M. Kei may be the best fantasy/adventure novelist you’ve never heard of… unless, of course, you read gay themed pirate fiction a la his Pirates of the Narrow Seas series. Or, maybe you’re a poetry fan and you are familiar with Kei’s award winning work. I, in all honesty, had never heard of him prior to reading his latest novel (not in the pirate series), the May, 2012 release, Fire Dragon.
On the surface, Fire Dragon is a little hard to categorize. It’s an Asian and gay themed work of historical fiction with fantasy, romance and adventure elements. It doesn’t fit neatly into a specific box. That’s okay; it doesn’t have to. Having a little bit of everything, when done well, can be a very good thing!
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that both fantasy and sci-fi are not my genres of choice. In the interest of fairness to both authors and the wide range of readers who come here seeking reviews, I occasionally decide to step out of my comfort zone and read something that I wouldn’t normally choose. From the first page of this book, I got sucked into the story. It was really hard to put it down.
Fire Dragon is the story of Shuibai, a lowly bucket maker from a family line of “untouchables” working his way through his meager existence in what would appear to be an Asian country of the 1600s, give or take 100 years. He’s called upon by the Fire Lord appointed by the ruling class (the “taran”), by virtue of his trade, to be the Fire Warden for his town, Low Marsh – a burg which sits not far outside the gates of the capitol city. He hasn’t a clue how to go about performing his duties but help begins coming from a couple of venues (while at the same time his family – his mother, specifically – do everything to thwart him).
His biggest help, a man of mystery and intrigue, is Zashi, the son of the local Fire Chief. Zashi comes to mean much more to Shuibai than just a friend and an assistant fire warden. But, Zashi is fighting some demons of his own which only time will reveal in this story.
I won’t say another thing! If you want to know any more about this book, you’re just going to have to read it. I recommend that you do. M. Kei has a winner here…It’s a good one!