Tag Archives: dragon

Tom and Six are pursued by a dragon in The Fey Man.

Dragons of Tir

They say that, once upon a time, the dragons of Tir were many. They say that, once upon a time, the dragons of Tir lived alongside people. They say that, once upon a time, the dragons of Tir spoke to them. Whatever the legends say, there have been no human living memories of dragons. Until now.

Three times taller than a human, with wingspans over thirty feet wide, dragons are the terrible creatures of stories and more. Able to spit fire that can’t be quenched with water, strong enough to pluck a man from the ground, capable of withstanding a barrage of arrows, a dragon is unstoppable.

Contrary to popular opinion, dragons don’t spend all their life on the wing. You’d be forgiven for thinking so; they do look peculiar on the ground, hobbling on their folded wings like old men on sticks. But dragons fly only to hunt and to mate. They nest on the ground; the males guard the eggs, the females hunt. When the hatchlings are old enough to leave the nest, the father abandons them to their mother’s care; she hasn’t been bringing him any food and he is dangerously weak. He will hunt and feed, building up his reserves before mating again.

It is a point of interest that all the dragons of the West are male. They’re smaller than the females and easier to capture in this weakened state. And any dragons hatched in captivity all wither and die. No-one in the West is sure why.

* * *

I had one objective for the dragons of Tir; although they are inherently magical creatures, I wanted them to feel real. That’s why they don’t have four limbs and a set of wings; all winged creatures have their wings on their forelimbs.

It also meant I had to figure out how a creature could breathe fire. That wasn’t easy at all! But after a few aborted ideas, I eventually settled on a gland that spat a chemical that ignites under pressure. I also spent a lot of time reading about pterosaurs; they were flying lizards at the time of dinosaurs, which gave me a good idea about likely sizes and shapes. I also read about tyrannosaurs too, because what’s a dragon but a flying dinosaur?

Annah Wooten's incredible artwork for the cover of The Fey Man

Announcing The Fey Man

At the wizened old age of thirty, the journey to this point seems long. It started with childish stories often aped from the books and films I loved. It moved through a terrible science fiction trilogy. It grew through short stories. Now it feels like it’s about to hit the milestone I’ve always been travelling towards: in just two short months, you’ll be able to buy my first novel: The Fey Man.

The Fey Man is an epic fantasy about a man’s quest to return to Faerie and the war that keeps getting in his way.

It’s been inspired by Scottish folklore, fairy tales, Arthurian legends and the film Armageddon. Yes, you read that right. Click the link to find out more about The Fey Man.

I’ve been writing this book for about three years now and I can’t tell you how excited and scared I am that you’ll be able to read it soon. I hope you like it. I’ll be writing more about it in the coming weeks but, for now, I’ll leave you with Annah Wootten’s incredible cover art for the novel. Isn’t it great?

The cover of The Fey Man

A D&D dragon guards its treasure

The Best Fantasy Dragons

Writing about fantasy books almost certainly means I’ve been writing about dragons. They seem almost intrinsic to the genre, and while a dragon is by no means necessary for a fantasy novel, they do seem to inspire a certain fascination in us.

So while there are plenty to choose from, here are my five favourite dragons. Judge me if you will.

The Stone Elderlings

Robin Hobb’s later novels did feature “proper” dragons, but Assassin’s Quest featured dragons made of living stone. When the heros first stumble upon them they are dead and silent. But when they are quickened by magic and death, the stone roars into life.

The heroes sculpt their own dragon, too. Magic users can pour their memories, emotions and finally their very lives into the special stone. By doing so they create the powerful ally they need to save their people. It’s a wonderfully original idea and is in complete service to the story; rather than forcing the narrative around traditional dragons, she created something that fit her theme of sacrifice just perfectly.

Smaug

Can a list of dragons be completed without Smaug? The real villain of The Hobbit, perhaps no dragon has influenced fantasy literature more than Smaug. Tolkien took a lot of inspiration from Beowulf so Smaug shares many characteristics with the creature of that work: his hoard of treasure, his appropriated underground dwelling, his penchant for vengeance. But where the monster of Beowulf was mute, Tolkien gave Smaug a voice and therein elevated the dragon from mute monster to delightful villain. He’s vain and greedy and his love of riddles and language make him a pleasure to read.

Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest was a role playing game that got bought and rebranded by the company that owned Dungeons & Dragons. The dragons owe nearly all of their character to Smaug (evil, hoarding, clever, love riddles, etc.) and they have no depth. They’re simply big monsters for players to defeat. But in trying to create enough variety for dungeon masters and repeated playthroughs, they created different types and breeds of dragon that fascinated my young mind. And there was some truly beautiful art in the rulebooks too.

Granny’s Garden

If you played this game you already know what I’m thinking of: those damn baby dragons!

In order to rescue a child in this BBC Micro adventure, you need to tame four baby dragons. Each dragon either loves, likes or hates each of the four items of food you have. You have to figure out what order to toss them the food so you can isolate and tame each one.

Replaying this at the wise old age of thirty resulted in two game overs and a handmade chart to keep track of the dragons’ likes and dislikes. Playing at the tender age of five resulted in two dozen game overs, tears, bitterness and possibly minor acts of temper tantrum. So whilst these dragons should barely register on a list of the greats, you can see why they had such an impact on me nonetheless.

George and the Dragon

With St George being the patron saint of England, it’s hard not to come across this story as a child. The way I was told it was a terrible, fire-breathing dragon was terrifying a local village, stealing and eating their sheep. Good St George comes along and slays the mighty beast and the village is safe once more.

Turns out, it’s a bit more interesting than that. The earliest form of the legend has the dragon bearing plague, not fire, that sickened the land. The people tried to appease it with sheep and, when that did not work, their children, chosen by lottery. It’s only when the lottery picks the king’s daughter that St George happens along. And even then he promises to slay it only if the land promises to convert to Christianity, the swine.

So from a humdrum, fire-breathing monster to a plague-carrying instrument of religious blackmail. Doesn’t get more interesting than that.

Are these the best dragons around? Or have I missed some out? Tell me about your favourite fantasy dragons!