Suspension of Disbelief: The Dragon Book
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.
Book Title: The Dragon Book
Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy Fiction
Author: Multiple authors, as the book is an anthology of short stories. Authors include: Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Stroud, Garth Nix, Diana Wynne Jones, Tanith Lee, Naomi Novik, Jane Yolen and more.
4 out of 5 Dragon Heads
Review: I have a love-hate relationship with short stories. On one hand, they’re fast, fun reads. There’s not a lot of detail to hold on to, no extraneous information. They document a single event or the growth of a single character, and leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. They are simple, to the point, and clear. On the other hand, the lack of detail that makes them clear and enjoyable often leaves me wanting more. There’s so much that a short story leaves unanswered, and so much potential to grow, that I’m often left with a bittersweet feeling: happy with the story’s resolution, but longing for more.
This short story book, in particular, is full of that contradictory satisfaction and desire. The 19 stories in this book are all written by different, popular fantasy authors. They vary from tales of a teenage girl discovering her magical abilities through a dragon puzzle, to historical fantasies set in pre-Soviet Russia, ancient Rome, and the Appalachia, to a boy born from a dragon’s icy breath. The only commonality between the tales is that they all center on dragons. Water dragons, ice dragons, fire-breathing dragons, wise old dragons, stupid small dragons… you name it, there’s a story in this book about them. Some of the tales are funny; others end in tragedy. Many of them leave the reader thinking about the parallel or alternate world where dragons and humans coexist, in war or peace. More than that, though, the stories raise questions about morality, friendship, religion, superstition, and stereotypes, both within the fictional worlds and without.
This is a very good book, particularly for anyone who enjoys fantasy or is fascinated by the idea of dragons. It contains a wealth of material, written in numerous different styles and subgenre. All of the stories pull the reader in and familiarize them with a world in a matter of pages. Their character and messages stick in your mind well after you turn the last page. There was not a single tale I thought was bad, or poorly written, or too implausible to enjoy. My biggest complaint was that a lot of the stories ended too soon; I want to know what happens next. Despite this personal frustration, however, I’d absolutely recommend this book to someone browsing new authors to follow, or simply looking for some light reading.