The Dragon's Disciple
by Barbara Sheridan and Anne Cain, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $6.20, ISBN 978-1-59578-362-2


The Dragon's Disciple is the second book in the ongoing soap-opera yaoi series by Barbara Sheridan and Anne Cain. Many of the principle players in this story first show up in previous books in the series. However, I believe that it isn't necessary to read any of the previous books in order to read this one if you are new to the series because this one, like the previous one, stands alone very well.

Unlike the previous book, however, The Dragon's Disciple has now paranormal elements on top of the same antiheroic elements that I understand drove some readers of the previous book into shock. This book is where the vampires show up.

I don't know how to give a synopsis of this story as a synopsis will give away what happens to the couple Dao Kan Shu and Toshiro Itou from Silk And Poison. I'm not going to give any explicit details, but I'm sure anyone can guess what I will be trying to say even if I only hint at things. So, if you don't want to get spoiled, please stop reading now. No? You want to keep reading? Well, at least I've warned you.

While I am not too affected by the outcome of the happy couple as I have come to view this series as a soap opera rather than a typical romance, I suspect that some fans of that couple will be writing some strongly-worded emails to the authors. Feel free to email me if you want to get spoiled, but if you ask me, at least this is a conclusion to the relationship that is out of our main characters' hands and therefore it's not that bad. At any rate, Toshiro is out of the picture pretty early in this story and Dao Kan Shu eventually becomes the vampire known as the Poisoned Dragon. Don't cry, girls, because another bishie will step up to the plate soon enough and he seems to be a reincarnation of Toshiro. Oops, I just gave away the spoiler. Oh well, if you have read this far, you have no rights to complain.

In present day San Francisco, college student Kenichi Ohara is on a blind date set up by his sister at the goth club called - what else? - The Poisoned Dragon when he catches the eye of the man himself. His art professor, Leigh Gachelsing, has been haunted by dreams of waking up next to a woman with a torn throat mouthing silently at him the words "Poisoned Dragon". I'll be interested to know how he figures out that she's saying those words instead of, say, "You need to see a shrink". His troubles intensify when he's around Ken, he notices. What is going on here? Magda Silivasi, Ken's college mentor of some sort, becomes worried that Ken has fallen into bad company - little does she know - and soon teams up with Leigh to figure out what is going on with everyone in this story.

This synopsis isn't the most comprehensive or illuminating, I know, but that's the best I can do without giving away too much about the story. This is one of those stories where it is impossible to give a detailed synopsis without giving away huge spoilers. Let's just say that Magda and Leigh are soon trying to save Ken from Dao Kan Shu although one can reasonably wonder whether Ken really wants to be saved.

The Dragon's Disciple is, I believe, exhibits the authors' most mature writing style to date when I compare it to the authors' earlier works, especially the embarrassingly melodramatic two books they have with Samhain Publishing. Perhaps the authors are becoming more confident in trailblazing the yaoi trail in romance, but at any rate, this is easily their best-written story to date. I have a wonderful time reading this story although I have best let readers know that this is not a conventional romance by any sort. Dao Kan Shu is still a bad boy. He's a vampire who revels in the most bestial aspects of his nature. He kills his victims, folks. We are not talking about your average Anne Rice emo dudes here. I have mixed feelings about how the author treats Dao Kan Shu towards the end though. On one hand, he makes a marvelous example of an wicked creature finally falling onto his knees because of love. On the other hand, this is Dao Kan Shu, the irredeemably bad big boy. Turning him into a one-man Byronic melodrama feels a little bit blasphemous to me.

Nonetheless, this is a most intriguing and entertaining story. A small part of me is disappointed that the violence and other dark and deliciously nasty aspects of Silk And Poison are considerably toned down here. Not that this is a tale of sunshine, mind you. This story is still dark and antiheroic enough to slake any bloodlust on the reader's part. I find this story intriguing because the characters are well drawn and for the most part the various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is the plot come together very nicely. The Dragon's Disciple is a well-written and well-paced story with an engaging storyline that does the impossible where I am concerned - I actually like a bishie character without cringing at images of talent-free Japanese boy band members shouting tunelessly to some drum machine in my head. Fancy that.

So, when is the third book coming out? Sign me on, ladies.

Rating: 90


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