD’s been well-reviewed on book blogger sites like A Book and a Review, but I’d love to have your opinions. As a sample, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:
It was a mollymawk that roused the dragon.
The big grey and white seabird, each wing as long as a man’s arm, came flapping into the great hall through one of the many narrow spaces where stained glass windows used to soar. The hall was a huge room: the biggest in the ruined palace, the biggest on this island, certainly, or perhaps even in all the world. So wide that a hundred men could stand abreast, at arms’ length, across it. So long that a hundred times that number could stand in long rows from the front of the hall to the back. A whole army could stand at attention in this hall. And perhaps, once upon a long time ago, it had.
The mollymawk landed on the floor and looked around, careful not to drop any of the sea grass in its yellow bill. The high, vaulted ceiling was white marble streaked with blue and red and black veins. It was held up by hundreds of ancient, stone columns stained green by years upon years of lichens sprouting, spreading, fading, sprouting again. Here and there, orange-yellow beams of sunlight were making their way inside.
In the nearby shadows, the dragon scowled.
The mollymawk waddled about: like the rest of its kind, it was clumsy on land. Its orange, webbed feet flapped ptt, ptt, ptt on the tiny tiles—each no bigger than a man’s thumb—that covered the floor. There were hundreds of thousands of tiles here, and they formed pictures in mosaic. But much of the floor was covered in puddles of rainwater, and many of the pictures were stained by white splotches from birds that had nested here before. And it had been a very long time since any person had come to see those pictures.
Certainly, no one had come while the dragon had been here.
The mollymawk’s head twitched back and forth, its round, black eyes darted here and there. Flapping furiously, stubby legs pumping, it heaved itself back into the air and lighted on the carved curlicues near the top of a column. With its bill, it spread out the seagrass, then tamped it flat with its feet. It leapt off the top of the column and, with two flaps of its great wings, flew off through a nearby hole in the ceiling.
The dragon crept out from under the crumbling stone dais at the end of the room. Her scales were milky green and she was no bigger than a housecat. She had no wings, and her eyes were small and round and all white, with no visible pupils.
She stretched and yawned, revealing tiny, needle-like teeth. She slunk—nails going tkk tkk tkk tkk on the tiles—to a nearby puddle and lapped up rainwater with her slim pink tongue. Scratched her chin with a claw. Then went—her thin tail, as long as the rest of her, swinging back and forth—to the nearest window and clambered up into the space where the glass used to be, many years ago.
Grey and white seabirds—hundreds of them—swooped and soared and circled above the ruined palace. The dragon watched them for a moment. Then she scrambled down from the window, into the courtyard, weeds growing between the square stones that had once been smooth and white, but were now—most of them, anyway—furry-green with moss. Another mollymawk, grown thin after its long voyage, flapped down nearby, a bit of shell in its beak. The dragon hissed at it and the bird hurriedly hopped away, wings spread wide.
The dragon crept through the courtyard, staying close to the palace walls. She slunk into the thorny thicket near the east end of the courtyard and squeezed through a narrow, twisting, wet hole at the bottom of the wall.
She came out at the top of the cliff. Below her, the waves tumbled against the rocks at the edge of the shore before fading with a gentle psssh against the white sand higher up the beach. Thousands more mollymawks were wheeling in the air or floating in the shallows or squabbling for nesting space on the sand. They screeched and squawked and cawed, louder even then the surf. The dragon leaned into the wind that—for now—was coming off the ocean.
Hardy green shrubs, some of them with delicate white blooms, grew from the stony soil of the cliff-face. Slowly, the dragon picked her way down, head-first, her front and back claws gripping rocks and roots as she followed a thin, worn path that she had used for years. More birds were making their nests on the cliff, and she went around them, not wishing to spar with them on such precarious footing.
After a long while, she reached the bottom and ambled slowly across the sand, several of the birds warily watching. One awwwwwkked out a warning, but she paid it no mind as she plodded closer. The sun was slowly climbing higher into the sky, and it was time for the dragon to feed.
If you’ve liked what you’ve read, e-mail me for the rest (in PDF). And to those who do, thank you!