The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a very impressive and work of imagination, and while I've read better Swanwick, it's *still* Swanwick, and that means it's head-and-shoulders better than almost anything out there.
This novel gives the illusion that it might be a YA, with a lot of impressive and delightful adventure elements, but it eventually turns into an adult romp full of sex, drugs, and stardom, only to eventually return to its adventure roots. So what makes this piece stand out? Jane is a great character with lots of sides to her, not just exploring what it means to be a woman in a thoroughly Misogynic Elf society, trying to find a piece of herself, her dreams, her sexuality, while all the while struggling against two great gods of the Steampunk/High Fantasy world.
What's the Iron Dragon? An AI in a steampunk airship with cybernetic interfaces. Nicely SF.
Are there Dwarves and Elves and Changelings throughout this University-Dominated setting? Why yes, yes, there is. :) Complex society, too. Very nicely Fantasy.
Does the plot and the themes begin as a slow spiral only to end up in the center of all the conflict in a wild explosion of action? Why yes, yes it does.
I really like this novel, and it really shines well in craft and characters, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't know where a lot of it was going until much later and it just seemed like it was drifting in dissolution. A lot of the plot events, including the mob scenes, play out the same feeling, of course, as well as the immense sense of loss, and while the reality of the author's intent was clear, our actual payoff feels far from clear. I get a few good impressions, and the visual imagery is grand, but then I wonder if this was still all about Jane's growth or not.
I assume it is, and not the played-out grand conflict of gods. :)
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