The Dragon DelaSangre, by Alan F. Troop

the-dragon-delasangre-by-alan-f-troopGenre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: NAL
Published: 2002
Reviewer Rating: threestars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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It might not be the case, but upon reading this book it seemed to me that Troop’s inspiration for this novel was Rice’s The Vampire LeStat, but instead of vampires, Troop gives us dragons. Peter DelaSangre is one of the few remaining dragons on earth. His kind have been hunted through the years and have learned to hide so well that they had evolved into nothing more than myths and legends. But in Troop’s world, dragons are real and humans are food.

Despite his dragon heritage, Peter was raised with very human sensibilities, acquired due to his mother’s insistence and over his father’s objections. Peter prefers his human form over his dragon form, attended school with humans, and even holds a college degree. Yet despite his close association and (at least on the surface) fondness for humans, he doesn’t seem to have too many problems choking down big gobbets of human meat when he feels the urge. Sure, his conscience twinges a bit, but never enough to change his behavior. He associates with humans, but doesn’t have any human friends. He mainly seems to regard them as food, and, when convenient, as pets, good for entertainment and distraction. This causes him problems later in the book, as does his lack of knowledge about the ways of his own kind.

One evening, while in the midst of a sexual conquest (with a human) he detects an odor that causes an unexpected and undesired reaction. He later learns from his aging and soon-to-die-and-leave-Peter-alone father that the odor was that of a female of their species in heat. Seems it’s time for Peter to find a wife. We get to see Peter among his own kind for a bit, and this shows us the contrast between the different views dragon-kind has of the humans that have overrun the planet Intended, I think, to plant the thought that maybe Peter isn’t so bad after all.

As much as there is here to like, there’s just as much to dislike. Troop makes it a point to tell us repeatedly about Peter’s kind regard for humanity, an inconsistent kindness that doesn’t seem to be evident during the frequent times Peter is gobbling man-meat (women and children included). Troop’s attempts to paint Peter as a complex, sympathetic character fell short for me; after all, actions speak louder than words. And his wife is even more unsympathetic. At the climax of the story, I was cheering for an outcome that was probably different than the one Troop wanted his readers to cheer for.

When I turned the final page, I was left yearning for something more, something larger than the story Troop offers. Peter never rises above his own selfish concerns, never seems to take on anything ‘bigger’ than himself. It seems that the only thing at stake here is his own happiness and satisfaction–two things I couldn’t have cared less about because I didn’t much care about Peter.

That said, I enjoyed the writing. Troop has a lean yet descriptive style that evoked some vivid images. The story moved well. He knows his location and the setting worked for the story. His dragons were interesting, if not likable. But who says characters need to be likable? (though it’s very hard to write unlikable characters in a way that makes people want to read about them) He has a good setup for future books, and the end puts Peter in a situation where he will be forced to think about something other than himself for a change. Maybe that will add that sympathetic aspect to his character that I felt was missing.

If you enjoyed Anne Rice’s vampire books (The Vampire Lestat in particular), you’ll probably like this, though Peter lacks the ‘humanity’ of Rice’s vampire characters. But it’s a promising beginning for a writer that shows an admirable skill with words, and a character that holds the potential to become someone we want to read more about. For those reasons, I will pick up his next when it comes out.

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