Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0890-3
Fantasy Romance, 2012
How to Drive a Dragon Crazy is the sixth book in GA Aiken’s Dragon Kin series. I think it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be reading this one without having read the previous books, preferably in order. If you happened to have purchased this book without prior knowledge of the previous books, however, don’t fret. This one is actually a pretty decent standalone story as the plot in these pages is self-contained. Just be careful that the large cast of characters need some time and effort to figure out. But who knows, you’d probably be too busy laughing to care if you have a taste for violent and often macabre humor.
I’d assume in this review that you are familiar with the background of the series. Even if you don’t, just nod anyway, because I’m not in the mood to recap details from the previous five books. So, this time around, the spotlight is on two familiar characters that have become increasingly prominent as the series progresses. Iseabail, the daughter of Talaith and Briec, has come a long way from that crazy psychopath teenage girl – she is now a full-grown adult psychopath who leads several legions in the army of the psychopath Annwyl the Bloody. The hero is Éibhear the Contemptible, who has since joined the berserker suicide squad Mì-runach and become one of its most feared warriors.
It’s hard to give an interesting synopsis of this story without spoiling its second half, because that’s when the fun stuff really happens. The first half is pure sitcom of mayhem proportions as Izzy and Éibhear meet again at what is best described as a typical family reunion composed of violent psychopaths bonded over a mutual love of gratuitous violence, senseless cussing, rampant savagery, and kill-all-prisoners attitude. During the madness that ensues, it becomes apparent that the three kids, Talaith’s daughter Rhianwen and Annwyl’s twins Talan and Talwyn, are developing abilities that the grown-ups are ill-prepared to deal with, and they will have to seek mentors elsewhere. It’s complicated being half-dragon, half-human, and there are some developing abilities that baffle even the grown-ups well-versed in woo-woo stuff. Eventually Izzy, Éibhear, and some friends will travel to the land of the Sand Dragons on a quest that is tied to Rhi’s increasingly out-of-control powers, and that’s when the “adventure road trip” part of the story kicks in.
The author isn’t rocking her formula, so this one will most likely be exactly what the fans of the series will enjoy – and what those readers who don’t enjoy will dislike, heh. If you have read the series, you know the song – crazy women who boss the guys around, guys who punch and whack each other in moments of heartwarming bonding, politically incorrect humor that often involves violence and death of those who may or may not deserve their humiliating demise. And the formula still works. I have a great time laughing at the shenanigans of the lunatic Cadwaladr dragons and their kin. A part of me wonders whether Ms Aiken should introduce some characters that are different from the assortment of bloodthirsty women with impulse control disorder that dominate the series. Make no mistake, I adore these crazy bitches, but it’s like eating too many slices of tiramisu cake. After a while, I don’t mind seeing a different kind of heroine. Or hero, for that matter – apart from Bram the Merciful, the men here are uniformly bawdy, hot-headed, lusty, violent, and happily whipped by their mates. How about a different kind of hero once a while, like a nerd, perhaps, or someone who relies on his sorcery instead of brawn? What happened to Keita’s friend, the zen-like dragon from the East, anyway? He seems like a nice kind of different.
While this story is still wickedly funny and hilariously violent, I confess that I find the romance the most forgettable aspect of the story. Izzy and Éibhear’s romance barely touches on how they feel, often, it’s how they have funny angry-hate-or-something sex when they are not busy cutting down everything in their way. I’m far more interested in the story lines involving the twins and Rhi, Izzy’s relationship with the relatives on her mother’s side, and the hilarious family dynamics of the whole crazy dragon kin here. Somehow, Izzy and Éibhear are most boring when they are with each other! Still, the romance isn’t the central aspect of this story – this series is more humorous fantasy than romance – so I’m easily entertained elsewhere.
So yes, I’ve had fun. But take the final score of this book with a grain of salt. I’m coming from the point of a view of someone who has followed this series and is having fun. The series by its very nature is very polarizing, however, so if you have not read any previous book in this series, disregard the final score. Go pick up the first book, Dragon Actually, instead and see whether you can cozy up to the humor and the violence in that book. If yes, then we’ll talk again when you’ve caught up with the rest of the series.