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Dragons Wild by Robert Asprin
Cover Artist: Brandon Dorman
Review by Carolyn Frank
Ace Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441014705
Date: 01 April 2008 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Griffen McCandles has just graduated from the University of Michigan. Recognizing that he needs a job, he goes to see the uncle who has paid for his upbringing and education since his parents died. Instead of landing a job, he learns he is a nearly pure-bred dragon, soon to come into his powers, and that every other dragon is now out to either recruit him or kill him. With this little knowledge he sets out to talk with his slightly younger but much bigger and bolder sister, and the two of them end up heading for New Orleans with one of his college friends. His one major skill is his poker-playing ability. This time, it is not the jokers, it is the Dragons Wild.

These are shape-shifting, fire-breathing dragons, who walk and talk just like humans most of the time, the best camouflage available. However when tempers flare, so do these dragons, especially Griffen's hot-tempered sister, Valerie. To become the decent poker player he is, Griffen has learned to mostly master his temper, but he finds it difficult to understand, much less master his newly emerging dragon powers.

This is post 9/11, pre-Katrina New Orleans, full of jazz and rock musicians, sidewalk artists, street magicians and voodoo queens. The small town of the French Quarter comes alive through the eyes of someone settling there to live, not just the short-term vantage of the tourist. The traveling poker games, the drug gangs and other less legal elements uneasily co-exist with local law enforcement and the somewhat-feared Homeland Security amid the steady stream of tourists and marks in the steamy Louisiana heat. In this environment, dragons, with a few vampires and chimeras, fit right in.

Griffen, due to his expected power status as a near pure-blood dragon, has been invited to take over the running of non-casino poker games in the area. Without too many missteps he is actively pursuing this goal while striving to not be killed by those out to destroy a potential new power base. His enemies range from drug lords who are afraid of him muscling onto their turf, to Homeland Security watchful for terrorists and those who might wish to fund them, from the police Detective Harrison who would love to shut down the non-tax-paying mobile poker games, to the George, a quasi-mythic creature who attacks dragons.

This is a well-written, highly enjoyable fantasy tale filled with credible and enormously likable characters. No real knowledge of poker is needed since the game serves more as a steady backdrop than anything else. If you like dragons and the non-flooded version of New Orleans, you are sure to enjoy Dragons Wild.

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