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Patricia Briggs
book cover

Dragon Book 2
2003, January, Ace
Buy from Amazon.com (mass market paperback)

Who recommends: Barbara, Preeti, Edith, Shelley, Danielle
Who discommends:

Okay, for those of you who hate sequels or who haven't read DRAGON BONES, don't feel compelled to read the first one first. I had pretty much forgotten it until the author brought me up to speed on things covered in the first story that are important to this one.

We take up Ward's story four years after the closing of DRAGON BONES. Ward is rebuilding his keep, and playing a tight-rope walking act with the king, who would like nothing better than to see him eliminated as a symbol of resistance to his reign. The story is told with some chapters written in first person by Ward and other chapters written in third person from the POV of important characters.

I really hate books where you have a cast of thousands and all different story lines brought together in a final chapter. Okay, guys, this wasn't one of those. But it managed to bring together the intimate, and often humble, POV of the main character plus a contrasting POV, as well as important pieces of information from other characters.

Okay, Ward does get the girl in this one, so it does rate as a sf romance. And covered in the story are some interesting elements of accepting Tisala as a woman fully capable of managing on her own competently, thank you, but also having different skills.

There are some segments that are a not for the squeamish, similar to the early part of THE HOB'S BARGAIN. The author strikes a delicate balance of being pretty specific that Tisala - and then Ward - are being tortured, but without details that would repel. And it is an interesting part of growth of both Tisala and Ward, both of whom are strong characters to start with, that they accept what happens to them and those around them honestly but without pity or self-aggrandizement (how's that for a word?)

Probably what is most enjoyable about the book is significant time spent with Ward in first person perspective, while he does what has to be done. And then time spent in other character's POV where the event is seen as much more important and "heroic" than Ward seems to consider it. The author literally builds a hero before your eyes and makes him come alive.

We rescue people, do a couple of stupid but seemed smart at the time things, learn a few more things about dragons -- wow, check out the scene with Ward on the hill where DRAGON BONES started, what a set-up that is! Learn a bit more about the world where Ward is just trying to get along the best he can, including another journey with the dwarves and a bargain struck that brings back a character from DRAGON BONES.

Once again, an action driven story but a truly great, but subtle, bit of character driven story that entranced me almost as much as the action.

I liked DRAGON BONES and I think I actually liked this one better for some additional elements that showed up--a bit more story parts that showed better skill as a writer.--Barbara (1 Jan 03)

I finally read a Patricia Briggs novel all the way through! I know many of you are big fans, but I've always found it easy to leave her books perpetually bookmarked after reading only a few chapters. Not so with DRAGON BLOOD. Barbara, I think you and I are on the same wavelength about this book.

A few years have passed since the end of DRAGON BONES, and Ward has been rebuilding his keep and learning more about magic from his dragon. The events of DRAGON BLOOD are catalyzed by King Jakoven seeking to neutralize the perceived threat of Ward, who was propelled to heroic status due to events in the previous book. Ward was staying out of politics, but when the king captures and tortures him and then threatens all his relatives, he is forced to act.

This time around, Ward's group of close allies include some of his family members, his dragon, his friend (an ex-lover of the king), a half-dwarf (not sure of his status in Ward's life other than ally), and Tisala--a briefly-met warrior maid from the last book with whom Ward is quietly smitten. The group has to defeat King Jakoven because of the threat he poses to the stability of the Five Kingdoms in general, and Ward's kindgom of Hurog in specific.

It's the reluctant hero bit that really makes Ward effective. He charms you with his modesty, his wry look at his life, his loyalty, his good nature, and his almost helpless urge to protect the weak. Becoming a legendary hero seems to be out of his control, since he seems to become embroiled in the great events of his time and persevere through them with his intelligence and strength--a situation Briggs mines for humor.

Really, Ward's quite lovable. And his scenes with Tisala--as he gently but inexorably convinces her that all the obstacles she throws up to their relationship are only in her own mind--made me sigh out loud.

I still have to admit that DRAGON BLOOD was not a sink-into-the-story book for me. Patricia Briggs has been flying under my radar, I think, because she doesn't have a flashy style--the story is more about the people than the dragons and the magic.

But the book is really growing on me upon reflection. I liked the characters' emotional sophistication and their interaction with each other, as well as the message of hope, endurance, and resilience in the face of physical and emotional pain. I also appreciated the tight plot and flashes of wry humor. The worldbuilding, however, didn't blow me away (i.e.-I wasn't left wanting to know more.)

In the future, I'm going to hide the bookmarks when reading a Patricia Briggs book. Otherwise, I suspect I'll be missing a very good story.--Preeti (1 Jan 03)

Definite recommend. Ward was simply the most endearing, lovely hero. Strong, but gentle, with a terrific sense of humor. I had a distinctly queasy moment since the book starts with a torture scene, but Briggs has such a light touch with those I can handle it. At one of the panels at ConJose Lois McMaster Bujold said that when you're writing torture scenes you have to turn the volume waaaaay down. Something that would normally take six pages must be covered in a paragraph or you can lose your reader (i.e., someone like me). It was an "a-ha" moment for me. Made me realize that Briggs has quite a few torture scenes in her books but I still enjoy them because she does them correctly.--Edith (22 Apr 03)

Finally got to Patricia Briggs' DRAGON BONES and DRAGON BLOOD. Loved them. Ward was a great character to follow and I really found Oreg interesting. I also liked the fact that although the books are linked, they stand on their own merits. Ward's romance with Tisala was wonderful also. I would love to see another book in this series - especially one with a lot of Oreg.--Shelley (26 Apr 03)

Excellent fantasy with full-fleshed characters, strong plot, and a believable world. I would have liked more of the romance between Ward and Tisala--in fact, more of the whole book--but at a time when almost all that's being written in fantasy are doorstoppers, Briggs' storytelling economy is even more admirable.--Danielle (10 Jun 03)

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