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The Iron Dragon's Daughter

by Michael Swanwick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World of the Iron Dragon (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2083711,891 (3.74)44
A New York Times Notable Book: "Combining cyberpunk's grit with dystopic fantasy, this iconoclastic hybrid is a standout piece of storytelling" (Library Journal). Jane is trapped as a changeling in an industrialized Faerie ruled by aristocratic high elves and populated by ogres, dwarves, night-gaunts, and hags. She is the only human in a factory where underage forced labor builds cybernetic, magical dragons that are weaponized and sent off to war. When the damaged dragon Melanchthon tempts Jane with promises of freedom, the stage is set for a daring escape that will shake the foundations of existence.   Combining alchemy and technology, a coming-of-age story like no other, The Iron Dragon's Daughter takes place against a dystopic mindscape of dark challenges and class struggles that force Jane to make costly decisions at every turn.   A finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and the 1994 Locus Award, The Iron Dragon's Daughter a is one-of-a-kind melding of grimdark fantasy and cyberpunk grit from the Nebula Award-winning author of Stations of the Tide. It engages the reader in a nihilistic world in which nothing is as it seems and everything comes at a steep and often horrific price.… (more)
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» See also 44 mentions

English (36)  Finnish (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This is one of those novels that will either enthrall you or disappoint. I'm not really a fan of dark fantasy and this wasn't really my type of book. To really enjoy a book for me I have to like at least one of the characters in the book and honestly there wasn't one character I really liked.
The story starts in a factory that echoes dickensian factory; the twist is that this world is a fantasy world and our heroine, Jane, is a changeling. Her life changes when she encounters an old worn out Iron dragon that offers her a way out.
She goes to school and discovers her power, which includes using sex, it's often emotionless and in some ways boring. She gets into shoplifting and has to avoid the teint, which is where the lower end of the classes are sacraficed.
Honestly I didn't care. I had no feeling for any of the characters and as the world unfolded I felt no investment in the world and couldn't care less if it went away and then felt somewhat cheated by the end.
It falls into the list of books where I get why it might be appealing to some people but it's not for me. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Jan 14, 2021 |
My rating is based on the sheer inventiveness on display is this book - otherwise I was disappointed. The plot is disjointed at best, none of the characters are memorable and hardly anything makes any kind of sense. If the main character is cruel and self-serving (as are the rest of the cast of characters), one would hope that the plot would help to salvage things. But nothing seems to get anywhere toward moving things along - we are treated to scene after scene of vaguely pornographic sex, new characters are added and subtracted willy-nilly and they all just seem to wallow in irredeemable debauchery. I suppose if the sex were a bit more graphic that I would be rating it higher (as porn). BUT sadly the plot is all over the place and it's difficult to make heads or tails of anything that happens. All the in between stuff that normally binds a book together seems to have been edited out. Overall judgment: Lacking in focus and confusing.

Most cogent quotation: "Life exists, and all who live are born to suffer. The best moments are fleeting and bought with the coin of exquisite torment. All attachments end. All loved ones die. All that you value passes away." ( )
  dbsovereign | Dec 7, 2020 |
[a:China Miéville|33918|China Miéville|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1243988363p2/33918.jpg] calls this book "a truly great anti-fantasy" and that's just what it is. A cyberpunk, steampunk industrial revolution set in a grim, gritty faerie world where child labor is used to make war machines that, among other things, harvest human children from the mundane world. The main character, Jane, is one of these changelings and this is her coming-of-age story as a human in this bizarre magical faerie world.

I feel like this could use a re-read to fully absorb. ( )
  CatherineMachineGun | Jul 31, 2020 |
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. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Fantastic. There's a full review in me somewhere, and when I get around to really digesting this book, I'll probably write it. For now I'll say this: Unlike any fantasy novel I've ever read. ( )
  Ubiquitine | Nov 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Swanwickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Taylor, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, DorianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The changeling's decision to steal a dragon and escape was born, though she did not know it then, the night the children met to plot the death of their supervisor.
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A New York Times Notable Book: "Combining cyberpunk's grit with dystopic fantasy, this iconoclastic hybrid is a standout piece of storytelling" (Library Journal). Jane is trapped as a changeling in an industrialized Faerie ruled by aristocratic high elves and populated by ogres, dwarves, night-gaunts, and hags. She is the only human in a factory where underage forced labor builds cybernetic, magical dragons that are weaponized and sent off to war. When the damaged dragon Melanchthon tempts Jane with promises of freedom, the stage is set for a daring escape that will shake the foundations of existence.   Combining alchemy and technology, a coming-of-age story like no other, The Iron Dragon's Daughter takes place against a dystopic mindscape of dark challenges and class struggles that force Jane to make costly decisions at every turn.   A finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and the 1994 Locus Award, The Iron Dragon's Daughter a is one-of-a-kind melding of grimdark fantasy and cyberpunk grit from the Nebula Award-winning author of Stations of the Tide. It engages the reader in a nihilistic world in which nothing is as it seems and everything comes at a steep and often horrific price.

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