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Walked in Fields of Gold

Dragon Whisperer

By Vanessa Ricci-Thode 

31 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


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To quote the biography at the end of the novel:

Vanessa has always been a bookaholic, even as a young child — making picture books before she learned to read and write. She has been writing for most of her life, completing her first novel when she was eighteen, handwriting it on a thick notepad on the floor of her bedroom. This is Vanessa’s first foray into the world of publishing, and she’s so excited that she hasn’t slept since her book was accepted. 

2013’s Dragon Whisperer is a secondary world fantasy by Vanessa Ricci-Thode.

The Ovailens and Joaseras have planned an arranged marriage between their two scions, Reiser Ovailen and Vyranna Joasara. This scheme may have seemed reasonable when the two children were young, but ran aground when it became clear that Vyranna was a spiteful bully. Reiser opts out and marries another Joasara, Vyranna’s younger sister Dionelle.

Vyranna is outraged. She may despise Reiser, but he was hers. She never liked her sister anyway! She flounces out of their village and out of the plot … temporarily. Dionelle and Reiser know that she will take revenge when she can.

For now, Dionelle and her new husband have some more immediate challenges.

For reasons that are unclear for much of the book, Dionelle is completely immune to fire. This is useful in the day-to-day life of a farmer’s wife, but has the drawback that it attracts the attention of bucolic Pasdale’s rulers, Lord and Lady Dunham. They need a new Dragon Whisperer; the fireproof bride would make a fine replacement.

Dionelle manages to survive her first foray as Pasdale’s official Dragon Whisperer. She has a job for life, however long hers may be. Perhaps not long, as she now finds herself the intermediary between the easily affronted dragons and the just as easily affronted Dunhams. 

Reiser, for his part, is finding that marriage to Dionelle is not working out the way he imagined it would. Dionelle is so busy with dragons, Dunhams, and studying the magical arts that she has little time for Reiser. 

Meanwhile, Vyranna is plotting, She has acquired a lover, a sorcerer named Vozawr, who is sufficiently powerful to overpower Dionelle (who may be immune to fire but is vulnerable in all sorts of other ways). Dionelle is captured and dragged off to hell. 

Without Dionelle as Whisperer and diplomat, war between the humans and the dragons looms. The Dunhams see no need to rescue Dionelle (idiots that they are) so the task is left to Reiser — who has no magical powers at all. Things do not look good for all involved. Except perhaps Vyranna and Vozawr.


This is very much a first novel. It’s not clear to me how much useful input the author got from publisher Iguana Books. The prose was muddled at times and the author seemed vague on just how life on a medieval farm [1] would have worked. Vyranna has no depth: she is jealous, she is mean, full stop. Still The book was no worse than many Baen novels I’ve read. And the author may well have improved with practice. 

The Dunhams are a fine example of the sort of managerial talent required to spark peasant uprisings like the Yellow Turban Rebellion of 181, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, and the 1637 Shimabara Rebellion. Generally, peasant revolts end badly for the peasants (they do not do well against trained armies). But the peasants do not always lose. In this case, they might just win, as the Dunhams have pissed off the dragons sufficiently to hand the peasants an air force. 

Points to the wizards for ignoring class (unlike the aristocrats). The moment the wizards become aware that there is a fireproof peasant (one whose moods affect nearby fires), they recruit and train her. I suspect that it is important to co-opt potential mages, lest peasant uprisings also enlist embittered hedge-wizard peasants. 

It may be hard for people who know me to imagine this, but I have once been a newlywed. Yea verily, The gap between marriage as Reiser and Dionelle had imagined it and marriage as it actually turns out to be was plausible. Indeed, it seems likely that Reiser’s dramatic rescue will NOT address the fundamental issues facing the couple. It is all well and good to brave hell itself to save one’s bride, but you cannot base a marriage on that sort of thing … unless the bride is exceptionally prone to being kidnapped and that only happened to Dionelle twice.

Dragon Whisperer is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Although it’s not really medieval because there is magic. Who knows how that affects agriculture? Even the secondary effects could be profound.