Sunday, 25 March 2012

Prudence and the Dragon

Prudence and the Dragon by Zen Cho
Reviewed by Jenny Barber

Because Prudence Ong never read newspapers or watched British TV, she maintained a spotlessly pure ignorance of the dragon throughout. She encountered the dragon in a rather more traditional setting. She met him down the pub.
Originally appearing in Crossed Genres Quarterly #1 and currently up on the World SF Blog, Prudence and the Dragon is an enjoyable story that manages to be both sweet and beautifully humorous.

A dragon comes to town, and titular heroine Prudence manages to remain blissfully, almost deliberately, unaware of it for a good part of the tale. The dragon, meanwhile, is in town to secure himself a maiden and is quite relentless in his pursuit of Prudence. This does come off more than a tad stalkery as the dragon manages to blag his way into her home as a permanent houseguest despite Prudence's initial reactions of throwing things at him and threatening him with the police. Fortunately, Prudence remains quite sensible about his attempts at courtship.

“Come away with me,” said Zheng Yi. “I will show you sorcerous wonders the likes of which you have never imagined. You will learn how to put your hand into fire and grasp its beating heart. You will speak to fairies, and they will speak back if they know what’s good for them. I will teach you the secrets of the moon and the language of the stars.”

Prudence threw the hairdryer at him.

There are all kinds of nice touches in the story, weaving the fantastical with the mundane - like the dragon's arrival bringing statues to life and having the pigeons get jobs in the City (more efficient as they don't use Facebook!) and the cooking -
With a supernatural effort at politeness, Angela said, “Oh, that smells delicious. What is it?”

“Potatoes, carrots, swede, some grated apple for sweetness, fairies for protein. But only non-sentient ones,” said Zheng Yi reassuringly. “Fairies are terribly good for you.”

They were also quite crunchy, and froze well.

The interactions between Prudence and best friend Angela are fun, and also a little heartbreaking when the dragon's glamour causes a temporary rift; and while the dragon throwing his glamour around to impress Prudence could be a slightly problematic twist, it is implied that Prudence is unaffected by it and develops a fondness for the dragon based on deeper virtues than the image he's attempting to project.

Zen Cho weaves a wonderful setting with some easily relatable characters and has created a very entertaining story that is a definite must-read.

Check out the World SF blog here, where Zen Cho was interviewed here. More about Zen Cho can be found on her livejournal here and if you fancy reading more of her excellent fiction, try out the highly recommended 起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion—The Lion Bows) in Strange Horizons.

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