Eighteen award-winning, veteran, and emerging authors bring you seventeen unique dragon tales that defy tradition. Winged serpents as large as continents, as well as those tiny enough to perch on the fingertip of a young girl. Dragons who inhabit the Wild West, Victorian London, Brooklyn, and a post-apocalyptic Earth. Scaly beasts who fight in the boxing ring, celebrate Christmas, and conquer the vast void of outer space. There are rockstars who meddle with dragon magic, clever and conniving shapeshifters, and powerfully exotic hybrids. Science fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, western, epic fantasy, YA fantasy…no matter the setting or the genre—here be dragons!
Join Asimov’s Readers Award winner Timons Esaias, science fiction author Heidi Ruby Miller, post-apocalyptic author J. Thorn, along with K.W. Taylor, Sean Gibson and more as they put their personal twist on the usual dragon tale.
The Introduction in the book describes the stories like this:
Dragons of Antiquity are stories set in a past that could have been.
“Chasing the Dragon” by Sean Gibson: When two Victorian detectives investigate a rash of dead bodies at an opium den, they learn that “chasing the dragon” is a much more literal—and far more dangerous—activity than they had previously thought.
“A Wild Beast of The West” by Marx Pyle & Julie Seaton Pyle: When the government outlaws the capture of wild dragons, the domestically-bred are worth their weight in gold. In this Wild West setting, Sarah and her dragon-riding posse confront a ruthless band of rustlers in an attempt to prevent a range war.
“Big Dreams” by Victoria L. Scott: Two dragons create an Earth-bound portal, but nothing goes right planet-side and they’re stranded. As Earth’s atmosphere poisons them and the humans plot their deaths, will the dragons find a way home before it’s too late?
Dragons of Now-ish…& Beyond are stories set in the present and possible future…sort of.
“The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” by Katharine Dow: An elderly man, worried Brooklyn has changed forever, teams up with a young woman from his Dragon Racing Club to push back against the anti-dragon bias of his newest neighbors and a hostile city.
“Resorting to Revenge” by K.W. Taylor: A telekinetic dragonslayer goes on vacation in the woods with his girlfriend, but it turns into anything but a relaxing stay. A Sam Brody story.
“Spirit of the Dragon” by J.C. Mastro: Heavy metal superstar band DragonFraggen create a brand-new song using ancient writings they discovered in a cave in Wales, but guitar-wielding rockers shouldn’t mess with magical forces they don’t understand.
“The George” by Timons Esaias: A dragon holds the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World, and some folks have decided that this is unacceptable.
“Mouth of the Dragon” by J. Thorn: In a post-apocalyptic tomorrow, a dragonslayer must make a difficult decision.
Dragons of The Stars takes us on a journey out into space.
“Mastering Aesthetics” by Heidi Ruby Miller: “What can bring life can also destroy it.” A story set in the Ambasadora-verse.
“Catalyst” by Kevin Plybon: When his sleepy space dragon gets boarded, a stargazing farmer must wake the beast to drive out the invaders.
“A Friend Called Home” by Francis Fernandez: When catastrophe strikes a budding planet, the people of that world find hope and a friend.
“The Last Hour of Night” by G.K. White: A space orphan on a backwater planet takes on one last job to escape a crumbling city and her dark past.
Dragons of Other Realms takes us to fantasy worlds very different from our own.
“Witherwillow” by Carrie Gessner: In a city divided between humans and dragonfolk, P.I. Iris Kane takes a simple case and ends up with more than she bargained for.
“Tiny Hearts” by Sophia DeSensi: When a sassy, ring-sized dragon binds himself to Lovlet, she’s dragged to a magical creature shop where she finds family in unexpected friendships.
“Wei Ling and the Water Dragon” by Jeff Burns: Young and adventurous Wei Ling gets help from an unlikely source when she journeys to retrieve her village’s sacred idol: an aquatic dragon who shares a special bond with the irreverent and feisty warrior.
“Poisoned Water” by Sen R. L. Scherb: As dragon deaths spike, Rayns enters his partner dragon into the illegal fighting ring to secure a meeting with the leader.
“Forgiveness” by Colten Fisher: A girl and a dragon watch the sky during Christmas and try to understand each other.
Dragons of a Different Tail is an anthology of 17 short stories from different authors, each with a slightly unusual take on dragon fantasy tales. When I heard about this book I thought it was a genius idea and couldn’t wait to read it. I was lucky enough to be sent a digital copy in exchange for an honest review, for which I am very grateful to author Sean Gibson and author/editor Marx Pyle.
The stories are separated into four sections within the book, entitled: Dragons of Antiquitiy; Dragons of Now-ish…& Beyond; Dragons of the Stars and Dragons of Other Realms.
It’s difficult for me to pick a favourite story from this collection, since the stories are all pretty unique and varied in their styles and themes, with each taking around twenty minutes to read. I didn’t enjoy the stories of the Dragons of the Stars section as much as the other sections, but there really weren’t any bad stories in the collection. I would recommend this anthology to anyone who loves escapist fantasy and dragons. It is really original and very good!
The first story, Chasing the Dragon by Sean Gibson, is a wittily entertaining story, set in a well-described and easily envisioned version of the grubby East End of London in Victorian times. Even in such a short story there is some wonderful imagery:
The flickering light from the torch skittered across the walls, stretching their shadows into demonic parodies that capered and japed gleefully with each step they took.
I especially enjoyed the comedic ‘double-act’ style relationship and silliness of the two police inspectors, Celare and Stanley. Clearly they have been working together for quite a while and their investigative style feels like a well-rehearsed performance.
The story ends with something of a cliffhanger and I would like to see the conclusion to this dastardly plot – maybe as part of a full-length novel.
The second story in the collection, A Wild Beast of The West by Marx Pyle & Julie Seaton Pyle, is a completely different flavour of story to the first. It is an exciting and cinematically depicted Wild West style epic with dog fights in the air between dragon rustlers (including a griffin rider) and the dragon-riding protectors of the dragon herd. Sarah is the leader of the protectors and she is a wonderfully brave, independent, confident and feisty heroine. There are poignant moments in this story, for both humans and dragons, along with edge of the seat action and peril, plenty of interesting fantastic beasts and heart-warming camaraderie. I really enjoyed the ambitious scope of this short story.
Next was Big Dreams by Victoria L. Scott, a story of dragons from another planet visiting Earth and wreaking havoc by mistake. They are militarised rookies and trying to prove their worth to their superior officers. Unfortunately they didn’t think things through and become stranded on a planet whose atmosphere is poisoning them and without bringing a spare portal to help them get home. This was a Sci-Fi/Fantasy mashup at its best. It was an original idea which I found really entertaining. I felt the panic and fear of the dragons as they realised they would die if they couldn’t leave the planet and sympathised with their despair when it occurred to them that they should have brought an extra portal with them. A simple rookie mistake that ended up being life-threatening. Their commanding officer was not impressed!
Without permission, you took all the trouble to come to Terra, a planet rated beyond your rank, and didn’t bring a spare portal?” Dareban stood and scowled at him. “I don’t know which is worse, your stupidity or your hubris.”
In The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club by Katharine Dow I liked Karima’s character and sense of humour. She wasn’t going to be put off dragon racing by having bought a sick dragon. She was determined and hopeful she’d bought herself a winner in her new racing dragon, Yellow Hook. Angelo’s plan for dealing with nosy neighbours and bullies was inspired. A very enjoyable read!
In Resorting to Revenge by K.W. Taylor I liked the whodunnit aspect of the story as the main character, from whose first person perspective the story is told, tries to use his supernatural powers to discover which of his companions is a dragon disguised as a human.
In Spirit of the Dragon by J.C. Mastro the descriptive prose was excellent, including this description of the cave where an ancient book was found by a dragon-obsessed heavy metal band:
Massive stalactites nearly touched the floor like the fangs of the beast the band adored. At the far end, bathed in a shaft of light from an unknown source high above, hung a tattered and faded Arthurian dragon banner. And below it sat a single stone pedestal with an open book atop it.
I guessed what would happen eventually in this story, but enjoyed the interactions of the band members and their gullible assumptions that everything was a story for tourists such as themselves. the boatman was suitably mysterious and a nice contrast to the seemingly not so bright band members.
Next was The George by Timons Esaias. A dragon, the Bipedal Heavyweight Champion of the World, tells us all about his life boxing in the ring and we feel the tension rise as he realizes his next fight has been fixed by the mob and not in his favour:
“When other dragons ask me what the big difference is between human opponents and dragon opponents, my answer is simple: humans cheat.”
The despair of his situation is palpable – kept in a place where there is no room to flex his wings or run he has become part of the boxing underworld against his will.
From humans cheating we move on in Mouth of the Dragon by J. Thornton to a warning:
“Never trust a dragon.”
This was an even shorter story than the rest, taking only ten minutes to read, and was a tale of negotiating trust followed by ingenious double crossing.