The Dragon Delasangre
(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 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.
vampire novel when you start reading Alan Troop's
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.