The book: The classic fantasy ‘Wierm’s Egg’ is the debut novel by Jennifer Garlen, an author from Huntsville, Ala. Released Aug. 23, ‘Wierm’s Egg’ is available at Amazon.com.
The story: A motherly dragon raises an orphaned boy as her own child with the hope of preparing him to live in the worlds of wierms and humans.
Opening line: ‘The solitary dragon wheeled a lazy arc around the wisps of cloud that lingered in the morning sky.’
The review: ‘Wierm’s Egg’ is a delightful fantasy tale about a fierce but tender-hearted dragon named Sylla and her adopted human son Wiermig, who washed ashore as the lone survivor of a shipwreck when he was an infant.
Sylla and Wiermig develop a loving mother-son relationship. Sylla is able to transform into human form courtesy of a magic ring and accompanies Wiermig to the nearby village of Ush to learn the ways of humans.
The bright, charming Wiermig easily adapts to human life, but at age 12, he and his mother are summoned to a meeting of dragons called the Circle of Wierms. The dragons decide Wiermig must test his worth by becoming a dragon’s apprentice and undertaking a pilgrimage to find the legendary Seeker in the Deep.
Sylla’s brother, a lazy purple dragon named Willais, is the only one that offers to mentor Wiermig. When the time arrives for Wiermig’s training, Willais is pleased to see his new apprentice isn’t interested in fighting with swords or learning warfare.
‘I like stories and songs, I think, best of anything. … I like a good tune and the sound of voices singing. Mother says I’m doomed to be a bard and starve.’
In order to travel through the cities and towns of humans, Willais borrows Sylla’s magic ring, which transforms the purple dragon into a devilishly handsome scamp of a man who makes maidens blush and incites tavern brawls with roguish ease. When Wiermig and Willais discover disturbing news about the possible return of the evil black dragon Erozur, the story gains a sense of urgency as the two wanderers must focus and investigate the rumored threat.
During his quest, Wiermig encounters an immortal sage imprisoned by his own magic, mysterious wood witches, an obsessed pirate, spoiled damsels in distress, hoard spiders, and, of course, the mighty Erozur. The adventures range from humorous to exciting, but the heart of the novel remains the relationship between Wiermig and Sylla. In fact, their bond is so well-written and established in the first third of ‘Wierm’s Egg’ that it fuels the emotionally satisfying conclusion despite Sylla’s absence for most of the final two-thirds of the book.
While author Jennifer Garlen infuses the mother-son relationship with genuine heart, she doesn’t ignore her supporting cast of characters. They all play vital roles in either assisting or teaching Wiermig throughout his journey. One of them is a kindly village sentry named Bert.
‘Bert did not need a sword to keep the peace in the village of Ush; he used friendly words and sincere compassion with equal success in almost any situation.’
Bert’s approach to life is one of the central themes of ‘Wierm’s Egg,’ and the purposeful sentimentality of the novel is its chief source of appeal.
Fans of fantasy novels and fairy tales will no doubt notice Garlen’s not-so-subtle tips of the hat to classic works of the genres. From the title of the first chapter (‘An Unexpected Catch’) to Wiermig’s random transformations into various animals after swallowing Sylla’s magic ring, ‘Wierm’s Egg’ respectfully draws inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and T.H. White’s ‘The Once and Future King,’ among other classics. Still, Garlen deftly manages to create her own unique fantasy world, where cleverness and compassion, not swords and warfare, are the most effective weapons against evil.