Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick

I am still not quite sure what to make of this book, although I certainly enjoyed it. The Dragons of Babel takes place in a post-industrial Faerie, fully inhabited by so many types of mythical creatures I didn't even recognize them all. The main character is Will le Fey, a young man who has grown up in a village with his aunt. Then one day a wounded dragon shows up in the village and takes over. In this world, dragons are great mechanical beasts of immense power, but they need a lieutenant with mortal blood to help carry out their orders. Will becomes that lieutenant, allowing the dragon to become a petty tyrant over the village. When he finally breaks free of the dragon's control, he is banished from his village, becoming just one refugee among many fleeing the coming war. His wanderings eventually take him to the Tower of Babel, the capital of Faerie. There he struggles to find his destiny, while being continually manipulated by those who would find it for him.
I really enjoyed both the world-building of this book and the character development. The world of Faerie in this book is so different from what we are used to seeing. It reminded me of Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers, although this book is much more dark and grim. There are no real heroes or villains, all of the characters Will meets are conflicted in multiple ways. I was never quite sure where the story was going to end up, though the ending was quite satisfying. I have never read Swanwick's other book that takes place in this same world, The Iron Dragon's Daughter. I am not sure if there are any connections between the two books, but it would be interesting to read it now and find out.

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