Content Warning: attempted rape and stalking.
This book is part of a series:
- The Unlikely Ones, which takes place pre-Christianity. The magical ring is found in this book. Book #2 is almost unrelated…
- Pigs Don’t Fly, which is set in Medieval times. The magical ring comes back, but we have a new main character named Summer.
- Master of Many Treasures directly follows book #2. They should be read together.
*Note: there is one big spoiler for Pigs Don’t Fly in this review, though readers likely saw it coming anyway.
In the fantasy novel Pigs Don’t Fly, an average nobody named Summer sets out after her mother’s death to find a husband with the small dowry saved. Because Summer has a magic ring she found in her mother’s belongings, she can think-talk with animals. Eventually, she picks up more animals, including a strange pig with wings, and a blind knight with amnesia. After the knight is returned to his homeland, Summer journeys to get the pig to the Place of Stones where she kisses him — and he turns into a dragon. But because she kissed a pig/dragon three times during the journey, when she should not have, he is now fated to turn into a man three months of the year and be a dragon the other nine! Summer and the dragon consummate their relationship, and he flies away. End of Pigs Don’t Fly.
My review today looks at Master of Many Treasures. We pick up with Summer pretending to be a boy apprenticing in the spice trade, but she’s really traveling from England to China, where she thinks she will find her dragon-man lover. Her mangy dog, a comical character, is still with her.
The plot starts out with a great premise: at the end of the previous book, Summer could have married a kind, wealthy man who adored her. But, she decided not to settle for “good enough” and left to travel to China and find her dragon-man! While most fantasy novels star a young man saving a woman, Summer is looking for her guy. Yet, the novel isn’t about her overcoming female adversity: it’s a character on a quest. A lot of the plot is dropped in to move the story along, but a lot of fantasy is like that. It’s based on small challenges that get the characters to the final moment. Think about all the smaller challenges Bilbo had in The Hobbit before he got to his dragon.
Each of the novels have emphasized seven characters journeying, so I knew Summer and her dog would pick up some companions. I didn’t realize one of them would be a boy she briefly met in the previous book, who has grown up to be a greedy young man who loves whore houses and thinks Summer is on a journey to find treasure. If she’s going for treasure, he’s coming too because, well, entitled men think they can have what they want. This is where the stalking comes in. Whenever Summer tries to get away from this horrible young man, he follows with clues and catches up, typically ruining things. He was a hateful turd of a character.
An interesting new character in the series is Ky-Lin, a creature whose master is Buddha. Ky-Lin is magical, so he’s a bit of a walking deus ex machina, but that’s okay. We’re used to it in fantasy. In fact, both books #1 and #2 had their own magical character who guided the characters, and it’s a trope in other traditional fantasy novels, too. Some cute aspects of Ky-Lin are his huge plume-like rainbow tail. He’s described as looking like a horse, but he has antenna and grows bigger and smaller as needed. When he’s small, he hides on Summer’s shoulder and translates foreign languages for her, a convenient way to get her from England to China on foot and by sea without much language trouble.
Another reason it’s important Ky-Lin was there: Summer didn’t realize she was pregnant for a year with an egg, the result of her and her dragon-man’s one sexual encounter. Ky-Lin helps her deliver the egg in a very fuzzy scene, after which she’s told to store this tiny, perfectly-round thing in her belly button so it can stay warm. The egg will take longer to incubate than Summer’s lifetime, so she knows she’ll never meet her offspring. Thus, Summer didn’t seem maternal nor to care for the egg beyond the warmth her navel provides. The egg is important more so because the dragon population is decreasing. Her man-dragon lover and his clan should be able to care for it.
The ending of the novel is rather bothersome, given that readers have to decide for themselves. There’s an epilogue in which the young man who stalked Summer admits on his death bed what a horrible person he was and why. Then, there’s a post-script in which locals claim they believe two different things about a man-dragon and woman they think they saw. So, readers never learn what becomes of Summer in the end, which ruined it for many on Goodreads. I still had a fun time reading Master of Many Treasures, letting improbable moments slide when the genre called for it.
Have you ever read a series in which only small things tied the books together? Perhaps there was a new protagonist, setting, and plot, but an item carried over?