Book Reviews

Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales

Eighteen award-winning, veteran, and emerging authors bring you seventeen unique dragon tales that defy tradition. Winged serpents as large as continents, as well as those tiny enough to perch on the fingertip of a young girl. Dragons who inhabit the Wild West, Victorian London, Brooklyn, and a post-apocalyptic Earth. Scaly beasts who fight in the boxing ring, celebrate Christmas, and conquer the vast void of outer space. There are rockstars who meddle with dragon magic, clever and conniving shapeshifters, and powerfully exotic hybrids. Science fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, western, epic fantasy, YA matter the setting or the genre--here be dragons! Join Asimov's Readers Award winner Timons Esaias, science fiction author Heidi Ruby Miller, post-apocalyptic author J. Thorn, along with K.W. Taylor, Sean Gibson and more as they put their personal twist on the usual dragon tale. Also, check out the authors' behind-the-scenes articles for a peek into the creative processes that led to the creation of these "Dragons of a Different Tail".

I love a good pun, so when I saw Dragons of a Different Tale: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales’ (which I’ll simply refer to by it’s pun-tastic main title, Dragons of a Different Tail) title, I was immediately captivated. As the subtitle denotes, housed within this anthology’s pages are no less than seventeen stories about dragons. And, yes, these are all rather unusual.

If you are a fan of dragons, Dragons of a Different Tail, edited by Marx Pyle, Victoria L. Scott, Anne C. Lynch and J.C. Mastro, includes a wealth of stories that you should enjoy. These aren’t the high fantasy tales most people normally associate dragons with (okay, some of these stories have shades of high fantasy, but that is the minority), but stories that take place in the past, the present, the future, in alternate worlds, and throughout the cosmos. These stories are all distinct from one another, gathered together by a single, binding theme: dragons. Some are majestic, others are brutal, and some of them are tiny. Some of these stories are humorous, others are dark, and some of them run the entire gamut.

These seventeen stories by a range of authors (who I’ll list in my comments about the individual stories below), are largely wonderful. Some stories don’t quite knock it out of the park; however, with any anthology, you can’t expect to love each and every story. With that said, the stories I thoroughly enjoyed far exceeds the number that I didn’t.

And while I didn’t gravitate towards some of the stories, this is not the fault of those authors: Each of these stories is written incredibly well, have been thoroughly edited, and use their prose and dialogue incredibly well. This is a slick collection of stories, and I can see everybody’s mileage on the individual stories differing.

At 346 pages in paperback (or an estimated 368 pages on your eReader of choice), none of these stories is particularly long, especially when about ten percent of this book is dedicated to authors discussing the works. Since I read this in Kindle format, which doesn’t link to individual pages, I can’t give an exact number, but that should be about thirty-five pages. Regardless, the authors discussing their works is a great piece of supplemental material that is well worth reading.

The remaining ninety percent of the book is comprised of the stories, broken up into four sections:

  • Dragons of Antiquity tells stories set in the past. These aren’t medieval stories, with most of them set in more recent times.
  • Dragons of Now-ish…& Beyond tells stories set in the current day and near future, all with a modern spin.
  • Dragons of the Stars features stories about dragons in space, with some excellent science fiction trappings.
  • Dragons of Other Realms, the final section, takes place in various fantasy worlds; yet these are unique from most any other dragon story you will read elsewhere.

If you’re a fan of dragons, I highly recommend picking yourself up a copy of Dragons of a Different Tail. Hell, if you’re a fan of anthologies, regardless of the subject matter, I would recommend it. As long as you don’t have a distaste for dragons (and if you do, if it’s because you’re not a fan of certain genres, you may still get a lot from this), I thoroughly recommend it. You might not love every story in the collection, but I expect you will love a great deal of them.

Dragons of Antiquity

Chasing the Dragon
By Sean Gibson

Chasing the Dragon tells the story of detectives investigating several deaths at an opium den. Its Elizabethan setting adds a great flourish, with dialogue throughout that is a delight. If you’re a fan of steampunk, it definitely has that sort of feel; however, as this story is largely dialogue and very light on prose, there is no indication that it is actually a steampunk story.

A Wild Beast of the West
By Marx Pyle and Julie Seaton Pyle

This is an enjoyable wild west romp, set in an alternate past, where the capture of wild dragons has been outlawed. The setting here is interesting, and the book captures the western feel brilliantly.

Big Dreams
By Victoria L. Scott

This is a wonderful science fiction story, and an early highlight of the book. Telling the story of a pair of dragons stranded on Earth, circa 793 AD, poisoned by the atmosphere as humans try to kill them, this is a unique story, written from the dragons’ perspective.

Dragons of Now-ish…& Beyond

The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club
By Katharine Dow

It’s always great when a short story can reflect the world we live in, and The Brooklyn Dragon Riding Club does so brilliantly. It tells the story of an elderly man concerned about how his city is changing, before pushing back against the anti-dragon bias of his new neighbours. This story packs a lot of heart into its limited space, and draws parallels to tolerance and gentrification.endo.

Resorting to Revenge: A Sam Brody Story
By K.W. Taylor

By K.W. TaylorThis is the first of two stories in the collection that connect to a larger series, in this instance, the Sam Brody urban fantasy series. This is a fun story about a telekinetic dragonslayer who goes on a vacation with girlfriend. This has some great dialogue, and the first person narration is a delight.

Spirit of the Dragon
By J.C. Mastro

Perhaps my favourite story in the collection, Spirit of the Dragon is about the brilliantly-named heavy metal band, DragonFraggen. Upon including an ancient incantation in their new ‘dragon metal’ song, a dragon rises with unexpected results. This story is just as silly as it sounds; its sense of humour was a joy to read.

The George
By Timons Esaias

The George tells the story of a dragon who holds the heavyweight boxing title, and the controversy that comes from mythical creatures partaking in the sport with humans. It’s a fun tale, with some truly enjoyable first person narration. freedom and isolation, Amelia mesmerises with its descriptions of the world’s beauty, and the deprivation of said beauty.

Mouth of the Dragon
By J. Thorn

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Mouth of the Dragon tells the story of a dragonslayer who meets a dragon. Surprised by the fact this dragon can talk, the slayer must wrestle whether he can trust him. It’s an interesting story that builds well, ‌until it hits its ultimate twist at the very end.

Dragons of the Stars

Mastering Aesthetics: An Ambasadora Story
By Heidy Ruby Miller

Set within the author’s Ambasadora series, Mastering Aesthetics is a beautifully written, evocative science fiction story, where a uman makes contact with a humanoid dragon species. This was a highlight, and has left me curious about the author’s series.

By Kevin Plybon

Catalyst tells the story of a dragon in space getting boarded. Set in a world where people mine dragons for their resources, it raises ethical issues. It’s an interesting concept that serves as a prequel to the author’s as-yet unpublished novel.

A Friend Called Home
By Francis Fernandez

A Friend Called Home tells the story of what is originally thought to be a meteor shower striking a planet. With it, comes a dragon. Despite the devastation, people find hope in a dragon, a saviour who is determined to save them from their dying planet. This is a beautiful story, and another highlight for me.

The Last Hour of Night
By G.K. White

Another personal highlight, The Last Hour of Night tells the story of a thief who takes a job—stealing a dragon egg—to escape their city. As her adventure brings her face to face with a dragon, the reader is treated to a beautifully atmospheric story.

Dragons of Other Realms

By Carrie Gessner

Weatherwillow is a hard-boiled detective story, where in a city divided by humans and dragonfolk, a private investigator takes a mysterious job. This is not only a fun story, it ios also a great riff on pulp storytelling.highlight, and has left me curious about the author’s series.

Tiny Hearts
By Sofia DeSensi; illustrated by Laura Klein

Another highlight for me, Tiny Hearts is about the unexpected friendship born from a tiny dragon binding itself to a girl. This is a cute story, somewhat akin to a Disney movie, if Disney movies had such a wicked sense of humour.

Wei Ling and the Water Dragon
By Jeff Burns

Wei Ling and the Water Dragon tells the tale of a girl who journeys to retrieve her village’s sacred idol. As she forms a bond with an aquatic dragon, this story is a brilliant melding of heart, humour and martial arts. Another personal highlight.

Poisoned Waters
By Sen R.L. Scherb, including illustration

This tells the story of an illegal fighting ring where dragon deaths are spiking. This story has strong action beats, telling a brutal story that puts the reader right in the thick of the action. Another personal highlight, The Last Hour of Night tells the story of a thief who takes a job—stealing a dragon egg—to escape their city. As her adventure brings her face to face with a dragon, the reader is treated to a beautifully atmospheric story.

By Colten Fisher

Closing out the anthology, Forgiveness tells the story of a girl and a dragon watching the sky during Christmas. Through this, these very different creatures work to try and gain an understanding of each other, and their differences. This is a sweet natured story that closes the collection on a lovely note.

Favourite Passage

To say that DragonFraggen took their motif seriously would be quite the understatement. From flame-throwing guitars and ground-pounding drums, to scale-patterned leathers and draconic set pieces, the band invented the dragonmetal genre. Yet, overused imagery and tired mythic tropes could entertain the headbangers only so far. After three platinum-selling albums of a similar tone, it all felt a bit stale. The band needed a hit single for the latest record. Something different, something heavier, somethingancient.

Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales, Spirit of the Dragon

Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unique Dragon Stories was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.

Dragons of a Different Tail is available in paperback, hardcover and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon.

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Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

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Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales

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