‘The gods rage tonight. Evil rises from the shadows. The gods rage tonight. See the swords of the noble defend the innocent…’
I just finished one of the strangest – and most interesting – novels I’ve ever read: Dragon Lord’s Mate, by Eileen Troemel.
The story centers around two women, Pena and Indirez. Pena is kind, and a powerful healer; Indirez is cruel, and a supernaturally talented manipulator. As one’s power grows so does the other’s; as Pena ascends to ever-greater feats of medicine, Indirez descends into ever-lower depths of depravity. The story reminded me a bit of one of my favorite films, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, in which twin sorcerers with opposing gifts vie for control of their world.
Where Dragon Lord’s Mate differs from Wizards is that it’s set almost entirely within the social realm of women. Whereas Bakshi’s Black Wolf sought power by brute force, Troemel’s Indirez seizes it through the use of seduction. Whereas Bakshi’s Avatar was known as a battlefield physician, Troemel’s Pena serves often as a midwife. While a casual participant in the story’s conflict might have viewed the war as a contest between the Raider Lord Davin and the Dragon Lord Arius, lurking behind the scenes – ever pulling the strings – stand Pena and Indirez, and Arius’ kingdom will stand or fall based on their actions.
Now, this story has a lot of sex. An awful lot of sex. If it’s ever made into a movie, Dragon Lord’s Mate should have a ‘70’s style, funky, slap-bass soundtrack. (You know, boom-chicka-wow-wow…) Also, much of the sexual content is violent and/or sadistic. But as one of my favorite journalists once pointed out, it’s not necessarily the content of a story that matters, so much as what aspersions the story casts upon the content. I liked that most of the sex scenes are within what I believe to be a healthy context: A permanent marital covenant, with sensuality being a by-product of the same. The violent/sadistic sex scenes are labeled as exactly what they are: Disgusting, and unconscionable. The sexual content is not so much an entity unto itself, as it is a natural extension of the characters and their relationships with one another – which is the distinction that separates fiction from pornography.
Now, this story does have a few quirks, as do all stories. Most notably, virtually all the babies born in the story are girls. Which means if there isn’t a sequel with lots of boys born, well… in a generation or so, the Dragon Clan will find itself being defended by an army of ladies and toothless old geezers. But that’s what sequels are for, right? Maybe there was some spell over the town the whole time, or the town’s magical patron dragon has a soft spot for little girls…
A writer could make something interesting out of that.
All in all, Dragon Lord’s Mate is a GREAT read! When I think a book is so-so, I eventually stop reading and skim to the end. I didn’t with Dragon Lord’s Mate, though. I read it carefully chapter-by-chapter, bookmarking my stopping point carefully whenever something rudely interrupted my reading time. (You know, the usual nuisances. Having to eat or sleep, having to get up for work… those kinds of annoyances.)
Something that really stood out to me, though, was this: The writing style was eerily similar to my own. Off-kilter and dream-like, kinda like a literary version of Pink Floyd: The Wall. I don’t often run into writing quite that surreal. (Although Alice Renaud’s novellas come pretty close. Highly recommended, by the way.)
It all made sense, though, when I read Eileen’s note at the end of the story: ‘During a period of extreme insomnia, Pena and Arius met, clashed, fell in love and faced all the adventures in this book. They helped me get through not being able to sleep. I hope you enjoy their adventures.’
Hell, that’s every story I’ve ever written! Insomnia leaves its indelible hand-print upon every story that it inspires. While that reality might be painful for the author (and it is), it’s a blessing to the reader. There are some thoughts that tease our minds only in dreams. Because insomniacs are never really asleep and never really awake, they have access to facets of the human consciousness that escape most people. As Edgar Allan Poe so eloquently put it, ‘Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night’.
Dragon Lord’s Mate was a wonderful read; I should think that a bout of insomnia was a small price to pay in exchange for such inspiration. That having been said…
If you’re reading this, Eileen, I do hope you’re sleeping better now!
And thank you for the tale.