International Writers Magazine:Myths
and 21st Century Dragons
Fire Eternal by Chris dLacey
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Orchard (5 Jun 2008)
Frances Lewis review
The Fire Eternal by Chris dLacey without any prior knowledge
of the world he has created within these pages can leave you feeling
slightly overwhelmed, faintly incredulous and maybe even begrudgingly
impressed. That he has skilfully crafted whole mythologies and legends
out of thin air and woven them expertly into our known universe
is not to be sniffed at; if only I had read his previous books that
dealt with these same massive themes (The Fire Within, Icefire,
Fire Star) then I might not have been so snowed under by the sheer
density of plot.
In a squirrels
nutshell: this book contains (in no particular order) polar bears, dragons,
sibyls, microscopic alien life forms, monks, fairies, ecological disaster,
Inuit legend, ravens, quantum physics, magic, phantom squirrels and
rifts in time. The story starts innocuously enough it has been
five years since David Rain, author of the cult book White Fire,
mysteriously disappeared whilst on a field trip in the Arctic. Believing
him to be dead, his girlfriend Zanna Martindale carries on with life
as usual, looking after their young daughter Alexa and running a New
Age shop in the sleepy town of Scrubbley. They live with Liz Pennykettle
and her daughter 16-year-old Lucy, and Lizs partner, Arthur. And
thats about as normal as it gets. When Zanna frets about Lucys
behaviour she says, Look at us. We live in a house of flying dragons,
with a cat that has an alien life form sharing its psyche. Were
the product of a time when dragons ruled the earth and bears ruled the
Arctic. Were the kooks on the block.
Indeed, dLacey has given the 21st century family a quirky slant.
The dragons are created from clay by Liz (herself descended from a dragon)
and the ones not sold as ordinary sculptures down the market are brought
to life and quietly have the run of the household, each fostering their
own special abilities there is even one who can scan documents
and load the dragonware onto regular computers. This cosy-ish
existence is threatened when an investigative reporter, Tam Farrell,
starts enquiring about David and his Arctic activities, stirring up
mixed emotions for Zanna. Lucy, a typical hotheaded teenager, is adamant
that David is alive and believes that with Tams help they could
solve the mystery of Davids disappearance. Zanna is wary of his
involvement, however, and events soon turn awry.
The action cuts between Scrubbley and another plot strand taking place
in the Arctic. Here we follow the adventures of a trio of polar bears:
the Teller Avrel, the fighting bear Kailar, and their leader, Ingavar.
Together they must recover the Fire Eternal, an almighty force that
would either turn the planet inside out or save the world,
depending on whom you believe. With the help of a sea goddess, a sibyl
trapped in the form of a raven and a host of Inuit spirits, they traverse
the melting ice and more is revealed about the threat Earth faces from
the Ix, a not-so-friendly alien race determined to commingle
with humans and create Darklings. And thats only a very small
part of it, believe me!
Switching from one storyline to another, almost chapter by chapter,
is effective and maintains a pacy narrative flow. The chapters are relatively
short but packed with action and information, and usually end with neat
cliffhangers. However, Lucys teen-speak didnt convince me
(Take a chill pill, wont you?) and Im not sure
who the book is aimed at either older teenage girls might garner
some satisfaction from the romantic tension between Zanna and Tam, younger
readers will love the playful antics of all the different dragons
but the complex mythologies are hard to penetrate and on the whole,
the book feels like its building towards something and never actually
until the next instalment comes along, that is.
I feel like the environmental message is a bit lost amongst all that
legend, but will hopefully come to the fore in the following book. The
author writes with a gentle, knowing humour and has created well-rounded,
believable characters. His background in science is evident (The
Ix are meeting resistance
from human-Premen descendants who are
beginning to understand the harmonics of the universe and the relationship
between consciousness, creativity and time and thats
a polar bear talking!) and he clearly revels in his universal themes.
If I had been better prepared or better read then I might
have enjoyed this book much more. I advise everyone to read the first
three before embarking on this one!
© Frances Lewis June 2008
frances_lewis at hotmail.com
Frances is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University
of Portsmouth. She teaches and writes for children.
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