Wednesday, February 7, 2007

"Dragon's Teeth" by James A. Hetley

This is going to be a brief review, because it turns out you really, really need to read the first book! "Dragon's Eye" gives most of the backstory of the Morgan and Haskell families, the various relations (sometimes felt like I needed a scorecard!) and introduces the villian of both books, Tupash, an evil sorcerer.

Both books take place in Stonefort, Maine, a small coastal community that has a rich history for both families. And neither family is exactly what they seem to be. The Morgans are essentially pirates, stealing and selling items over and over again for lots of money. But they also belong to the Dragon, a mysterious thing deep in the waters under Morgan's Castle, a being that delivers what are known as Dragon's Tears to those it deems worthy. The tears are worn by members of the Morgans that are not just human - they are selkie, or seals. No, this isn't a were-being kind of thing, at least, not that I could see. It's more of a trait that appears after a near-death experience, and it's described like a change of puberty almost. Of course, being seals at times has definitely helped the Morgans in their thieving, allowing them to slip in and out of places they wouldn't ordinarily be able to go.

The Haskells live in The House and have for centuries. There has always been a Haskell Witch, always of Naskeag descent, and always willing to help out with births, deaths, and women trying to get away from danger. If a woman leaves her husband and goes to The House, he knows not to try to get her back. The House protects the Witch and those that live with her, and it doesn't look too kindly on men. The Haskell Witch is just that - a witch, although not a bad one. The role is passed down through the ages, and there are rarely any fathers or father figures in the lives of Haskell women.

So, what are the books about, you ask. Into Stonefort comes Tupash, the evil brujo, seeking Power. Yes, that is meant to be Power, not power. The entity that is Tupash has worn many bodies over the years, and has used that Power to extend the life of each one. He has been working with the Pratts, another family of thieves, to try to get the Dragon. He kidnaps Daniel Morgan, the patriarch, in hopes of finding the Dragon. When Daniel won't break, he kidnaps Dan's daughters and all hell breaks loose when the Morgans and the Haskells team up to defeat Tupash. Which they do, sort of.

And that's where "Dragon's Teeth" comes in. Slowly but surely, the two families realize that they were not successful in their attempts from the first book. Tupash is still alive, but not in the body they destroyed. They need to be sure that he really is dead, because bodies are showing up in Stonefort, bodies that are missing their hearts and that are drained of blood. This second installment wraps up everything and does it fairly well. It would be hard to describe just how without giving away most of the plot.

I highly recommend both books, if you're into a sort of alternative-reality kind of writing. They were in our Science Fiction section here at work. The first book is better, in my opinion - thought the writing was tighter and the characters were well developed. This book is good, too, but there are more people involved this time, and the point of view is told from just about every one of them, so it was a bit disjointed at times. Also, I'm not sure what was going on with the editing, but there was what I thought a gross overuse of italics. I don't remember that being a big deal in the first book, so either it really wasn't or the story was gripping enough that I was able to overlook it. This time, though, it was glaringly obvious. I don't mind the use of italics, but they do need to be used sparingly, I think, otherwise they lose their impact. Again, I don't know if this was the author's decision or if it was an editor's, but either way, I hope it's toned down in any future installments. Still, both books are well worth the time!

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