The Dragon Charmer by Jan Siegal
Review by John Berlyne 

The Dragon Charmer (Due out in November from HarperCollins/Voyager - ISBN0-00-225837-4, HC 12.99) is Jan Siegal's follow up to her wonderful 1999 novel "Prospero's Children". Siegal made quite an impression with this beautifully told fantasy tale, something proved by her high placing in the Locus poll under the Best First Novel category.

The Dragon Charmer returns to the same local, the family house on the wind-swept Yorkshire moors. Twelve years have passed since the events of "Prospero's Children" and Siegal's heroine Fern is now a grown woman in her late twenties about to be wed to a man she doesn't  really love. This proposed marriage of convenience is symptomatic of Fern's state of mind. 

She'll settle for a convivial life with the successful Marcus Greig (who is nearly twenty years her senior) and thus she can continue to avoid confronting and dealing with the magical events that overtook her in "Prospero's Children" and furthermore deny the Gift that she has been imbued with. Not so - these things can be very insistent as Fern finds out. Returning to Dale House with her best friend Gaynor, the two of them, together with Fern's younger brother Will are drawn into an all new enchanted adventure, one with echoes of Fern's past but in which her future is very much at stake.

Siegal has gentle, rather haunting style which complements the magical atmosphere she creates in her stories. Her characters are, on the whole, well drawn, though I can't help but wish there was a blacker streak running through the antagonists. Dangerous though they no doubt are, I feel they sometimes lack the bite necessary to scare the reader the same way they clearly scare her heroine.

I don't think "The Dragon Charmer" is as good as "Prospero's Children," but nonetheless I look forward to the third installment in this series.