In Adfen, men fear the coming of Draigon Weather – the oppressive heat, the lasting droughts, the slow death of everything that can only be appeased by sacrifice. And women fear the coming of the Draigon – because it is always a woman who is sacrificed. Only nine-years-old, Leiel Sower has already lost her mother to the Draigon, and her future has been burned to the roots. Only the friendship of Cleod Woodcutter, and his promise to avenge her mother’s death and slay the Draigon Shaa can give her any strength at all. Until, that is, Cleod departs to begin his training as a devoted dragonkiller, and Leiel meets an outcast woman who knows the truth behind the stories, and the stories behind the truth, and the Draigon Weather returns to Adfen.

The fact that Draigon Weather carries endorsements from both Lucy Hounsom and Janny Wurts is telling. These are both authors who revel in slow builds, in patient development of characters, the examination and subversion of standard storytelling (and specifically fantasy storytelling) tropes, and in drawing strong women who don’t have to rely on a hero to save them. Paige L. Christie echoes all of these in her debut, weaving a history from threads of friendship, ignorance, institutionalised misogyny, and the self-belief of the two leads, to create a story that only frustrates right at the very end. But we’ll come to that in a bit.

Cleod’s worn, scarred middle-aged failure frames the rest of the story. Hired as a caravan guard, a recovering alcoholic, he sees signs that Shaa has returned again, and thinks back to his childhood. From here Christie alternates between Cleod and Leiel as viewpoint characters, deftly managing the slow unravelling of their friendship against the immovable blocks of a society that sees no good in any woman that can speak an opinion of her own. Cleod’s journey into the ranks of the Draighil, the knights pledged to slay dragons, drives his wits in service to his anger, making him part of the system, and over time he comes to disapprove of Leiel’s more wilful nature.

Meanwhile, Christie sets Leiel the task of surviving in a male-dominated society that sees her only as trouble. The stories that her mother told her keep her going. Christie uses the stories to give depth and colour to her world, but is never scared to use them to pull the wool over the reader’s eyes and mislead them. It’s the work of a virtuoso storyteller, revealing layers one at a time, always leaving hints that there’s more to come.

That disappointment at the end? Without spoilers, let’s just say that Christie makes a brave decision to leave the reader hanging, without resolution to the question posed in the final couple of chapters. A reminder that not everything is neat, that not all endings are happy, true, but I found I wanted more.

Readers used to sprays of gore and immense body counts will be disappointed. But this is an epic in the real sense of the word, in the same way that the best Westerns focused on a few fully fleshed out characters in a brilliant widescreen landscape, highlighting personal triumphs and tragedies far more than massed battles. Draigon Weather is a thoughtful and clever retooling of the concept of sacrifice.


By Steven Poore

Steven Poore is an Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist. He was nominated for Best Newcomer at the British Fantasy Awards, 2016. His epic fantasy novels Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance are published by Grimbold Books. Steven lives in Sheffield, where he hosts semi-regular SFSF Socials for the BFS and BSFA. You can find him online on Twitter (@stevenjpoore / @sfsfsocial), Facebook, and his website,

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