Colorado author Carrie Vaughn is best known for the seven books starring Kitty Norville, a werewolf who has come out of the closet and hosts a Denver late-night talk show that invites discussions of all things supernatural. As the series has progressed, readers have learned that, in Vaughn’s alternate universe, vampires, shape-changers, witches and all types of monsters live among us normal folks.
Now, although she still enjoys spending time in Kitty’s world—the eighth installment, Kitty Goes to War comes out in June, and Kitty’s Big Trouble is due next year—Vaughn has let her imagination take her in other directions. Voices of Dragons, her first young adult novel, and the first published in hard cover, came out last month from Harper Teen, and Tor will release her first adult hard cover novel, Discord’s Apple in July.
Just as she has made the supernatural a reality for Kitty and her fans, Vaughn has created a world that is just slightly different in her young adult book.
Other than the fact that dragons inhabit the territory north of Silver River, Montana, where she lives, and that her parents are involved in keeping the tenuous peace between human beings and dragons, seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt is a fairly normal high school student.
Then, one day, while she is out hiking and climbing, Kay falls in the river that has been established as a border between human and dragon lands. She is shocked when a young dragon named Artegal saves her life, pulls her to the dragon side and asks her to help him with his human language.
Before long the speech lessons become more frequent, and Artegal and Kay form a secret and forbidden bond. When Kay uses her climbing equipment to rope herself to Artegal’s back for a bit of flying, they are spotted by a pilot, and the real conflict and tragedy begin. Even before it is mentioned late in the story, the influence of Romeo and Juliet becomes obvious.
Meanwhile, Kay is also coming of age as a young woman and her feelings for her best friend Jon are changing. Kay will have to deal with adolescent hormones while she and Artegal try to save the world from a human/dragon war.
In the best works of fantasy, readers soon forget that they are reading fantasy, and the world the author has created becomes as real as the one outside the book. This is what happens in Voices of Dragons. Just as she has done in the Kitty books, making werewolves seem normal, Vaughn brings a contemporary world shared by people and dragons to life. In addition, the author deftly handles the underlying themes of race bias, the futility of war and the prospect of genocide.
In all Voices of Dragons, while it was written for a younger audience, shows Carrie Vaughn’s maturity as an author.
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper for over two decades. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.