Let the Dragon Wake – Sylvia Volk (LTMG)

Welcome to a world where flowers are grown for the lower classes and made for the wealthy, by magic, along with birds and sunlight and blades of grass; where a soldier is, literally, married to his blade; where Fate is king, and almost all-powerful. The first thing I thought on firing up the Kindle was that the writing was sheerly gorgeous, thickly embroidered with metaphor and simile like nothing else I’ve read … and I wondered whether it would pall after a while.

It didn’t. There were one or two similes that landed with a thud, but for the most part it succeeded at a grace as light and playful and attractive as the cats that populate the story.

… the first room was a workshop with a counter and display-shelves, and what it sold was obviously dust…

… something painted by a madman on parchment of human ears….

Wyrdrake, driven by a deep need he can barely put words to, goes to King Fate to request a bride. I’m not sure if his freedom to do so is because of his position, or because the land is more egalitarian than most. It is known abroad that not only can Fate and his people create such things as birds and butterflies, he can also create a bride upon demand – and in fact has done, although that lady upon facing her impending marriage determined that she wanted Fate, not her intended husband. The bride can be made – the love cannot. And Fate’s apprentice, Marr, wants more than he has. And thereby hangs a tale.

The city where this story is set took some getting used to. “Sondolattis, city of marvels, whose people lived with heaven in plain sight. With mundane magic, and commonplace wonders. They lived so long that they mastered their daily work, and then went beyond mastery and became miracle-workers.” It’s not only that there is magic there – it is magic. It is built largely of dragon bone, and rests on the back of another enormous dragon, sleeping in the lulled peace of having been married to King Fate long ago. This is the key to keeping the dragon docile and still: she has been given husband after husband through the long years … and that is definitely one of the things that took getting used to. There are, in Sondolattis, two sorts of marriage: the familiar kind between a man and a woman, and this kind, the second marriage, in which a person is bound in devotion and loyalty to … something. It could be a soldier married to his sword, or a guard married to the gate which is his post, or a scholar in a clock tower married to Time.

Somewhere along the way, though, the strangeness fell away or was absorbed, and the city made its way under my skin, and it all seemed perfectly right and natural. Let the Dragon Wake is a novel-length (or novella-length) fairy tale. It makes no attempt to explain logic away its improbabilities and impossibilities, but lets them glimmer and shine in their setting of dragon bone. It is beautiful and unexpected and harsh and sweet. It’s a gem. My thanks to Sylvia Volk for putting this up as a LibraryThing Member Giveaway.

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