Here be Dragons!Shapeshifter Dragons is several parallel series of adventures taking place in a single world. The series are linked chronologically, plot-wise and in every possible sneaky way I can imagine. So far I have published 9 books, all are Amazon Bestsellers in Fantasy.
I have a number of books in the pipeline for these series, including a couple of standalone works. The immediate future is:
1. Song of the Storm Dragon (Aranya #3 - published November 26th, 2016)
2. The Girl who Loved the Whales (IsleSong #2)
3. Dragonstar (Dragonfriend #4)
After that there will be sequels to the Aranya series and Islesong, Riika's story from Dragon Thief, and a standalone novel dealing with the Crysolitic Dragons found North of Immadia. I'm also thinking along the lines of a couple of Dragon point-of-view stories for this world. Too many ideas and too little time!
Chronological Reading Order and NotesDon't worry about where you started! The answers are here, I hope! You can start reading anywhere - just watch out, for here be Dragons ...
The Dragonfriend series is essentially standalone. Many readers start with Dragonfriend or Aranya. I recommend, after that, working through the series(es) in chronological order from earliest to latest, as laid out below.
[EARLIEST - DRAGONFRIEND - Dragonfriend, Dragonlove, Dragonsoul, Dragonstar]
Deep in history, we start with the tale of the first Dragon Rider, Hualiama Dragonfriend. Born in an era when Humans have barely shaken off draconic rule, Hualiama is a woman whose fierce love and bravery will set her against every taboo and law of Humankind and Dragonkind. For when a woman loves a Dragon, that love will change the world.
This series consists of four volumes – Dragonfriend, Dragonlove and Dragonsoul are complete, Dragonstar is planned for 2017. A standalone series. Read in any order with the others.
[SECOND - SHAPESHIFTER DRAGON LEGENDS - The Pygmy Dragon, The Onyx Dragon]
Over 400 years after the events of Dragonfriend, the Pygmy Dragon rocks the world with her extraordinary heritage and powers as she battles the all-conquering Marshal of Herimor and his legions of Dragon Assassins, confronting a peril which threatenes to extinguish all Dragon life in the Island-World. This two-book series concludes with The Onyx Dragon.
Special note: This series is closely linked to Aranya, below. For plot reasons, please read The Onyx Dragon BEFORE you read Aranya volume #3 (Song of the Storm Dragon).
[THIRD - SHAPESHIFTER DRAGONS - Aranya, Shadow Dragon, Song of the Storm Dragon, Part #4 Unnamed]
152 years after The Pygmy Dragon, the Princess of Immadia’s world-shaping exploits are recounted in the Shapeshifter Dragons series (Aranya, Shadow Dragon, and Song of the Storm Dragon). Aranya’s courage and irrepressible fire pit her against Thoralian, Emperor of Sylakia and conqueror of the Island-World north of the Rift.
Special note: Please read The Pgymy Dragon/The Onyx Dragon before you read Song of the Storm Dragon!
[FOURTH - Dragon Thief]
311 years after Aranya, a feckless thief has the surprise of his life as he manages to steal rather more than he bargained for - or did the treasure steal him?
Special note: The ending of Dragon Thief brings the reader to the point where the worlds of Dragons, for millennia circumscribed by the uncrossable Rim-Wall Mountains and the oceanic world of IsleSong (The IsleSong series begins with The Girl who Sang with Whales) intersect. I recommend reading Aranya and Shadow Dragon before diving into Dragon Thief.
In IsleSong, Zhialeiana is a young Island girl gifted the ability to sing the songs of sea-creatures. Powerful Bard-Navigators sing to the great Whales, magically binding them to protect their ships during their dangerous crossings between the Atolls and Islands of the World-Sea. But the great Whales harbour unimagined secrets, and what of the Sea-Dragons which maraud unchecked? What is their origin?
Map to Aranya
Larger size here.
Distances and Navigation
For converting between leagues, miles and kilometres:
1 league = 5.556 kilometres = 3.45 miles
1 mile = 5280 feet
Given the five moons in the skies, dominated by Iridith (the huge yellow moon), navigation by the stars is unreliable. Therefore the Islanders north of the Rift have developed the method of navigating by the suns and moons, which have reliable if complex orbits and periods in the sky. Distance is generally expressed in terms of days of travel between Islands. Leagues in the air are measured by a process of general agreement (called a Dragonship Captain’s measure) rather than an accurate scientific measurement, due to the difficulty of calculating distances across the ever-shifting Cloudlands. This changed with the rediscovery of the league-logger at Immadia Island.
Flying and falling speeds
Human terminal velocity is around 124 mph or 200 km/h. When Aranya was thrown off the Last Walk she would have reached even greater speeds, given as she was chained to a block of stone and so was falling in the vertical position with minimal body resistance to the air. Experienced skydivers can reach velocities of over 180 mph or 290 km/h in the ‘bullet’ position.
A Dragon’s long distance flying speed is 6–8 leagues per hour (21–28 mph / 33–44 km/h) but over short distances they are capable of sprints of over 40 leagues per hour (138 mph / 222 km/h), especially if this is combined with a swoop from a height. They are highly streamlined, especially with their wings in the furled position. When travelling longer distances Dragons are similar to migrating birds in that they are able to convert body mass into energy to fuel their flight. Larger Dragons are able to spend up to two days or more in the air if they rest at appropriate intervals, covering hundreds of leagues in this time.
A Dragonship usually travels at 4 leagues per hour (14 mph / 22.2 km/h) as the large dirigible balloon, despite its oblong shape, generates significant wind resistance. The meriatite-powered engines provide sufficient thrust for higher speeds, but generally Dragonships excel at distance rather than speed. Before the development of the meriatite furnace engine Dragonships were powered by wind and Human effort, employing a system of heating an air balloon similar to hot-air ballooning.
How high can a person or a Dragon fly?
The higher Islands of the Island-World lie approximately one league (3.45 miles / 18200 feet) above the Cloudlands, which is a gaseous cloud layer much denser than the Earth’s atmosphere. Air pressure around 1 mile above the Cloudlands is equivalent to Earth’s sea level, but oxygen levels are higher (23% of atmospheric gases). Humans have adapted to living at altitude. Comparatively, they have higher red blood corpuscle counts and better lung capacity and cardiac output levels than average Humans living on Earth. Aranya of Immadia grew up at the equivalent of 13000 feet above sea level in Earth terms.
Dragon Riders have to be especially wary of hypoxia and hypothermia at altitudes over 1.75 leagues (6.04 miles / 32000 feet) above the Cloudlands. Many Dragon Riders in the past undertook high-altitude training, and the dangers of hypoxia were well documented. Accepted wisdom is not to fly over heights of 1.5 leagues above Cloudlands level due to impairment of the senses, especially night vision, reasoning and judgement, and general nausea and vertigo which develop.
Dragon lungs and their triple-heart cardiovascular systems are highly adapted to flying at altitude. The ability of golden Dragon blood to become saturated with oxygen is orders of magnitude better than that of Humans, allowing the lungs to absorb sufficient oxygen even at low atmospheric pressures up to 4 leagues (13.8 miles / 72865 feet) above Cloudlands level. Dragon musculature is remarkably efficient in terms of resource consumption measured against physical output, allowing Dragons to fly at great heights and for very long distances, while replenishment of resources is also rapid. Energy and oxygen are stored in the body in special, additional organs and tissues. However Dragons do suffer from hypoxia symptoms similar to those experienced by Humans–euphoria, dimming of vision and impaired judgement. They need to be careful of decompression when swooping from a great height, similar to Humans experiencing the ‘bends’ or the formation of gas bubbles in joints and capillaries.
A Dragon can hold its breath for around 15 minutes, depending on the level of physical activity. A record of one hour underwater was achieved by a small Red Dragon. Further, Dragons with the ability to shield (semi-permeably) are able to learn how to provide additional oxygen to their Riders, protecting them from the effects of hypoxia, and even, legend has it, to heat a ‘bubble’ of air around a Rider to protect them from the deadly low temperatures of high altitude flying.
Why is a Dragonship so big?
Dragonships are large because of the huge volume of hydrogen gas required to produce lift. Airship engineers calculated on 68 pounds (30.9kg) of lift per 1,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas. Garthion’s flagship, at 400 feet in length, is less than half the size of the ill-fated Hindenberg. This size yields an approximate gas volume of 4.5 million cubic feet with a lifting power of 139 tons–assuming the airship is a regular cylinder with a large radius of 60 feet. Dragonships are torpedo-shaped for streamlining, but still generate considerable drag in the air.
Hydrogen for Dragonships is produced by melting mineral meriatite before dumping it in an acid bath. The resulting reaction produces hydrogen. However, hydrogen is highly flammable and dangerous, as Zuziana and Aranya teach the Sylakians. Hydrogen is relatively easy to produce, but helium would be inert at the expense of some lifting power–making helium the safer choice.
There are four major Dragon families–the Ancient Dragons, the Lesser Dragons, Shapeshifters and dragonets. Many varieties exist within each major family; varieties of colour, shape, size and magical ability. Certain colours and abilities are more common than others. All Dragons speak Dragonish to a greater or lesser degree.
Lesser Dragons–descendants of the Ancients, they are commonly Reds, Greens, Oranges and Yellows. Their primary attack is Dragon fire but this is usually combined with one or more special attacks or abilities. Greens are renowned for their healing abilities and poison or acid attacks. Their favourite habitat is woodlands, forests and especially jungles. They are often long and lean in body shape, and reclusive by nature. Reds, Oranges and Yellows excel in various categories of fire breathing, fire shaping, fireballs and special attacks such as molten lava. Reds are usually the most massive of the Lesser Dragons, achieving wingspans of over 120 feet. They are gregarious and love to live in large colonies. The Blue and Grey-Blue spectrums tend to dominate in the lightning and water-based abilities, and higher-level magical abilities such as shielding. They are fond of roosting in high places or near water. Zuziana, as an Azure Dragon, is a rare colour and is among the smallest of Dragons in physical size. Grey-Black to Black Dragons, such as Fra’anior (an Ancient Dragon), usually have lightning and earth powers such as earthquake, or the much rarer powers of storm and shivers. They often prefer living in caves.
Dragonets–first found on the Islands of Fra’anior, the dragonets are generally thought to have lesser intelligence, but the largest dragonets (up to four feet in length) do communicate well in Dragonish. They love to live in large colonies and are highly sociable. They become easily attached. Sapphire, a blue dragonet, becomes attached to Aranya and travels with her. Dragonets have as wide a variety of colours as Dragons. It is agreed that dragonets only breathe fire and have none of the other abilities of the Lesser or Ancient Dragons.
Ancient Dragons–those who first colonised the Island-World and are said to have created the Islands and Humans. Little is known about the Ancient Dragons. One in particular, Fra’anior, a huge, multi-headed Black Dragon with Storm powers, plays a part in our story. There are also Magma Dragons which live in volcanoes and Land Dragons who roam the Cloudlands, although it is unsure as to whether they are flying, walking or swimming. The Land Dragons are said to chew on the roots of the Islands.
Shapeshifters–most scholars agree that Shapeshifters are a race of their own, being neither Dragon nor Human. Shapeshifters may have been the result of scientific experimentation by the Ancient Red Dragon, Dramagon, but this is uncertain. Shapeshifters are able to transform between their Human and Dragon forms. Most Shapeshifters are bound to a single Dragon colour.
Dragons which defy classification–magic being what it is, there are those Dragons and Shapeshifters who defy classification, as is the case with Aranya and her mother Izariela, and Fra’anior’s soul-mate Istariela. Izariela and Istariela are Star or Silver Dragons, Dragons tending from silver to the purest white. No-one knows if they are Ancient or Lesser Dragons, nor exactly what their powers might be. Aranya, an Amethyst Dragon, is also of indeterminate classification, although she evidences a number of abilities across the spectrum such as Dragon fire, healing power, lightning and storm.