Wednesday, May 11, 2011


For your writerly and readerly contemplation, here are the opening lines of a fantasy novel by Susan Fletcher, published in 1989, called DRAGON'S MILK. It is one of my favorite books, along with its companion books, FLIGHT OF THE DRAGON KYN and SIGN OF THE DOVE. Susan is a fellow Oregon writer whom I've met at SCBWI conferences.

Dragon's Milk
Something was wrong.

Kaeldra knew it the moment she awoke. She sat bolt upright and strained her senses against the dark. The loft smelled of mildew and damp hay. A cold breath of mist wrapped around her shoulders and neck. Something--the seabird?--rustled in the room down below. Beside her, Kaeldra heard Lyf's soft snoring. She reached out and laid her hand on Lyf's chest and felt reassured, somehow, by its gentle rise and fall.

Gradually the blackness of the loft dissolved into vague gray shapes. Now Kaeldra could make out Mirym's sleeping form in the far corner, could see the dark half-circles of Lyf's lashes against her cheek.

Everything all right. No sign of what had awakened her. No hint of anything wrong, except the prickling chill that crept up Kaeldra's spine and fanned out across her back.


Even though there is a weaker "was" in the first line, it's still a compelling line. There is a variety of senses involved: smells of mildew and damp hay, a feeling of coldness, the sounds of the seabird rustling and Lyf's snoring. Added to that are the more intangible senses, the sense that something isn't right, the prickling chill that results from it. These few paragraphs introduce Kaeldra to the reader as the main character before the action starts (and yes, action starts in a couple more short paragraphs).

And there are BABY dragons in this book, mischievous and adorable! Susan calls them "draclings." The main character Kaeldra names the draclings Synge, Pyre, and Embyr.

Have you read DRAGON'S MILK and/or its sequel and prequel?
Can you add any further thoughts to why this passage does or does not work?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=low, 10=high), what would be the level of your interest in reading further after these opening lines?



    Seriously, on of my favorite books as a kid. I also loved all the others in the series, but this one was my favorite. Loved the draclings and their "mind baby talk."

    I am probably going to go buy this book off Amazon so my kids can read it someday, now that you've reminded me how much I love it.

    PS I really like the opening. I sucked me straight in the first time I read the book. I wanted to know what was wrong. And when I read further, I saw she was a bit of an outcast and I strongly identified with that as a kid.

  2. I haven't read this, but I'd like to. There's a very lyrical quality to the writing. Plus baby dragons just sound adorable! Thanks for the excerpt and a head's up on a new TBR. :)

  3. blogger ate my comment AGAIN! lol
    (blogger actually went off for maintenance though this time)

    I haven't read Dragon's Milk but from this excerpt it sounds like a great book.

  4. I love Dragon's Milk! It's a great book, and I felt the first paragraphs really drew me into the story right away.

  5. BTW, I'm hosting a Blessings Blogfest - just a one day blogfest, and I would love for you to join in!

  6. I liked the first line, it raises the obvious question: what's wrong? The name Kaeldra instantly made me think fantasy so good genre set-up. I like the setting sensory details of mildew and damp hay. The seabird made me readjust my location (loft made me think barn which led to flat farmland). I want to know who Lyf is and the relationship between them; at first I'd guessed they're lovers and was surprised to find Lyf is female and then thought they were siblings but also kinda hoped that she's a lover because I'd like to see more LGBTQ characters. I like the wording of the loft dissolving into grey shapes though at first, since I'd assumed fantasy, I wondered if it literally dissolved in her vision because she was doing magic. Love the prickling chill to hint that even though everything looks normal something still feels off.

    So I'd say 8/10 because I want to know who Lyf is to Kaeldra and there's still the tension of seriously, what's wrong?
    - Sophia.

  7. I haven't read it, but I'll look it up. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great weekend.

  8. I haven't read it but I would based on this excerpt. :)

  9. I think I read this about 20 years ago. I know it was a title with Dragon and Milk in it.

  10. I haven't read Dragon's Milk but it does sound interesting. I like the author's writing style.


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