Ali’s 2018 Pick: The Dragon Prince

As part of our 2018 Round-Up, Ali Baker shines a light on The Dragon Prince.

Dragon Princes 0The Dragon Prince (Netflix Original, 2018), Dir: Villads Spangsberg, Giancarlo Volpe

The Dragon Prince – written by Avatar: The Last Airbender head writer and executive producer Aaron Erhatz and co-director of computer game Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Justin Richards – is a high-fantasy animated Netflix series about step-brother princes Callum and Ezran, who team up with a would-be assassin, the moon elf Rayla, after the three of them discover that the last dragon egg, believed to have been destroyed, has in fact been hidden away as a dangerous weapon by their father’s adviser, the power-hungry mage Viren.

Callum, Ezran, and Rayla escape from the castle just before the other moon-elves attack and King Harrow is killed. Viren attempts to declare the princes dead and seize the throne, but is stopped after their aunt, General Amaya, reports seeing the princes alive. Viren’s children, Claudia the Mage and Crown Guard Soren, are sent to follow them, but each is given a secret mission on top of returning with the princes and the egg. Rayla, Callum and Ezran encounter other characters along the way, some helpful and some hindering, and they develop skills, talents and inner strength as they overcome dangers and difficulties.

The story is an exciting adventure with a fantasy setting written for pre-teen children. In the land of Xadia, where the elves and dragons reside, magic comes from natural sources. However, humans have been driven from Xadia to the Human Kingdoms after a Mage discovered Dark Magic, which exploits the powers of magical creatures, leading humans to enslave them. The war between the two countries has been going on since that time, although the egg could end it, as it would provide a guarantee of ongoing magical powers. It is clear that Viren has his own reasons for not wanting magic to continue.

This is not a perfect show by a long way. At nine episodes it rushes through the story, and Callum and Ezran’s characters are not given much chance to develop and remain rather stereotypical. Callum is the artistic older brother, who is not much good at princely arts of swordplay and horse-riding, but discovers he is a mage. Ezran is the fun-loving, rather greedy younger brother, who has a humorous pet, the glow-toad Bait. However, the conflicted elf assassin Rayla is a truly intriguing character, and I hope that we learn more about her in the next series.

I did particularly enjoy the very visible inclusion in the series. In an era where only 1% of children’s books published in Britain in 2017 had a protagonist of colour, according to research carried out for the Centre for Primary Literacy, it is wonderful to see a Black King, a mixed-race child protagonist, a stepchild who is not neglected and abused; the children’s aunt, their late mother’s sister Amalya, is a general in the King’s army who uses American Sign Language and has a translator. Giancarlo Volpe has said that the girl Ellis who joins the dragon’s egg protectors with her wolf Ava is based on Tibetan heritage. None of these inclusive depictions are plot points: they are just there for children to notice, or not. My stepson and I look forward to the second series.

Dragon Princes 2

Ali Baker is a lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at the University of East London and a researcher in children’s fantasy literature. She is the Programme Chair of Eastercon 2019, Ytterbiumcon.

SFF Non-Fiction and Art in 2018

Nominations are now open for the BSFA Awards longlist. If you’re a member, you may nominate up to four works in each of four categories: Novel, Short Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Artwork. If you’re not yet a member, consider joining the BSFA.

Earlier we shared some suggested reading in short fiction and novels. Below is a list of crowdsourced recommendations (in no particular order) for the categories of non-fiction and artwork. You can also still explore (and add to) the suggestions sheet.

Continue reading “SFF Non-Fiction and Art in 2018”

SFF Short Fiction in 2018

It’s nomination time once more! The BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction is open to any shorter work of science fiction or fantasy (40,000 words or under) first published in 2018.

These days, alongside the formal nominations, we also crowdsource a list of suggested reading. Anyone may suggest SFF works they think are worth checking out, and we use these suggestions to create (in no particular order) the list below. You can also still explore the Google sheet.

Formal nominations for the awards are also now open. To nominate and vote you must be a BSFA member (join here). If you’ve recently joined and don’t yet have a membership number, don’t worry! You’re still eligible to nominate and to vote.

So what was the most exciting short SFF in 2018? Let’s find out …

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Nina’s Best of the Year 2018

Helping to kick off Vector’s 2018 Round-UpNina Allan takes a look back at the year …

As genre imprints become ever more conservatively focused upon tried-and-tested formulas, so the more interesting speculative fiction gets pushed increasingly towards mainstream imprints. 2018 saw no diminution in this trend, and with Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure, Lidia Yuknavich’s The Book of Joan, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, Sam Byers’s Perfidious Albion, Kate Mascerenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Patrick Langley’s Arkady and Ling Ma’s Severence to name but a scattering all being published by literary presses, if anything it is the opposite. Some hardy souls do continue to soldier on in the genre heartlands though, and my vote for best science fiction novel of the year would have to go to The Smoke, by Simon Ings, published by Gollancz. I’m a huge Ings fan in any case – both his 2014 Wolves and his 2011 Dead Water were egregious omissions from the Clarke Award shortlist – but The Smoke hits a new high water mark of excellence and should be read by everyone with an interest in what British science fiction is still capable of.

Image result for the smoke ings

Continue reading “Nina’s Best of the Year 2018”

Best of 2018

In a change from recent custom, this year Vector will be holding our annual round-up right here online. So keep your eyes peeled, your noses twitching, and your statoliths shoogling for a series of posts throughout December and January. They’re going to be packed with all the highlights (and maybe a few lowlights) of 2018 in science fiction. We’ll kick off next week with Nina Allan‘s pick of 2018.

And — while we’re talking about SF that amazed and inspired in 2018 — don’t forget that nominations are now open for the BSFA Awards! As usual, there are four categories: novel, short fiction, non-fiction, and artwork. Anyone can suggest works on this eligibility spreadsheet. To nominate and vote in the awards you must be a BSFA member (join here). If you’ve recently joined and don’t yet have a membership number, don’t worry! You’re still eligible to nominate and to vote.