I was browsing through Nice Dragons Finish Last and I was tempted to get it and finish reading because it really is very well-done and interesting and fun… but in the end I decided not to because I had a small (unreasonable, really) quibble that kept me from really getting into it: the idea that dragons are almost all power hungry, ruthlessly ambitious types who aren’t by nature kind or giving.
I admit, it’s unreasonable. But I’ve been feeling a bit bruised lately and so I’m choosing not to engage in a situation where I get more battered.
Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews did a bit of poking.
Before I go on further, let me just say I adore Ilona Andrews — I love their writing; I love their world-building; I’ll read anything and everything they put out. Including their blog posts, which are usually die-choking funny.
But it started with Myong – demure, quiet, passive, doormat-borderline-pathetic Myong. I hated her. I hate how sad she was, how weak, how quintessentially, stereotypically Asian female she vibed. Sure, there was Dali, but Dali wasn’t compared to Kate and didn’t come away lacking. Somehow Myong felt like a personal affront.
Well, also Dali did stupid things like race cars while half-blind which didn’t seem like the best characterization ever…
Then there’s Yu Fong… dragon-boy, Chinese, fiery … also conceited, arrogant, couldn’t bother to figure out what’s going on around him and be a decent human being, does something vaguely self-redeeming in the end and ruins it by claiming a favor…
Yeah, yeah, I got it. He’s a teenager. He’s probably intrigued in Julie and he knows that this is a way to keep on her radar. He’s been through a lot, he was offended by her implied criticism of him, yada yada yada. You know, I get it.
Doesn’t change the fact that I still feel a bit tender.
Because then there’s Nalini Singh’s Archangel of China, Lijuan, who is a complete and utter psycho crazy creepy nutcase. Because of course the Archangel of China can’t be sane, benevolent or an honorable ruler. Considering China’s recent/not-so-recent history, I can’t even begin to think about fair or unfair portrayals. Mostly because if I think that way I start thinking that Lijuan is a pretty good metaphor… All I know is that it stings. It stings every time Lijuan does something even more terrifyingly crazy.
Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe she drew names out of a hat. I mean, it’s not like the Archangel of India is that much saner…wait, she is. Neha might not be my favorite choice for who rules over my land but at least she doesn’t do unspeakable things to babies. Which, complete tangent? I’ve been vaguely wondering why the hell almost all of the female archangels with any power at all are almost all super cray.
Then there’s Ming Lebon. Okay. In the Psy-changeling world, everyone and everything is all mixed so it’s all good, right? Except why the hell does the crazy baddie need to be the man with the Chinese sounding name? Oh wait, maybe it’s a play on Ming the Merciless… except that wasn’t a lot of fun for me either. Yeah, crazy dictator space dude who …yeah no.
So I’m probably not going to pick up Nice Dragons Finish Last. Which is a pity. I would suggest people who don’t have my particular brand of crazy to check it out.
And back to the dead horse I keep beating — this is why more Asian characters would be nice. Then they’re just part of the scenery and not this shining beacon of “this is who you get to identify with in this world”.
When out of the many, many characters in these three series, I have Dali, Ria, Myong, Ming, and Lijuan to hang onto and three out of the five of them are certifiable? Not good for me or my bruises. And Ria was in a novella and less in the main series — I barely remembered her until I went digging.
And now I want to write dragon shifters. Benevolent, reclusive, hidden dragon shifters because that’s how I’ve always seen dragons. Princes of the sea and air, bringer of rain and good fortune. Maybe Estyria needs to meet a couple?