Caine - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Learn to Draw Like the Masters: Dragons
Eugene Caine
Walter Foster Books
Nonfiction, Art
****

DESCRIPTION: Throughout history, dragons have been a popular subject for artists around the world. While dragons today are exceptionally rare, many of history's great art masters left behind masterful renderings of their own encounters with the great beasts. Modern dragonologists and artists alike can learn much from their techniques, as the author demonstrates through several studies and exercises.

REVIEW: This is one of the most unusual dragon drawing books I've come across. It stars with the not-entirely-original idea that dragons are real, if remarkably rare and elusive, and that important historical figures were part-time "dragonologists" (a word coined by Dugald A. Steer's incredibly popular Dragonology series, I believe, and now in danger of being overused.) Caine, however, applies this idea to the world of classical art. Using images both authentic and imaginary, he demonstrates various art techniques used by the masters - including Da Vinci, Picasso, Rubens, and Van Gogh - with dragons as a common subject. There's a nice section on dragon anatomy and art media, then step-by-step demonstrations highlighting each artist's particular style. He also describes how to artificially age one's dragon sketches to make them look like old documents, a process I found oddly fascinating. I had a minor quibble with some of his anatomy; for all that he did an excellent job drawing a dragon skeleton (and actually remembering the "elbow" of the wing, which many artists sadly overlook), his main demonstration sketch has an impossible secondary "wrist" in the far forelimb that not only runs counter to general anatomy, but to his own dragon skeletal sketches (and the anatomy of the other forelimb on the same exact dragon drawing.) At least, I can't work out how that joint could possibly flex the ways he shows it and still be based on the same skeleton - it looks distractingly awkward, not to mention painful. That aside, I enjoyed the variety of techniques demonstrated, and I liked how he explained that all art styles have merit, even when drawing dragons. This book should appeal to dragon lovers and aspiring artists alike, teaching art appreciation as well as technique. An enjoyable book all around!

You might also enjoy:
Dragon Art (Graeme Aymer, Nonfiction - A celebration of the dragon in modern fantasy art)
Make Your Own Paper Dragons (Sean Brand and Ivan Hissey, YA Art - A kit for making dragons)
Painting Dragons in Watercolor (Paul Bryn Davies, Art - Use watercolors to paint radiant dragons)
How to Draw Dragons and Other Mythical Creatures (Emmett Elvin, YA Art - How to draw fantasy beasts, easy step by step)
Forging Dragons (John Howe, Art - Designing and drawing dragons)
The Great Book of Dragon Patterns (Lora S. Irish, Art - Basic dragon lore, plus many patterns for crafters and artists to use and adapt)
How to Draw and Paint Dragons (Tom Kidd, Art - A course in creating dragons, from starting gesture to finishing touches)
Winged Fantasy (Brenda Lyons, Art - Drawing and painting winged fantasy creatures, from dragons and gryphons to winged wolves and more)
How to Draw Dragons Made Easy (Beren Neale, editor, Art - Fantasy artists demonstrate their techniques in creating dragons)
Creating Creatures of Fantasy and Imagination (Claudia Nice, Art - Drawing fantasy beasts and beings with pen & ink with watercolor)
The Dracopedia books (William O'Connor, Art - How to draw a variety of dragons)
The DragonArt books (J. "NeonDragon" Peffer, YA? Art - A fun guide to drawing dragons and other mythical creatures)
The Art of the Dragon (J. David Spurlock and Patrick Wilshire, Art - Interviews and an art gallery celebrate the dragon in contemporary fantasy art)
Animals Real and Imagined (Terryl Whitlatch, Art - A gallery of the noted artist's work, including animals real, extinct, and imaginary)

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Ink and Bone
(The Great Library series, Book 1)
Rachel Caine
New American Library
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: From birth, Jess Brightwell's life has been defined by books - contraband items outside the all-powerful Great Library, which has controlled the flow of information worldwide for centuries. His father's trade in illegal original tomes puts Jess and his family in constant danger, with the Library's well-armed High Garda and cruel, alchemy-powered automata mercilessly hunting down traders. While Jess loves books, he cannot reconcile himself to dealing with the often unsavory clients of the family business... which is why Jess's father has decided that he'd better serve the Brightwells as an insider, joining the ranks of the Library to learn of new treasures and impending threats. Much as Jess has learned to fear the Library, he can't help but be excited: after all, to the average citizen, the Library represents the knowledge and wisdom of the ages, the bright light that guides all of humanity toward a better tomorrow, and just think of the countless books hidden away in the archives! But Jess soon learns that the gilded cover hides a rotten heart, as he's plunged into a world where nobody can be trusted and no secret is safe.

REVIEW: If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does absolute control of knowledge corrupt absolutely? Rachel Caine posits a near-future world where alchemy is real, exploited by master librarians to limit the vital resource of information. Several familiar assumptions (particularly for "Western" readers used to English- or American-centered stories) get tweaked, here; English-born Jess was proud of how intelligent his childhood spent around illegal books has made him, only to realize he's barely average compared to the rest of Europe, who themselves pale in comparison to Middle Eastern nations who have had centuries longer to enjoy access to the Great Library's fruits (it having been founded in Ancient Egypt.) As for America, it's essentially a police state, considered a lowlife hotbed for rebels and Burners, a violent faction espousing the dangerous view that human lives should matter more than books. No institution has clean hands in this world, and no characters here are free from faults or sins. Jess must navigate a maze of traps, not just those set by his stern, borderline-cruel teacher Wolfe - a man who also has a hidden past and his own agenda and who isn't above endangering lives to pursue it. Jess's upbringing among criminals serves him in surprisingly good stead as he finds himself surrounded by untrustworthy peers and questionable superiors, not to mention his own family and their contacts who make periodic demands of him; Jess's twin brother Brendan, who aims to follow in their father's illegal footsteps, proves a strange mix of ally and rival. It's a trial by fire for Jess and the rest of the students he's training with as they compete for a limited number of openings within the Great Library, all for their own reasons. The tale moves at a good clip, with several turns (many of them dark), setting up what looks to be an intense series. Once in a while, Jess seemed a little naive given his background and what he should've already known, but on the whole he made a believable, if flawed, character, as did the rest of the cast. I expect I'll pursue the next volume in the series, at least.

You might also enjoy:
Red Rising (Pierce Brown, Fiction - A Red slave from the mines of Mars seeks justice and vengeance by infiltrating the ruling Gold class of the interplanetary empire)
Scriber (Ben S. Dobson, Fiction - A disgraced scriber and a shunned warrior woman race to save their land from a vengeful force)
The Inkheart trilogy (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A bookbinder and his daughter share the ability to read stories to life, and read themselves into stories)
Fly By Night (Frances Hardinge, YA Fiction - A girl lives in a divided land dominated by censorship)
Libriomancer (Jim C. Hines, Fiction - A man who can pull items out of books must save the world)
The Rover (Mel Odom, Fiction - A sheltered halfling librarian finds himself swept up in a grand, dangerous adventure)
The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman, YA? Fiction - In Lyra's alternate earth, every person has a daemon, a soulbound spirit companion)
Arcana Universalis (Chris J. Randolph, Fiction - A starfaring, magic-based empire stands on the brink of catastrophic collapse)
Guardians Inc.: The Cypher (Julian Rosado-Machain, YA Fiction - Able to understand any written language, a boy is recruited by a secret organization to help save the world)
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Brandon Sanderson, YA Fiction - A boy discovers that the true nature of the world has been kept hidden by an insidious cult of evil librarians)
The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson, YA Fiction - In a world where gifted Rithmatists infuse chalk lines with power, an ungifted academy boy is drawn into danger when students begin vanishing)
Endymion Spring (Matthew Skelton, YA Fiction - An American boy in Oxford discovers a mysterious old book with ties to a dark cult and the roots of history)
The Bartimaeus series (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - An alternate-modern England is ruled by magicians, who oppress the masses and enslave spirits for power)
The Forbidden Library (Django Wexler, YA Fiction - A girl finds dangers, wonders, and her own magic in a library of magical books)

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