by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Dragon Tax, by Madison Keller
Portland, OR, Hundeliebe Press, June 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (141 pages), Kindle $2.99.
This lighthearted little book is an expansion of the short story that appeared in the RainFurrest 2015 charity anthology, A Menagerie of Heroes; now out of print. Sybil Dragonsbane, a young professional dragon slayer, is called to the Kingdom of Thima. It has a dragon problem – but not the usual kind:
“‘Actually, we quite like having a dragon on the island,’ the King sat forward, eyes shining. Multiple chins jiggled as he wagged his hard around theatrically. ‘They bring lots of adventurers through the town, adventurers who all pay for a permit to hunt the dragon. They drop gold at local businesses before going off on their hunt. Whether they survive or not, that is not my problem.’” (pgs. 5-6)
None of the previous dragon hunters have survived, and the dragon has amassed quite a pile of gold and gems. Now King Jonathan has decided to tax it. The problem is getting the dragon to pay the tax. That’s why he has summoned Sybil; to offer her the new post of Thima’s dragon tax collector:
“‘My fee is double.’ Sybil placed her hands on her daggers.
‘Double?’ the King roared, surging to his feet. ‘I’m not asking you to kill the thing.’
‘True, what you’re asking is even more dangerous. You’re asking me to leave a dragon alive, a dragon that now will know my scent and my tricks. If that won’t work for you …’” (p. 8)
What happens, about a third of the way through, is unexpected. It is probably supposed to be a major surprise to the reader, but it is impossible to keep from giving away a spoiler and to go on reviewing the final 2/3 of the book. Briefly, Riastel the dragon turns human; Sybil learns that King Jonathan and his wizard Baldwin lied to her and have a more sinister plot, and the dragonhunter and dragon-turned-human team up to save both their lives. Also, Sybil is a young woman and Riastel makes a very handsome and hunky human male. Romance ensues. This is Book One of a series, so the reader will not be surprised to have an ending that leads to further adventures.