Shades of Crimson

The mythsterhood loves exploring all forms of mythology: literature, art, games, even song. What brought us together was the love of a good myth. So in addition to our own dragon content, we wanted to pass on some modern myths to our listeners. In our Dragon Tails blog series, you’ll find reviews of stories collected from a variety of media.

This week Jaz gushes over the Sarah Prineas story, The Illuminated Dragon. The story appeared in Strange Horizons on June 3rd, 2002.

So, I just finished reading this story that literally gave me all the feelings. All of them. Heartbreak, hope, fury, grief…

In this story, Sarah Prineas hits the entire spectrum, as far as I’m concerned. I had to read it a few times, sleep on it a few more, and even then, I find it hard to actually say something about it. And yet, I keep thinking about it.

There’s so much to love here. The prose is absolutely stunning, and I can’t decide whether to turn green with envy or a vibrant shade of sky blue with sheer joy. There were sentences and paragraphs I reread, slowly, so I could savour Prineas’ use of language. There were images so vivid they made me gasp.

The main character, Rafe, is such an unlikely hero, I can’t help but love him. And yet, unlikely or not, the transformation he undergoes is immense. From the first paragraphs, we get the suggestion that what he’s doing is not exactly legal. And yet when he describes the tools of his craft, I can’t help but wonder what’s so horrible about pigments, brushes and inks, that it requires regulations so extreme.

Then, we learn of his magical talents. And then we learn of the guilt he seems to carry for having survived when his friends did not. And then, we get to watch him reclaim his power and agency. We get to cheer for him, bite our nails and cross our fingers for his survival. We get to watch him become a furious badass who is done taking shit from his oppressors.

Gods. I feel like such an idiot, writing a review so glowy I don’t even need to turn on the lights in my house.

The themes, though the piece will turn eighteen in a month or so, feel so relevant. The idea that imagination, magic and wonder are not merely useless and unproductive, but despicable. Illegal. Grounds for torture. It’s a scary parallel to draw with our own world, where it’s all about the profit margin. Often, the arts are undervalued in our society, simply because we don’t contribute enough to the aforementioned profit margin.

Not to mention the theme of censorship. Smothering those voices — or paintbrushes — that dare to disagree with the dominant class and ideology.

These themes, sadly, are universal. But the way in which this story addresses them has my very warm approval. I mean. Dragons. How can you go wrong with that?

And the ending. Oh my Goddess, the ending. It had me cheering and biting my nails and rushing down the page to find out and…

Believe me. This is a story you must read.

Jasmine Arch

Jaz, also known as the Wolf Mother, is a writer, poet, narrator, and vessel of chaos. She is eternally grateful for her mother’s refusal to curtail her children in their choices–whether that was literature, spirituality, studies, or appearance–and grew up devouring her older brother’s collection of fantasy novels. In hindsight, telling stories of her own seems inevitable, but it took her a while to accept this and find the courage to begin.


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