They inspire our creations, the creations of madmen. They fire the embers of our weak imaginations and make us soar over the nullities of our lives to speak with gods. Leonardo da Vinci, “the Conqueror,” longed to copy them. Thousands of our best young artists and designers struggle to illustrate them. And in Forged in Flame, five authors tell their stories: here there be Dragons.
This slim anthology of five novellas explores dragons as they might have appeared in mythology, how they might have interacted, even mated, with humanity, and how the innate madness of these creations might fire the madness of inventors. Thirty-one year old Samuel Mayo is first, with a short appropriately titled “First Flight.” This novella might be targeted at the middle grade reader, with young teen-aged protagonists and a villain who must steal an unnatural power source. The “flight” refers to the boy’s invention and the demon dragon that must steal the power-generator to wreak havoc on a post-apocalyptic Earth. We leap back to the wonders of a medieval landscape, with a peaceable kingdom besieged on all sides – except from the North, the land of the mystical creatures who would leave the kingdom to its fate. But then the Dragon Kingdom learns that it has scales in the game. The massive, peaceful giants weigh in on the side of harmony. This novella is written by a fantasy writer, Brian Collier, who has always made writing his profession.
Eric White, another writer who struggles to create his fantasy world out of a schedule committed to earning a living another way, brings us a medieval aquascape, rather than a landscape. In “Birth Pains,” a girl reprises Mary by bearing without the benefit of a man, but she carries triplets – triplet dragons, that is. Even when she seems like a girl in trouble, used by a boy whose reputation she has sworn to protect, two heroes arise to bring her to the place where she can make this miraculous birth. One is her devoted grandmother, and another is a sea warrior who makes Admiral Peary go weak at the knees. In “Golden Legacy” by 22-year-old author Jana Boskey, a man of decidedly paranormal blood – half dragon, half “Faerie” – is hunted by an Assassin, a teenaged girl who knows nothing but pursuit of people with paranormal abilities. There is an ongoing struggle of life and death here; Boskey’s genius is to make the supremely powerful dragon legend hover between life and death at the point of a dagger wielded by a teen-aged girl.
In “Heart of Steel,” Caitlyn McColl brings us the mind of the insatiable inventor, whose quest for truth transforms into a lust for revenge when he finds his beloved apparently murdered. The remarkable genius who brings forth cyborg creatures of every description brings a great dragon automaton to life to seek revenge. The identity of the killer, and the nature of the crime, twist the plot into a psychological pretzel. The final story, from D. Robert Pease, author of the two Noah Zarc novels, brings us full-circle in the lore of dragons. In “A Chink in the Armor,” the dragon seeks the greatest warrior on Earth to confront and to test the mettle of in battle. Humanity has found that it has come upon an enemy that it cannot overcome. In the words of Blue Oyster Cult, “History shows again and again how Nature points out the folly of men!”
Forged in Flame is my first exposure to dragons since the Lord of the Rings and Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas. I was mightily impressed by the scope of the works contained herein, from the geeklike to the epic. The writers and editors who compiled this volume have done a marvelous job! There is one flaw, that borders on the serious: it is not OK to miss homophones in the editing process. A writer can be excused (barely) for using “vile” when he means “vial,” but a publisher had better keep such mistakes out of their product if it is to make a name for itself as a quality publisher. This fault is severe enough to lose half a mark in my book. If I could break a star, this would reduce my rating from 5 to 4.5 stars, but in a whole-star system, I give this collection five stars and a resume for a copy editor.