Read The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick Online


A slave in a dragon factory that manufactures flying fighting machines, Jane changes her destiny when a voice from a dragon promising freedom and revenge prompts her to escape and challenge the foundations of the world....

Title : The Iron Dragon's Daughter
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780380972333
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 424 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Iron Dragon's Daughter Reviews

  • KatHooper
    2019-04-01 22:59

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.Some people don't like to admit that they didn't "get" a book, but I'm secure enough with myself to say that I didn't get this one.The Iron Dragon's Daughter started off well. Jane is a human changeling who works in a Faerie factory that makes flying iron dragons for weapons. Jane and the other child slave laborers (who are a mix of strange creatures) are entertaining and bring to mind Lord of the Flies and that scene in Sid's room from Pixar's Toy Story. Michael Swanwick's writing style is fluid and faultless. There are flashes of Valente-esque creativity: a timeclock with a temper, a meryon (whatever that is) civilization similar to that in A Bug's Life, a conniving jar-bound homunculus, gryphons who dive for thrown beer cans. I truly enjoyed these parts of the book and understand why Mr. Swanwick has won so many prestigious awards.But, after Jane escapes from the dragon factory, the whole thing plummets like a lead dragon and it never returns to its former glory. The writing style is still lovely, but the plot is — I don't think I've ever used this word in a review before — awful. I hated it.Jane was never a sympathetic heroine, but after her escape she turns into a remorseless foul-mouthed thief, drug-user, slut, and murderer. I didn't like her or any of her acquaintances. The plot had no order, the world had no rules, everything that happened seemed random, chaotic, and senseless.Knowing that other people have praised this novel and that it's sequel (The Dragons of Babel) was nominated for a Locus award, I pressed on. About two-thirds of the way through, I figured out that there was a method to the madness, but the chaotic nihilism was so disturbing that even though I realized it contributed to the entire philosophy of the novel, I still hated it. I think perhaps if I'd dropped some acid, the plot would have arranged itself better in my mind, but alas, I had none to hand.I think Michael Swanwick is a great writer, but The Iron Dragon's Daughter was weird, disjointed, obtuse, and inaccessibly bizarre.Originally published at FanLit.

  • Bradley
    2019-04-02 01:59

    This is a very impressive and work of imagination, and while I've read better Swanwick, it's *still* Swanwick, and that means it's head-and-shoulders better than almost anything out there.This novel gives the illusion that it might be a YA, with a lot of impressive and delightful adventure elements, but it eventually turns into an adult romp full of sex, drugs, and stardom, only to eventually return to its adventure roots. So what makes this piece stand out? Jane is a great character with lots of sides to her, not just exploring what it means to be a woman in a thoroughly Misogynic Elf society, trying to find a piece of herself, her dreams, her sexuality, while all the while struggling against two great gods of the Steampunk/High Fantasy world.What's the Iron Dragon? An AI in a steampunk airship with cybernetic interfaces. Nicely SF.Are there Dwarves and Elves and Changelings throughout this University-Dominated setting? Why yes, yes, there is. :) Complex society, too. Very nicely Fantasy. Does the plot and the themes begin as a slow spiral only to end up in the center of all the conflict in a wild explosion of action? Why yes, yes it does.I really like this novel, and it really shines well in craft and characters, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't know where a lot of it was going until much later and it just seemed like it was drifting in dissolution. A lot of the plot events, including the mob scenes, play out the same feeling, of course, as well as the immense sense of loss, and while the reality of the author's intent was clear, our actual payoff feels far from clear. I get a few good impressions, and the visual imagery is grand, but then I wonder if this was still all about Jane's growth or not.I assume it is, and not the played-out grand conflict of gods. :)

  • Jamethiel_bane
    2019-04-01 23:46

    Faerie cyberpunk. Jane is a changeling, working as slave labour in the dragon factory. Her life is planned out for her, and it's not particularly pleasant path. Then she meets an iron dragon, and decides to rebel.This is a FANTASTIC book. The world is incredibly detailed and very well thought out.The only trouble is, it's about two books in one. We start off with Jane in childhood, and go through to her adulthood. Jane is wonderful. Smart, stubborn, not always especially moral and very, very angry.SPOILERSThere is sex in this book. Jane has sex and enjoys it and doesn't get punished for it (other than having guys who she doesn't particularly WANT a lengthy relationship with hanging round. And that happens!). Some will see it as nihilistic and it's certainly very dark. She doesn't treat people well. She actually kills some blameless people to give her the means to escape. It's calculated, as well. It's certainly acknowledged as being morally wrong and Jane does feel guilty, but like most survivors she has the attitude of "I will think about that later".However, I found a theme of--dark hope, or acknowledgement of the human-ness of anger and defiance. Jane is trapped and stuck and she enjoys herself along the way, but she's always angry about it. And come the penultimate part of the book, in the Spiral Castle where she could very easily acquiesce and say "No, you're right, I'm nothing and I submit." she doesn't. She sticks her chin up and says "NEVER", fully expecting to be annhiliated.If you take the penultimate part of the book as the ending, it's actually a pretty powerful atheist statement. That anthropomorphising the cosmos is useless because it doesn't care about us. This rather bleak message is undermined by the very end.The ending is something that almost subverts the message of the entire book. The book is about--surviving, muddling through. Doing the best you can in a world which doesn't give you rules and has no purpose. But we see recurring characters in Jane's life. The same souls turn up again and again. The "goddess" in the spiral castle actually explicitly says that they're part of Jane's purpose and she just disregards them.The final part of the book reinforces that an individual's destiny is largely what they make of it themselves, but that other people and our treatment of them is the most important thing. It's gorgeous writing on from Swanwick, to see things that are foreshadowed and take forever to build up fall into place in the final chapter.In conclusion, a fantastic book. Highly recommended.

  • Meg Jayanth
    2019-04-14 20:08

    One of the books on Mieville's list of 50 Scifi and Fantasy Books for Socialists, he tells you that it "completely destroys the sentimental aspects of genre fiction". And holy hell, please do take that warning seriously. Jane is a child-worker in a factory which is building treacherously aware warmachines made of cold iron. These "dragons" are enslaved to their pilots, wills broken by technology and magic, as Jane is essentially a slave to the factory. Until one of the dragons starts whispering to her of escape.This is a difficult book, and no mistake. It's endlessly surprising and inventive, deeply shocking, especially if you bring to it the expectations of genre fiction - it reminds me of a much older strain of speculative fiction; charged, full of ideas, unexpected, perhaps slightly more interested in plot and situation and its effects on character than in the characters themselves. But it's not an old-fashioned book. Technology exists alongside the magic of the Faerie (a disturbing vision of colleges of alchemy existing alongside air-conditioned malls, stealth dragons made of cold-iron fitted out with radar-jamming tech), our own mundane world is an acknowledged but separate plane of existence - Jane is a changeling stolen from our world and into the faerie, and her abduction isn't a romanticised transplantation into Faerie courts, but rather part of a healthy trade in child-trafficking and slave labour. Personally, I thought Jane was an excellent protagonist: resourceful, intelligent, but also deeply flawed. By turns compassionate and ruthless. The book is about her attempts to live her life, perhaps try to return to her mother and her blank-eyed physical body on "our plane", while navigating the political, social and economic world of Faerie that seems systematically determined to corner, manipulate, and lessen her. In this world, there are no last-minute saves, or unexamined heroics. Jane is far from noble, but endlessly human.If you're willing to give yourself to Swanwick's twisting narrative, Iron Dragon's Daughter is a rewarding, thoughtful, deeply engaging book that will stay with you.

  • Elspeth
    2019-04-07 23:49

    This book made me stabby.Feels of rage when I was done.Bad ending was bad.

  • Margaret Taylor
    2019-04-08 23:49

    I’d read some of the other reviews of The Iron Dragon’s Daughter on Goodreads, so I was forewarned that the author pulls a nasty trick on us around page 80. That still didn’t prepare me for how angry this book was going to make me.I picked up this book because it’s noteworthy for deconstructing a lot of stock fantasy tropes. It was published in 1993, when fantasy was deep in the ghetto of Tolkien knockoffs. A few years later, A Game of Thrones would start pulling the genre out of Tolkien’s shadow, and then Harry Potter would really get fantasy going again. But The Iron Dragon’s Daughter was a start. For one thing, this book has technology ­– at a time when most people had not heard of the word “steampunk.”Jane is a young human who’s been kidnapped by the Unseelie Court and forced to live in Fairyland. She works as a child laborer in a robot dragon factory (they work like sentient fighter jets). One day, one of the dragons begins speaking to her. It offers to help her escape if she repairs it. This dragon is quite evil, but they strike an uneasy bargain and they get out.At this point, you’d expect the story to be about Jane trying to get home while trying to cope with this dragon she can’t trust. You would be wrong. Over the course of a page or two, Jane becomes a miserable little crook bent on cheating, stealing, and fornicating* her way to the top of Unseelie society. She manipulates people. She lets her friends die to save herself. All of this would make for a fascinating villain if only there were any heroes in the story. There aren’t. All of the other characters are loathesome except for this one dude who keeps dying over and over and over again.It’s not bad writing. In fact, it’s quite good (Swanwick has won awards for some of his other works). What we have here is a talented writer who is deliberately trolling his readers. The theme of the book is that life is pointless and meaningless, though it stops to poke some cruel humor at yuppie culture along the way.I skipped ahead to see if Jane ever winds up in jail, which she so richly deserves. She does not.Swanwick, you don’t have to be like this. You don’t have to rip your subject to bloody shreds to write effective satire. Take Terry Pratchett, for example. This guy pokes holes in everything, literally everything. He’s done dwarves quaffing mead in taverns to lost heirs to the throne to the post office to image compression algorithms to Robocop. But no matter where the books go, they always circle back to two main messages: 1. You will die eventually. 2. The human spirit (or dwarven or vampire or what have you) is worth something.And frankly, that’s the sort of satire I’d rather read.* Sex magic. She doesn’t care for her partners, but she does use them to acquire power.

  • Petr
    2019-04-11 20:02

    This book is one of those rarities that make my brain a little bit numb from emotion storm. There is nothing coherent, just a storm of love, hatred, questions, guesses, objections, suggestions, alterations, admiration, amusement, dissatisfaction... I want more, but I know that there is no more and there must be no more - for all good things must end by their own will or be twisted into the MacDonald's-like things by others. Such books and the worlds they create is more like a glimpse in the dark. They flash before your eyes, they leave you with images, with seeds of desire, and they gone... they don't need our imagination, they are free from us.

  • Pele
    2019-04-13 00:59

    I read this book years ago, and it's one of those that really stick with you and rattle around in your head.If you've ever read classic, well respected literature, you know that the author is telling a raw and original story, and cares nothing about the reader's comfort along the way. That, to me, is the sign of a truly well-written book. You experience the human condition through the writing, and a good part of the human condition is NOT comfortable, pretty, or easy to face.The genius here (and why this book became such a phenomenon in the 90s), is that Swanwick took a genre that is notorious for NOT challenging the reader, for being overly comfortable, and not well respected, and elevated it.He uses a harsh world with class issues, and an imperfect main character (really, you expect a child slave with revenge issues to be a paragon of morality?), to emotionally exercise the reader in a manner usually expected when you sit down with a copy of Heart of Darkness, or Lord of the Flies. It will elevate you, it will floor you, and it will make you upset with the main character (because she's not perfect). Most of all, it will stay with you and change how you view a genre.

  • Terence
    2019-04-14 01:58

    (Sigh)...Another one of those cases where GR's star-rating system doesn't adequately express my reaction to a book. I'd give this one 2.5 to 3 stars (and, since it's the New Year & I'm feeling generous, I'm rounding up) - It's not bad; Swanwick is a decent writer. It's just not my "cup of tea."The only reason I picked this book up was that it was 50 cents at a library sale. In general, I'm not a huge fan of urban fantasy so I was never drawn to the book when it first came out, despite the rave reviews it got (and gets). Now that I've read it, I'm still not a urban-fantasy fan and I'm not terribly impressed by Mr. Swanwick. Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading the book, just that it isn't that memorable an experience and I probably won't be reading any more Swanwick in the future outside of a trusted source raving about another one of his novels.Actually, the character of Jane, the novel's hero, is quite well drawn and believable. I've noticed in some reviews here that readers complain that Jane is a thoroughly selfish and unlikable person, which is true enough as far as it goes but considering her "role models," I was surprised at the amount of empathy she did exhibit. For example, given the chance to betray some school acquaintances (not even friends, really) to save herself, Jane doesn't and very nearly gets exposed as a human changeling and escapee from the dragon works. In fact, I was very disturbed and not entirely convinced when she turned into a serial killer in order to supply the dragon of the title with the energy it needed to fulfill its purpose. But that situation raises the question of just how much influence the dragon has over Jane's actions. It is able to manipulate her subconsciously into breaking their initial pact and allwoing it to go off on its own.As I've indicated, however, I was never interested enough in the setting or the characters to care all that much. It's a readable book with believable characters and situations but I personally wouldn't recommend it.

  • Bill
    2019-04-12 00:53

    I picked this up on a recommendation by author China Mieville. It is interesting, and certainly different from anything mainstream, but I can see why the book faded into obscurity since it's publication in the 90's.During the first 20% of this book, I thought it was going to be one of the best things I ever read. A changeling girl is stuck in a magical, steampunk factory with other fey children toiling away building sentient, mechanical dragons. She must escape by secretly fixing one of said dragons. The author uses unrestrained creativity, interesting characters and lore, and a great plot setup.However... the rest of the book turns into a grotesque, overly sexual school drama like a perverse Harry Potter. While the heroine does occasionally act upon vague long-term goals, most of the story hereafter just follows her meanderings through life in this fey world, largely spent thieving, doing drugs, and having sex. The book is, essentially, a chronicle of the girl's journey to adulthood in this strange realm. In that it does a fairly good job. The world is intriging, if abstract, with a wealth of the unconventional. I just wish the book had continued with the adventurous plot it established in the beginning instead.

  • Mark Newton
    2019-04-12 23:55

    A Cracking little read, this one, bonkers and brave and brash. Totally slaps anyone who suspects ‘gritty’ fantasy is a new thing. This book doesn’t shy away from adult language and themes (war, racism, sexism), and has a pleasing mish-mash of aesthetics, from the gentle veneer of the fae, to the harsh industrial landscape – all mixed with a spot of college antics and sex. Quite likely a deliberate attempt to upset some section of the genre readership – which you’ve got to love, right?

  • Matthew Kehrt
    2019-04-09 17:42

    You'd be surprised how amazingly awesome a book that consists largely of depressing elf sex can be.

  • Loricious
    2019-04-07 20:55

    This was one of the first books that I stumbled upon without anyone ever recommending it to me, and expected the normal fantasy-fare.Imagine my surprise when this story turned out to be an entirely original tale about a girl trying to find her way in a strange, cruel, bold, ferocious world. I was used to reading about elves and dwarves; this world has giant metal dragons and invisible boys and anthropomorphic characters. And, as it were, elves as well.I re-read this book every year, just for the magic it has, just for that breath of truly magnificent story-telling that really resonated with me. Perhaps it is because I still can't quite figure it all out, and I think that is the beauty of this book. It is as enigmatic as our iron dragon daughter, our Jane. Recommended for established fantasy/sci-fi fans only.

  • Bree
    2019-04-15 23:58

    So, you know the feeling you get when you encounter a difficult piece of artwork in a contemporary art museum? Maybe it's a small box left alone on a table. Maybe it's a cake made of plaster. Maybe it's a series of lights shone on a wall. You can pick up on a few clues as to what concept is being explored and what aesthetic is being showcased, but you get the sense that you might just not be intelligent or cultured enough to grasp the big, profound entirety of it all. And then it strikes you: maybe the artist is just fucking with you. You leave the museum in a disoriented state, wondering if you had finally experienced true art and whether you hated it or not. You decide it deserves three stars.

  • Sfbooknerd
    2019-03-28 21:08

    An excellent and unusual dark fantasy book. The main character is an anti-hero so be prepared, remember it's a grim, gritty, nihilist fantasy book.This book is for advanced readers who are familiar with the usual fantasy tropes. People who still prefer the old-style fairytales with heroic heroes may not like it. People who have already read a lot of fantasy and are bored with sparkly vampires and white knights may like this grim tale.

  • Paula
    2019-04-27 02:08

    This book was recommended to me somewhere along the way and also appears as part of one of the 'Fantasy Masterworks' series, so I expected it would be good.The basic premise of The Iron Dragon's Daughter is of a world alongside ours where human children have been stolen to work in the great foundries where dragons are made. Our protagonist, determined to know a different life from the one she is currently leading, makes plans to steal one of the dragons and flee - her plan works well in some ways but not in others, as she is forced to take refuge among the people who enslaved her kind.The idea of changelings being taken for a particular purpose was an interesting enough one, and the initial setting of the foundry was well-drawn and dark, but after the escape my interest began to wane. Add to that the author's apparent obsession with sex - not in itself a bad thing, but hardly a substitute for plot - and I got about two-thirds of the way through before I decided I really didn't care any more.There's a sequel to this now, written many years after the original publication of this book: the follow-up is The Dragons of Babel, but I can't see myself bothering with it...

  • Kara
    2019-03-30 22:51

    I don't know how to rate this book. It's staid with me years after I read yet - yet I never felt the urge to read ti again, or tell anyone else they should read it. The faerie realm never felt so real - or so modern. There are factories, cops, malls, high schools, colleges, duplexes - all the trappings of urban and suburban life, but populated entirely by the fair folk, who act very similar, except when the occasional Beltane sacrifice or Samhien orgy comes along. And there's magic and spells deftly mixed in with the wires and electricity of the everyday world.The main character is the lone human and forced to hide the fact. She meets exactly one other human the entire book - who's in a coma. Her partner-in-crime, the dragon, is missing most of the book, leaving mostly on her own to stumble through the story.>Spoiler<She wonders most of the book if she has some sort of special purpose, even as she is just hanging out and not really trying to accomplish anything. its almost satisfying, after seeing her do nothing but whine and angst for so long to be told she is merely a "margin of error."

  • Megan Doreen
    2019-04-26 18:07

    This was the first adult scifi book I ever read. I snuck it home from the Eugene, OR public library when I was 12...since I wouldn't have been allowed to read it. I remember finding it strange, and confusing, and crude...although I didn't understand the crudity fully, I knew it was bad.I think I always attributed that opinion to the fact that I was too young to read the book at the time. I had since looked it up online and noticed that it won all sorts of awards.So, almost 20 years later, I got it through interlibrary is still just as confusing and unclear as it ever was. And now that I understand the crudity, it is WAY more troublesome. Especially because most of it is in no way necessary to furthering the plot. It serves no purpose in the literary arc.I don't really recommend this book to anyone. If you want dragon books, or post apocalyptic fairy novels, or disturbingly dark scifi...I can make you any number of better recommendations. The Snow Queen for example.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-04-13 20:52

    Not so long ago, I was reading a forum discussion talking about how fantasy worlds never seem to progress past a medieval level of technology; and whether or not it's possible to write a technological fantasy world that is clearly not science fiction.This book does it, with its plethora of faerie creatures - and our protagonist, a changeling - working in factories and dealing with magical/robotic creations. The book is complex, with strikingly original ideas, and a carefully plotted structure that at first seems pointlessly rambling. As the spiraling theme of the story is revealed, the reader realizes that the plot has also been following that spiral theme.It's well done; even impressive. The book probably deserved to win at least one of the several awards it was nominated for. However, I didn't love it, emotionally. Even though it deftly slipped out of the 'it was all just a dream, or mental illness' thing that I had a suspicion it was sliding toward, for a while. I feel like I appreciated this book - it just didn't become one of my favorites.

  • Cia
    2019-04-03 20:02

    I wanted to like this so badly. The premise was great, the opening chapters were great...Then we get bogged down in Jane's sexual encounters. There's one chapter littered with the word "cunt". I was so disappointed. Once again, a potentially amazing book is ruined by the author's preoccupation with slut-shaming his heroine. I realise this book is from the 90s, but this is entirely symptomatic of how male authors treat female protagonists. In order to get ahead? Shag allllll the mystical creatures. I almost wish this wasn't a book for my dissertation, I'm that disappointed by it. I wouldn't recommend it, unless you want to learn how to do a ritual to name your muffin. The only reason this has one star is because the opening chapters set in the factory and the initial plotline of the book are so enjoyable.The rest? Utter pish.

  • Gwern
    2019-04-17 18:05

    I read it based on Anatoly Vorobey's review:"This is fantasy for adults: complex flawed characters, a world rich in detail, multitude of characters who live and do things for their own sake rather than to advance a plot point or help the hero. Utter disregard for conventions and cliches of the genre. A hero who is an anti-Mary Sue. Endless inventiveness of the author. To my taste, this novel is what books like The Kingkiller Chronicles promise, but then utterly fail to deliver. But if you're a fan of Rothfuss, try Swanwick anyway, and you might get a fuller and richer taste of what you like."I liked it a lot after I got through the initial section in the factory, which was over-the-top Dickensian enough to make me wonder if it was worthwhile. But it got better, and began unfurling into a mad Victorian/fantasy cross, heavy on the social oppression & economic exploitation, reminiscent of China Miéville's bourgeois imperialist New Crobuzon. The plot breaks down into a few discrete chunks of the protagonist Jane's life, which while highlighting the ruthless nature of life in a universe where the gods are real (the homecoming queen being sacrificed may be horrifying, but the consequences of not sacrificing are even more dire, as one memorable nihilist character makes clear; and our own society does not hesitate to sacrifice lives for its own ends, as with, say, coal-burning power plants) also highlight her cowardice and selfishness in betraying her friends instead of... what? We're not too clear, as the world begins melting and things get weird in an Invisibles or Dick-style turn towards radical ontological uncertainty. (The dragon, incidentally, appears in far less of the novel than one would expect from the title.)This may sound tedious, but Swanwick really does throw all sorts of fascinating little twists in along the way that keep one reading: malls where time literally stops so you can shop to your heart's content; factories with 'time clocks' that age one if one doesn't clock out; live gargoyles, with all the food requirements flying stone entails; a man who shrinks in his wife's regard for being a coward until he's the size of a homunculus & is trapped in a jar begging for death; markets in entertaining slaves among the eloi upper-class elves; magical engineers who are castrated to ensure they do not damage the magics they work with; academics who assault the castles of the gods in the quest for knowledge, and get burned; universities with purges that are literally decimating... Still, it's a happy ending, I think. Swanwick puts it amusingly in a page of explanations:I gave her T as a reward for making it through to the end of the novel he's the one worldly thing she wants - and, quite to my surprise, the Goddess threw in K as well. What happens next? Does Jane marry T and keep K as best friend? Does K steal T from her? Do they all fall into bed together? This one I really don't know because the real reward I gave Jane for making it to the end of the book was freedom. I ran across Carol Emshwiller just after she finished writing Ledoyt and she said she was in mourning, that all these people she had lived with for years were suddenly gone and it felt as if they'd all died. "Doesn't it feel that way to you, too, when you finish a novel?" she asked. I thought about it. "No," I decided. "It feels like all these characters who have suffered under my persecuting hand have been set free. I imagine them running joyfully in all directions, as hard and fast as they can, so that I can never catch them and put them in another book again."Anyway, going over some of the parts of it which amused me while I was reading... You know your fantasy is grim and imaginative when astrology is due to educational corruption:"Hello? I was sent here for remedial?" The pale man looked up. He nodded wanly. Unhastily, without emphasis, he picked up a book, opened it, paged forward a leaf, and then back one. "There are three stars in the heavens," he said, "moving about Jupiter, erratic sidereal bodies which establish a lesser zodiacal process for that wanderer in its mighty twelve-year progression about the sun."..."Excuse me," she said hesitantly, "but what effect do these minor planets have on our behavior and fortunes? I mean, you know, astrological influence?" He looked at her. "None.""None at all?" "No." "But if the planets affect our fortunes—" She stumbled to a stop at the dispassionately scornful look on the pale man's face, the slow way he shook his head. "Surely you'll agree that the planets order and control our destinies?" "They do not." "Not at all?" "No." "Then what does? Control our destinies, I mean." "The only external forces that have any influence on us are those we can see every day: the smile, the frown, the fist, the brick wall. What you call 'destiny' is merely a semantic fallacy, the attribution of purpose to blind causality. Insofar as any of us are compelled to resist the flow of random events, we are driven solely by internal drives and forces." Jane seized on this last. "Then what you're saying is that our fate lies within us, right?" He shook his head. "If so, it must be extremely small and impossibly distant. I would not suggest you put any reliance in such an insignificant entity."'...She waited, but he did not elaborate. "In introductory astrology they told us that each person has a tutelary star and that each star has its own mineral, color, and musical tone, and a plant as well that is a specific for the disease that is caused by that star's occultation." "All untrue. The stars do not concern themselves in the least with us. Our total extinction would mean nothing to them." "But why?" Jane cried. "If it's not true, why would they teach it to us?"A dry fingertip tapped the page not impatiently but pedagogically. "All courses require textbooks, charts, and teaching aids. By the time the information codified as astrology was discredited and became obsolete, it had a constituency. Certain...personages benefit from the supply contracts."Nihilist the plot may seem to be, but it's leavened with some sharp satire; for example, bureaucracy in the factory:At last, late in the day, the inspector general arrived. A wave of dread preceded the elf-lord through the plant. Not a kobold or korrigan, not a spunky, pillywiggin, nor lowliest dunter but knew the inspector general was coming. The air shivered in anticipation of his arrival. A glimmering light went just before him, causing all heads to turn, all work to stop, the instant before he turned a corner or entered a shop. He appeared in the doorway. Tall and majestic he was in an Italian suit and tufted silk tie. He wore a white hard hat. His face was square-jawed and handsome in a more than human way, and his hair and teeth were perfect. Two high-ranking Tylwyth Teg accompanied him, clipboards in hand, and a vulture-headed cost analyst from Accounting trailed in his wake.School:After Grunt had called attendance, he cleared his throat. "The Three B's," he said. "The Three B's are your guide to scholastic excellence. The Three B's are your gold key to the doorway of the future. Now—all together—what are they?" "Be-lieve," the class mumbled. "Be-have. Be Silent." "What was that last?" He cupped a hand to his ear. "Be Silent!" "I caaaaaan't heeeeear you." "BE SILENT!" "Good."It was only when she went to empty out her locker that Jane realized how overgrown it had become. Orchids and jungle vines filled most of the space within and a hummingbird fled into the corridor when she banged open the door.Consumerism:It was a scorcher outside, but the mall was kept so cool that Jane was sorry she hadn't brought a sweater. The place was jammed with fugitives from the heat. They were recreational rather than serious shoppers, most of them. Their hands were empty and their eyes were clear.College roommate strife:"The dissection manual?" Monkey asked airily. "I ate it." "You what?" "I ate it. Why else would I want it? I was hungry and I ate it." "But I need it for class.""Then you shouldn't have given it to me." Monkey's beady eyes glittered strangely, maliciously, in her round face. "Really, Jane, you can be so dim at times." With a sudden standing backflip she disappeared through the doorway. Jane's hands clenched. But really it was no more than she had learned to expect. Roommates were forever eating your books, having anxiety attacks, adopting rats and carnivorous slimes which they then expected you to feed, getting drunk and throwing up on your best dress, moving into the closet and refusing to come out for months on end, threatening suicide the night before Finals, leaving piles of rotting leaves in the middle of the floor, entertaining boyfriends in your bed because it was made and theirs not, evolving into large bloodsucking insects. Monkey was actually good of her kind. Well, she could always pick up a new manual.Monkey snatched the pencil from her hand and snapped it in two. Jane closed her eyes and traced the sigil of Baphomet with her inner vision. When she was calm again, she slid open a drawer."All right." There was a pair of latex gloves within. "I wasn't going to do this." She pulled them on. "But you don't exactly give me much choice, do you?" Credit where credit is due, Monkey didn't back down. There was a touch of the trickster in her heritage, and the trickster gene was a dominant. She licked her lips nervously as Jane pretended to lift an invisible box from the drawer. "You don't scare me." "Good." Jane swung a hinged lid back and reached within. "It works best if you don't believe." She removed an equally imaginary scalpel and held it up between thumb and forefinger, admiringly turning it one way and the other. "What are you going to do with that?" Jane smiled. "This!" She slammed her fist into Monkey's stomach.Academia:"I have been going over your laboratory reports, Miss Alderberry." Dr. Nemesis put an arm through hers, and walked her toward the front. "They are, if I may confide in you, disappointing, most disappointing in a student of your potential." "I've been having trouble with the sophic—"..."You must surely realize why I am concerned for you." "Well..." Jane didn't really, but that double glare bored into her, waiting for an intelligent response. "I'm here on a merit scholarship, so I suppose—" "No!" Dr. Nemesis stamped her foot impatiently. As if in response the elevator door slid open. She steered Jane outside. They were on an office level now. The walls were decorated with large unframed oils of umbrellas and sides of beef. The runners on the hall floors smelled new. "I am not talking about mere money, but about your very survival! This is a Teind year, surely you must know that." Jane nodded, meaning no. "The department heads are even now assembling the list of those 10% of the students who are... expendable. Your name, Miss Alderberry, is going to be on that list unless you straighten up and fly right." She glared at her: weakly, sternly...."What set me straight was one particular incident. My adviser, none other than the wizard Bongay himself mind you, had obtained grant money from the Horned Man Foundation to create a divinatory engine in the form of a brazen head. This was, you will understand, very early in the history of cybernetics. It was all done with vacuum tubes then...Then he saw how the head glowed and how the solder ran in little rivulets from the seams in its neck and with it the gold and silver of its circuitry. Then did the wizard Bongay himself scream, in such fury that I fled for fear of his wrath." She laughed. "He lost tenure over that incident, and his life as well. That happened near the end of the fiscal year, and the University had been relying on that grant money. Everybody involved with that fiasco was executed by order of the Bursar." "How did you survive?""They needed somebody to write the final report."The University library opened its doors at midnight and closed at dawn. The rationale given for such extraordinary hours was that they discouraged dilettantes and idlers from wasting the library's facilities.Even for the School of Grammarie, which was widely held to have pushed the concept of liberal arts to an extreme, Professor Tarapple was grotesque. A burnt and crisped cinder of a creature was he, blackened and small, his limbs charred sticks, his torso rendered, reduced, and carbonized. His mouth hung open and his step was slow and painful. He seemed a catalog of the infirmities of age. He felt for the microphone. His hand closed about it with a soft boom, then retreated. The charred sockets of his eyes rose toward the ceiling. Jane realized that he was blind....Professor Tarapple groped for a laser pointer, leaving sooty handprints on the lectern top. He directed the pointer toward the slide with motions as jerky and unconvincing as a rod puppet's. The red dot of light jiggled off to the side of the screen. "This is—" The head wobbled. "This is—is Spiral Castle itself." Nobody so much as breathed. "No one but I myself has ever delved so deep into the Goddess's mysteries. The Ocean above which it is suspended is Time itself, and so far as could be determined with our limited instrumentation extends to infinity in all directions. Next slide."...Jane was having a hard time following the lecture. The harsh white image of Spiral Castle was like a magnesium flare. It swelled and dwindled in her vision, as if softly breathing. Her eyes pulsed, aching when she tried to follow the logic of its involutions. She had to look away..."Toadswivers! Curly-mounted bobtail jades! Codheaded pigfuck bastards!" With a start, Jane came to herself. Throughout the auditorium, the audience members were rousing themselves. A Teggish professor directly before Jane's seat straightened with a lurch and a snort. A gnome to her left passed a hand over his mushroom-spotted pate. Professor Tarapple had abandoned his lecture in a rage. He was berating his audience. "Only one being—one! me!—has ever delved so far into the Goddess's secrets and returned to talk of them. By cannon-fire, holy water, and bells, listen to me! I risked more than life and sanity to bring you these photographs. I—I—I was once young and tall and handsome. I had friends who died in this expedition and will never be reborn. We were caught and punished and punished again. I alone escaped. Look at me! See the price that I paid! So many times I have tried to tell you! Why do you never listen?" He was weeping now. "Woe!" he cried. "Alas for those who seek after Truth, for such is the Goddess's most hoarded treasure. Ah, she is cruel and unfathomable, and bitter, bitter is her vengeance." The lights came gently up. The applause was thunderous.One of the parts towards the end which particularly reminded me of The Invisibles:"One time, passing through the Carolinas somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M., Jerry and I picked up a white Lotus with two blonds in it. We honked and waved. They gave us the finger and put the pedal to the metal. I did the same, of course, but even with dual carbs it was no contest. We had a muscle car but they had a sex machine. They made us eat their dust....Ten-fifteen miles down the road we saw the Lotus in a Roy Rogers lot. We pulled in for some take-out burgers. There they were. We struck up a conversation. When we left, Jerry-D went with the driver of the Lotus. Her friend went with me...Anyway, there I was, a blond in pink hot pants rubbing up against me. I had my foot to the floor, her tongue in my ear, and her hand down my pants. I pushed up her halter top and squeezed her breasts. The air shimmered with the immanence of revelation. Little Richard was singing 'Tutti-Frutti' on the radio and it somehow seemed significant that what I was hearing had been electromagnetically encoded, transmitted as modulated radiation, reconstructed by the radio as sound, and only reinterpreted as music somewhere within the dark reaches of my head. I felt then that the world was an illusion - and a rather shabby one at that, an image projected upon the thinnest of membranes, and that were I to push at it just right, I could step out of the world entirely. I unbuttoned her shorts. She wriggled a little to help. I slid my hand under her panties. I was thinking that everything was information when I found myself clutching an erect penis. I whipped my head around. The blond was grinning wildly into my face. My hand involuntarily tightened about her cock. Her hand tightened about mine. They might have been the same hand. We might have been one person twinned. The car was up to about 100 mph. I wasn't even looking where we were going. I didn't care.It was in that instant that I achieved enlightenment."And finally, the gargoyle passage. It's too long to quote, but I've posted it at

  • Bellish
    2019-03-29 21:57

    Having read the various 1 star and 5 star reviews I still feel the need to say something about this book.Although the writing is in fact good, reading The Iron Dragon's Daughter was an incredibly unpleasant experience. Most of the goings on are randomly and deeply nasty. Poorly sketched out secondary characters come and go seemingly at without rhyme or reason. The mechanics of the world make no sense except for what can be guessed at from fantasy tropes and myths. There is no tension because the reader doesn't have a clue what the stakes are.There were occasional joyous moments, like gryphons who dive for beer cans and the fatal mating habits of gargoyles, and moments of sharp (if depressing) satire, but these were usually only isolated paragraphs in the otherwise rambling and confusing narrative. At times it felt obvious that the author was just taking the piss, but these passages just jarred.An illustrative example: Jane is performing some exotic and mysterious (and deeply unsexy) sex magic ritual with one of the annoying interchangeable male characters in order to name her vagina to give it more power (yes, you read that right; names are power, of course). As a concept, not fantastic to begin with, but whatever, after 200 pages I was determined to carry on. We have pages of description developing a rich portentous atmosphere only to reach a climax in which she gives it the powerful unknowable name of... "Little Jane". I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.A lot of reviewers mention the sex and violence content. I'm not overly adverse to either but the problem was the deep pointlessness of both. I suppose that was the point: the deep pointlessness of life. Unfortunately this translated into a deeply pointless novel. Pick it up at your peril.

  • Res
    2019-04-13 20:55

    The one where Jane, a changeling and child laborer in a world where magic and industry coexist, steals (or is stolen by) a giant, intelligent machine called a dragon.This book gets three stars from me on the basis of the worldbuilding, which is fantastic. It reminds me of Wicked: familiar and strange and neverendingly inventive. But it's full of cruelties large and small, and it's unrelentingly nihilistic. Which would have been more powerful if Jane were fighting with all her might against indifferent fate, but she's not; she's drifting through life with no affection or loyalty toward anybody, no particular goals, forever engaging in pointless rebellions and yet never asserting herself in any meaningful way.

  • Peter Tillman
    2019-04-06 20:49

    This is very likely Swanwick's masterwork. I've read it at least three times, and got something new each time. Not to be missed. Here's Dave Truesdale's comments on Iron Dragon’sDaughter and the 2008 sort-of sequel, The Dragons of Babel:"In 1994, Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter broke new ground and blew everyone away with its heady mix of dystopian dark Faerie and Dickensian machine-age steampunk. It was a truly one-of-a-kind work and I now think it fair to say a fantasy classic."LInk to original [caution, SPOILERS] (view spoiler)[ spoiler)]Swanwick's comments are fascinating. If you like this sort of thing, there's lots more at [caution, SPOILERS](view spoiler)[ spoiler)]

  • Blind_guardian
    2019-03-27 23:43

    One of the most intriguing books of science fantasy I've ever read, Iron Dragon's Daughter is set in a strange world that is best described as 'faerie cyberpunk.' Our heroine, Jane, is a changeling, a human child brought into a dark world of faeries, half-breeds and monsters both natural and technological. Jane starts the book working in a factory that produces dragons, huge flying mechs armed with state-of-the-art weaponry, using her unusual ancestry to practice her skills as a thief. One day, she discovers a dragon that appears to have been scrapped, but is merely injured and camouflaging itself amongst its broken down brethren. The dragon offers her a way out of her miserable life, even if that method should involve tearing down the walls of reality itself.

  • Robert
    2019-04-09 21:01

    Inventive and twisted, this is a dark solipsistic (or perhaps nihilistic) vision of a drug-fueled sex-laced industrial fantasy world. This book is a mixture of sh** and honey, and as such, the inventive good parts can't overcome the feeling that one has consumed something unpleasant and unhealthy. It rates two stars because I find value in both the good inventive parts and the chance for an insight into a mind of someone who is most unlike me. I'm sure this book will stick with me -- but I can't in good conscience recommend it.

  • Mark J. Saxton
    2019-03-28 02:03

    What begins brilliantly and appears to have the makings of a steam punk classic, wanders off into an unholy mess of disagreeable characters and fantasy cliches existing in a world that is wholly incomprehensible. Had I not read it on holiday I would have binned it a third of the way through and as it was just flicked through the final chapters, by which time I didn't have a care for anyone or anything within its pages.

  • Nenangs
    2019-04-15 20:44

    I rarely disliked a fantasy novel. But this one really got to my nerves. I could not enjoy reading the book. I just finished it for the sake of "have nothing else to read" at that moment.Sorry.

  • Tracey
    2019-04-25 02:09

    I enjoyed the beginning of this, although it confused me. I enjoyed the premise, and the dragon, and although the darkness and grimness of the setting had me on edge, I could appreciate the fact that it did so. If that makes sense. It wasn't my preferred type of setting – I like there to be just a little light somewhere, and I admit I do prefer to like a character or two in what I'm reading – but it was well done and fascinating. I was confused because it's never explicitly stated where and/or when this book is set. There are elves and dragons and invisible boys, but one of the elves wears an Italian suit. I don't recall any of the characters mentioned being plain vanilla humans (although I think Jane was perceived as one?), but the young ones (those not enslaved in factories, at least) still have to go to school. And the teind is a thing, treated alarmingly like The Bachelorette. But, again, I could appreciate the craft, whether I enjoyed it or not.It was when Jane, our heroine who allies herself with the title's iron dragon, gets out into the world and into school that the book took a sharp downward turn for me. It actually got darker and darker – the world that this is set in is a horrifying, dismal, dangerous, ugly place, and Jane – understandably not a sweet and wholesome girl to start with – adapts to the horror and darkness and danger in ways that made her more and more difficult to read about. A line which perfectly captured it was "For all that she’d had no great expectations for it, sex was turning out to be even more squalid, tawdry, and cynical than she had suspected it would." I gave up somewhere around the 50% point, I believe – I just couldn't push through. This is not due to the book – it's a case of "it's not you it's me". I just didn't enjoy it. My decision about rating a book I don't finish is always case by case. There are times I won't leave a rating. If the book is dreadful enough that I can't or just won't finish it, I'm not going to hesitate to express that in the rating: it's usually going to be a single star. If I fail to finish a book because it's simply not to my taste, it's usually two-starrer. I think I'm just going to leave this one starless – what I appreciated was very good. The rise and fall of the meryons was marvelous. I am sorry not to find out what happens. But I got out because I was beginning to feel soiled reading it.A quote and an idea that I did love: “So you’re saying … that I’m living a story in which I don’t get financial aid? Is that it?” He shook his head. “It’s not you. The secretary is living a story in which she doesn’t give you financial aid. It’s a subtle distinction, but a crucial one. It gives you an out.”The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

  • Chris
    2019-04-20 19:09

    I think I should start off with a warning: This is a dark tale. It's a story about cruelty, betrayal, callousness, depravity, theft, drug use, and ultimately, about remorse. But the remorse has no impact if we do not pass through the darkness that precedes it. This is not a novel about the nobility of elves, rather it is about the other kinds of tales that surround them. The darker ones. Another reviewer described this as Faerie Cyberpunk, and I'd say that's not inaccurate. Tolkien impresses us with the nobility of his elves, but other elven myths speak of the actions of the Seelie and the Unseelie courts. It might be best if prospective readers thought of this tale as one focusing on the Unseelie side of things. It's a Michael Swanwick story, so it's beautifully written, with lovely, evocative descriptions. But the things those descriptions evoke are not pretty, or kind. I recommend the book highly, it's one of my favorites, and I've read it several times. But looking over the reviews by other people, I think many come to this book with very different expectations regarding what to expect out of a story about Faeries and are disappointed with what they find. This is a powerful story, but it's bleak, and filled with sadness and failure. It's a great story, but don't read it expecting to be uplifted.