Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Review|Glass Dragons - Sean McMullen

A few years back, I found on my bookcase a specimen of one of fantasy's rarest creatures: a comic fantasy named Glass Dragons. Initially enjoying it, I resolved to pick it up again - and review it with my newly critical gaze. Does it stand up to a reread? The answer is most probably an emphatic "no".

Comic fantasy is admittedly a difficult genre to carry off well. Plenty have failed. Some, like Joe Abercrombie, have carried the trick with remarkable flair - and it's only a pity that Glass Dragons, by Sean McMullen, can't be numbered amongst them. Our two protagonists - a Laurel and Hardy-esque pair - are one trick ponies. Wallas is fat. Andry is thin. Wallas is aristocratic and crass. Andry is lowborn and noble. Wallas has luck with women. Andry doesn't - but later they turn round and love him anyway. *Cough* Excuse me? Just how long ago was it that they wouldn't speak to him? Ah, yes. Two minutes. Wallas, a Master of Royal Music accused of assassination (despite the steadily proliferating evidence to the contrary), flees the Emperor's palace to a nearby tavern, there meeting Andry, surviving a night's carousing though the waterfront - and then accompanying him the next day. Meanwhile, an etheric device is being constructed: the Dragonwall - and it's only a matter of time before one of the involved sorcerers realise that the entire capability of Dragonwall is available to anyone. It's a thin premise, and as Andry and Wallas stumble from slapstick into misjudged love, it only becomes less believable. They're torn from political conflict to etheric machinery in laughably little time - whereupon nobody mentions the previous events. Granted, there are moments of genuine humour - dialogue is amusingly plotted, fast-paced, and hilarious - but insipid, generic characterisation and reused reactions - women to Andry and Wallas, for example - quickly become repetitive. I'm sorry I couldn't like it on reread - but it's a world that works on first try, and it's worth a look for fans of the genre. Otherwise, Glass Dragons won't be making my recommendations.


  1. Well, love the cover picture?!? This is a great review. You are honest yet don't destroy the book. I like that. That makes me feel better reading this review that you are honest but don't completely tear the book apart. Sounds as though it is good for a read when you need one though.

    As you can probably tell I am back up and running now. I am reading some blogs then I will do my Wed. post then to yours! I want to do yours last so it is the one that every one will see first when they stop by.

    Talk to ya later!

  2. Hi Jacob, just came from Melissa @ My World where I read your guest post - very interesting even though I'm not normally into this type of read. I also enjoyed your review of Glass Dragons, a posssible christmas present for Hubby who does enjoy this type of book. Anyway, nice to meet you.

  3. Hi Petty Witter,
    Thanks for the comments - I regretted not being able to like the book on reread, but the majority wouldn't make my recommendations. Nevertheless, there were some good moments - my feeling is that it could have been cut down to a shorter, snappier, funnier novel without the repition and concentrating on a single plotline.
    Nice to meet you too,

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