Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review -- Sparrowind: The Dragon Who Lived As A Night (2014) by R. K. Modena


Sparrowind:  The Dragon Who Lived As A Knight

© 2014

by R. K. Modena"

© 2014

by Jordan S. Bassior

Available for $1.01 on Lulu and as an iBook for $0.99.

This 11,000-word novelette is the coming of age story of Sparrowind, a young Dragon.  Sparrowind is small -- about the size of a rhino ("two draft horses" is his self-description) and nearsighted, which makes him poorly equipped for the traditional Dragon way of life of hunting prey and fighting rival Dragons.  His mother points out to him that "The world is big enough that perhaps you'll find a place that's right for you ... Perhaps you'll find it before you die."

The story is largely concerned with Sparrowind trying to find his place in life.  Fortunately for Sparrowind, he may be small and have weak eyes, but he has a keen mind and strong will, and after reading some Human books, he resolves to become a knight -- an honorable warrior -- and make a place for himself in Human society.  This is of course far from easy for him, given that his species has a bad reputation among Humans.  The obstacles that Sparrowind encounters, and the manners in which he deals with them, are the meat and drink of the tale.

Sparrowind is well written, in an easy and well-flowing style highly suited to reading aloud.  The main character is engaging and sympathetic, and reading this story I cared about him.  Despite the fact that there is considerable incident, the plot is very tight, as it has to be in such a short novelistic form, and the plot is well-resolved, with enough new threads suggested that there is obvious room for sequels.

The setting is sketched out only briefly -- the limited part of it (mostly the region of a mountain pass and the principality which controls the pass) shown in the rather short novelette comes across as Standard Fantasy, but that's not bad:  there is only so much that the author can develop in such a short format.  What we see of it makes sense, and I happen to know that it's part of a much larger and richer fantasy universe, which will almost certainly be explored in other tales.

Where Sparrowind really shines is in its ethical themes.  The main point of the story is that a person creates his own identity:  he is something in particular and comes from somewhere in particular, but where he chooses to go from there and who he chooses to be is his own responsibility.  Sparrowind himself chooses to be an honorable knight in Human society, which governs his fate; another character who started as someone more acceptable to Humanity makes different choices, and finds a different fate.

The story also stresses the importance of mutualistic as opposed to predatory behavior.  Sparrowind is biologically a predator (he initially supports himself by fishing) but his goal is toe find a way to co-exist with Humans through social and economic exchange, and by acting as a protector.  Another character could have been a protector, but chooses to behave as a predator instead.  The story makes plain the superiority of mutualism to predation as a mode of behavior for sapient beings.

What strikes me very strongly about this novelette is that it is extremely logical and yet has a strong emotional undertone.  This very much suits Sparrowind's point of view, as he is a highly intelligent and logical thinker, yet one strongly driven by his desire to find his place in life and win acceptance from others.  This combination of strong inetelligence and strong emotion gives powee to the tale.

All in all, this is an excellent story, and I hope to see many more from the author.