The first on my pile of books to review is Dragons Wild by Robert Asprin.
This is the first book in a series. Unfortunately, due to Asprin's untimely death, there is only one more book in the series. This book does a fair job at reaching a stopping point in an ongoing story.
This is a story about how some of the people around us aren't actually human. I enjoy this theme in general, and when the non-humans are called dragons, I'm disposed to enjoy it. Asprin is pretty vague and not completely consistent about the nature of dragons. It's tolerable in a fluffy book, but it's hard to be very original while being so vague. The main thing that's fun about this book is its setting. Most of the book is set in the French Quarter, where Asprin lived for the later part of his life. The Quarter in this book is vividly drawn and fascinating, and has the feel of bring drawn from personal experience. While I suspect that other people who live there see the place a little differently, this book feels like Asprin is telling us about the place he really lived in and loved, with certain characters being dragons to make it a fantasy novel.
This book is fast paced and unpretentious. It's not deeply serious, but it doesn't have the obvious humor of the more familiar Myth series.
Nothing for the ages, but it was fun. 7 out of 10.
**** PLOT HIGHLIGHTS -- SPOILERS ****
I'm several books behind now and I'm having trouble remembering much of the story here; maybe that says something about the quality of the story.
Griffen McCandles ("Grifter" to his friends) has just finished skating through college more on his ability to read his professors for what they want on tests than on actually applying himself. His rich uncle put him through school, but his own skill at poker kept him in luxuries like his classic British sportster. Now, he has to get a job, but he doesn't want to really work, so he goes to his uncle looking for a cushy spot, and the uncle drops the bombshell: Griffen is a dragon. So's his uncle. Dragons, as we will learn, are some nebulous protean beings who can pass for human and interbreed with humans but also have other powers. Griffen freaks. He tries to convince himself that his uncle is nuts and lighting the cigar by breathing fire on it was some kind of a trick. He doesn't want to have his uncle train him to be a dragon, so he runs. Other dragons start approaching him and variously try to recruit, control, or kill him. His girlfriend came from one faction and his best buddy Jerome from another. A mysterious stranger leaves a Knight of Swords card in his room. When a couple of good old boys try to run him off the road, and after he escapes he retaliates, using his superior driving ability to force one into the ditch, he realizes that he's starting to believe something's up. He grabs his sister, a couple of years younger, since she may be in danger too, and runs off to the French Quarter with Jerome. Jerome's family are low-status dragons, running an illegal gambling network and staying off of the bigger dragons' radar screens. We spend the rest of the book enjoying the underside of life in the Quarter as Griffen gradually accepts his draconic heritage, takes over the gambling operation, quickly starts gaining power and influence as people want to join him (that's one of the powers of dragons), and generally has a great time except for the stranger with the tarot cards who's stalking him. His dragon friends know little about this guy, but what they do know is that he's a hit man called the George who stalks his victim, showing off his power, until the victim cracks, and then takes one real shot at making the kill; if the victim survives that, the George is done, unless someone pays him again. In the big fight at the end, the assassin reveals that he's really a network, so if they come after Griffen again, it will actually be a different guy. This one, at least, is another shapeshifter called a chimera. They have a big fight at the end. Griffen proves himself tougher than the George expected, but the George is pretty much unkillable. He declares that Griffen has survived and is off the hook.