This week for Wyrd and Wonder’s Fantastic Fives it’s all about magical creatures. Five to be precise: the dragon, the phoenix, Pegasus, the raven and the wolf – creatures that have each stood as mascot for Wyrd and Wonder, or the Spooktastic Reads mini-event, over the years.
So let us push our way stealthily through the trees, careful not to break a twig underfoot in case we startle the creatures waiting for us up ahead …
When it comes to dragons I’m spoiled for choice: Daniel Abraham, Marie Brennan, Naomi Novik, Jo Walton, Jen Williams (to name only a handful of authors) have all written incredible dragons. But if we’re talking favourites (and we are), and if I’m trying to choose something a little idiosyncratic (I am), then it has to be Loiosh from Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series. Loiosh is a jhereg, a small dragon-like creature from the jungle who enters Vlad’s life while still an egg. He is Vlad’s familiar and companion and is fabulously sarcastic. The two of them make a great pair (Vlad’s pretty sarcastic himself), and their friendship is one of the many delights to be found in these books.
Muriel the phoenix is a recurring character in The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A J Fitzwater, and one of my absolute favourites. She bursts into flame, often mid-sentence, because she is experiencing the menopause, and her friends sweep up her ashes and pop her in a bucket until she “pulls herself together” on several occasions. Did I mention she has visions of the future too? She does. Because Muriel is awesome.
This was an unusual book that I probably wouldn’t have picked up at all had it been written by someone other than Robin McKinley. But McKinley is consistently fabulous, and I was easily swept up with the story of Sylvi and Ebon – bonded princess and Pegasus companions – and with McKinley’s utterly fascinating imagining of Pegasi culture. But a warning: this book ends on a cliff-hanger and a following volume has yet to be published. (Please note: this is an observation for the benefit of anyone considering reading Pegasus and not an invitation to speculate on what’s become of Robin McKinley – that’s none of my business unless she puts it out there herself. Sorry to be prickly).
Matthew Cable was once a man, now he is the raven companion of Morpheus in the Dreaming. He acts as the Lord of Dream’s eyes and ears in a kind of echo of Odin’s Huginn and Muninn, and while he remembers being a man, and the “rotten things” he did, he’s now thoroughly corvid in inclination, (other than being able to talk, of course), eating carrion and pecking out eyeballs and other such things.
OK, this is a little bit of a stretch: the Phouka in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks can shapeshift between human form and that of a big black dog. Since dogs are still 98.8% wolves and I really liked the Phouka, I’m running with it. If for no other reason than that he has style in spades. The Phouka is enigmatic, rather dashing and gorgeously clothed at all times. What’s not to love?