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The Dragon Delasangre

by Alan F Troop

(ROC Fantasy; $5.99, 292 pages, paperback; March 5 2002.)

You might be forgiven for thinking you'd suddenly stumbled into the pages of a cover scanclassic vampire novel when you start reading Alan Troop's The Dragon Delasangre. The terminology and atmosphere are convincingly similar: prey, loneliness, hunt, blood, bloodlust, monster, superiority, sex, superciliousness, eroticism, battle, long-attained and assured wealth, humans as cattle, etc. This story is, however, about dragons: dragons who live a comparable existence to the vampires of gothic literature.

The hero, or perhaps anti-hero, is Peter Delasangre, a dragon and the last of his family line. He lives with his dying father on an ages-old island fortress off the coast of Miami and walks among humans undetected thanks to his shapeshifting ability. The whole premise of the story is that Peter is lonely and wants/needs to find a mate of his own kind. This is difficult because there are so few of the dragon families left in a world overtaken by humankind.

Peter is portrayed as a somewhat new-age modern male, albeit a dragon, who picks up after himself and his father and does routine chores, has a certain compassion toward others, and likes the company of humans. He pines for the intimate companionship of a female of his own kind. He occasionally decides to spare humans for reasons of caution and/or lack of a necessity to kill them, and it becomes increasingly obvious that this will be his downfall in the end.

The novel has a few fine moments, but these get lost in sex, hunting, being alternately lonely and supercilious, sex, sailing, outwitting bad guys, getting revenge on bad guys ... oh, and did I mention sex? For a species that is supposed to be the superior of humankind, the dragons in this book appear to be far more slaves to instinct than any human. I for one found the dragon characters mostly unappealing. Peter swung between a whiny "I'm so alone -- I have to find a love of my own" to playing mind games and "twisting the knife" in his human employees, who are ultimately responsible for running the Delasangre companies and managing the wealth. At the same time Peter wants the companionship of some humans because he finds them a challenge and wants tacit friendship and approval from them. Go figure.

I think the author is basically trying to make the story a growth experience for the character of Peter, but I found some of the choices the character made rather na´ve and fundamentally stupid. I guess the character does learn from them in the end, when his new-found bliss ends in a tragedy of his own and his new wife's making. That dragon-wife I found totally unappealing, despite the lavish physical descriptions purveyed by the author. Her personality is portrayed as spoilt, dangerously wilful (a character trait of female dragons, we are told) and provocative. "Humans are nothing," she keeps saying, "not worth our notice as anything other than slaves or prey." Her vain stupidity ultimately gets her killed. (Oops, sorry, I gave away the novel's climax. Still, you can see it coming.) As much as he misses his beloved wife, Peter makes arrangements for the coming maturity of his sister-in-law and determines that she shall be his new bride and the mother of his infant son. Nice, huh? Even so, some readers may take the original love story to heart.

Of course, the humans are disappointingly depicted as either cattle or bad guys, and seem somewhat two-dimensional -- then again, that could be intentional on the part of the author, as the story is told from the point of view of a "hero" who is a dragon.

Troop has made an admirable attempt to write a new type of novel combining the manifest appeal of vampires and dragons. The Dragon Delasangre is, despite all I've said, essentially a good story -- an engaging read, and as atmospheric as can possibly be in modern Miami. The descriptions are nice and don't bog the reader down, although unfortunately the story hiccups over a few rather apparent plot-devices. Troop had a really good take on the idea of dragons that live among us and pass unnoticed by using shape-shifting skills. This idea could have been taken to great heights, but most of the time I couldn't divorce myself from feeling that I was reading a vampire novel.


Review by Marianne Plumridge.


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