From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

A Review by Rich Horton

Carrie Vaughn is known for her series of novels about Kitty Norville, werewolf and radio talk show host. She has two more Kitty novels appearing in 2010 but, happily, she is expanding her range, with a couple non-Kitty novels also scheduled. Her first Young Adult novel is Voices of Dragons, which opens what looks to be another enjoyable series.

This novel is set in what seems pretty much to be the contemporary U.S., with one difference: Right after World War II, the dragons, awakened—perhaps by the atomic blasts—and returned to the world. After a short war, a treaty established lands in the North (much of Russia and Canada, some of the US and a few other countries) as the dragons’ home. In the subsequent sixty years, an uneasy peace has prevailed, marked mostly by nearly complete lack of contact between the two intelligent species.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt is a normal teen in Silver River, Montana, which lies right on the human/dragon border. She has a somewhat boy-crazy best friend, and with a boy friend of her own who might want to move from “boy friend” to “boyfriend”. She’s an active outdoorswoman who sometimes chafes at the rules her loving but authoritative parents impose. One day she goes rock climbing rather nearer to the border of the dragon territories than she should. She has an accident and ends up across the border—rescued by an adolescent dragon. To her surprise the dragon talks and soon they are friends. Kay is quickly flying on the dragon’s back. (These scenes reminded this reviewer, perhaps unfairly, of the fine new animated movie How to Train Your Dragon.) It’s clear to Kay, to her dragon friend Artegal, and indeed to every reader, that dragons and humans need to communicate… but apparently the adults on either side stubbornly refuse any contact.

The main action of the novel is precipitated by some provocative incursions into dragon space by the U.S. Air Force, which eventually result in a dragon attack on Silver River, Tragedy results, particularly for Kay’s family. Kay’s secret friendship with Artegal is revealed, and the Air Force sees her as a potential spy, while Kay hopes only for some sort of rapprochement. Meanwhile Kay’s “human” relationships are subtly changing, particularly with her male friend. Finally Kay and Artegal are forced to take a dramatic step in the hope of preventing all out war.

Vaughn is an engaging writer, and Voices of Dragons is fun to read, with main characters that hold the reader’s sympathy. But the book seems strained, at times, in setting up its central conflict. The notion that dragons and humans ought to be talking every so often about their respective places on the Earth is obvious, and the apparent lack of any such communication until Kay and Artegal meet seems implausible. The villainous Air Force general is a caricature, bearing no resemblance to real world working military persons. The closing set piece Kay and Artegal devise, though interesting and nicely evocative of dragon legends, simply wasn’t convincing as a real solution to the novel’s sticky situation.

Still, I liked the book overall, and I look forward to more in the series.

Voices of Dragons
Carrie Vaughn
Harper Teen
$16.99 | hc | 309 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-179894-8
March 2010

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