Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Iron Dragon's Daughter - Michael Swanwick

This is another book from the Fantasy Masterworks collection, and is one of the most original fantasy stories I've read in a while. It's got a changeling human girl abducted off to Fairyland; it's got sentient metal dragons armed with stealth technology and electronic pulse weaponry; it's got shoplifting teenage elves and midwinter sacrifices; it's got sex and violence and a whole lot more. Too often, authors inserting modern tropes into a fantasy setting adopt a Pratchett-esque jokey tone, diminishing the world's believability on the way, but here Swanwick plays it entirely straight for maximum strangeness, and it works extremely well.

The story's focus is Jane, the changeling, whose life we follow from the hellish dragon-factory of her childhood, through her days as a misfit in school and college, to the culmination of the dragon's destructive plan. The plot, such as it is, is mostly the development of Jane's character as she grows tough and callous enough to survive in her dark fairytale world; lacking a conventional storyline, the book has an odd and incomplete feel, but this also makes Jane's life seem more accessible, in the same way that real life doesn't have a storyline either.

As a work of imagination, this is an awesome achievement - the juxtaposition of the various tropes from fantasy, science fiction and the real world is a constant delight, and I've always loved dark fairy tales. The lack of a real story meant that my visit to Swanwick's world felt more like aimless tourist wanderings than a purposeful quest, but the details of Jane's day-to-day life were engaging and different enough to hold my interest, and the darker happenings gave it a real edge. I can see that this book might not appeal to everybody, but for a very different type of fantasy, I'd definitely recommend it.



Blogger Rogue Blades Entertainment said...

Cool - this one's been making some rumbles. Perfect timing, as usual ;)

3:45 am  

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