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Dragon Virus by Laura Anne Gilman

“They say the end is nigh. I think we’re living in the aftermath already (Dragon Virus, pg. 69).”

It looks like such a small book- unassuming, taking up so little shelf space. But it is a trick. As soon as you start to read it will spread through your brain, unavoidable as the spread of the virus the book tracks. It is a cascade in six parts, a staggering move through religion and science before settling firmly into a desperate dig at humanity itself.

There have been many looks at mutation, but there has been nothing ever written that hits like this. Ms. Gilman cuts through to the bare bones of what it is to be human, lays it there for all of us to examine and accept or reject as we see fit. No punches are pulled amidst her beautifully stark prose. Dragon Virus is a book that is saying something.

But the reader has to decide whether or not they are willing to listen.

It starts with the little uncomfortable things- visions of apocalypse, Raptures full of dragon wings. And then the dragons become all too real. It is an unexplained mutation, the Long gene, dragons come down to warp the basic recipe of humanity. Babies die, born with mutations that could not support life. No known cause. No treatment.

But then babies start to live, the mutations becoming viable, and the real problems start.

Dragon Virus is a stunning book, weaving words into image and emotion that will kick you in the gut and pull you through page after page- desperate to see just what sort of resolution will be reached. It is beautiful- the harsh beauty of everything grand and dangerous in nature. And just as enthralling.

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

Let me start by saying Dragon Haven fills the sometimes frustrating promise of Dragon Keeper. Dragon Keeper is a stunning prologue, setting the scene and getting you familiar with the characters, but nothing happens. Dragon Haven makes up for it.

Dragon Haven continues the trek up a wild, deadly river in the Rain Wilds in search of a fabled city the dragons only half remember. Food and tempers run short, and the book has a nice dose of murder and betrayal to go along with its well placed, well done flits of romance.

Most importantly, we see the Keepers and the Dragons themselves change. The Dragons are growing into their own, gaining in size, awareness, and lethality, and the Keepers are caught in the middle of it all. The Keepers themselves, cast offs of the human society, gain more confidence and their interactions are very true to a group of people coming into their own, the good and the bad.

As always, Hobb weaves a stunning world to cradle her story, and Dragon Haven wallows in a rich, wet world. The discomfort of the travelers is palatable- if you have ever spent time camping in the rain you will be sympathetic to the abject misery of the entire cast as they search desperately for dry land and the myth they are all so invested in.

If you like character studies as much as I do, this series is a must read. The real driving force of the books is a group of dissimilar people being forced to exist in such close quarters, each depending on the other for their survival. Characters grow and change, and I found myself cheering for folks in Dragon Haven that I had written off in Dragon Keeper.

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