Aranya by Marc Secchia

Narrator: Shiromi Arserio

Publisher: Marc Secchia (2015)

Length: 14 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 1 Shapeshifter Dragons

Author’s Page

Aranya, princess of the island kingdom of Immadia, is given up as hostage to the invading Sylakian Empire. Chained aboard a Sylakian dragonship (dirigible), she manages to save the commanding officer, a Warhammer, from a windroc. She has a bit of freedom once imprisoned with all the other hostages of subjugated nations but that doesn’t prevent the hostages from forming cliques and taunting one another. Matters get out of hand and Aranya is sentenced to die. She is shackled to a stone and tossed off a high escarpment. That’s when her life changes forever as she shapeshifts into a dragon. This might just be the turning point in the war with Sylakia.

There’s much to be enjoyed in this book. I liked Aranya as a character even though she didn’t wow me. She’s not perfect but she has a good heart. She has her strengths and weaknesses but she also has some good companions to help her along the way. My one quibble would be that she’s a little too good, only having minor flaws. She was rather bland and this made her a little boring.

Meanwhile, her best friend and dragonrider is Zip (short for Zuziana), another princess hostage. They don’t start off as friends but they eventually find merit in each other and bond over shared experiences. Zip has a mouth on her short frame and isn’t afraid to use it, like her archery skills.

The plot was in two pieces for me. In fact, it felt like this was two books pressed into one. First, Aranya must discover who and what she is. That whole bit about being tossed off a cliff that’s mentioned in the book’s description doesn’t happen until several hours into the book. The second half of the book is Aranya and Zip running some guerrilla tactics on the Sylakian air navy and eventually having a really big battle to determine the fate of the island kingdoms.

Let’s talk a little about the male characters. Mostly, they are either there for comfort (like Aranya’s dad) or are of a romantic interest (like Yolathian and the formerly nameless monk). Occasionally they get to do stuff and have a few meaningful lines. That said, most of their plot-related actions happen off the page and the reader only hears about it after the fact. It is both refreshing and odd to have a book that wouldn’t pass a reverse-Bechdel test.

Nak and Odya, an older couple who have experience with both natural dragons and dragon shapeshifters, get to play teachers and stand-in grandparents to Aranya. Sometimes this was very sweet and sometimes Nak was outright creepy with all his lecherous comments to and about Aranya and later Zip. Odya and Nak know something about Aranya’s parentage but are reluctant to give up all their secrets. Aranya’s mom is something of a mystery throughout the book and that’s one of the things I liked.

There’s also warrior pygmies on some of the isles and Zip and Aranya have to trade with them. Then there’s the dragonets, which are small dragons with limited intelligence and speech. This last bit really reminded me of some of Anne McCaffrey’s books. As a biologist, I got a kick out of the info about dragon anatomy – 3 hearts, 7 stomachs, etc. After so many mentions about dragon digestion I did start to wonder about dragon poo. For a good chunk of the book, Aryana in dragon form is being tracked by the Sylakians and spoor is a useful find when tracking anything. Alas, no dragon dung.

As the story goes on, Aryana’s powers grow. At first, this seemed natural and I was interested. Later on though, she has so many powers that she’s getting close to be invincible and I found this a bit boring. I like my heroes to have limited abilities and therefore, they sometimes have to rely either on others or on their wits to get them out of a jam.

All told, it’s a good solid start to an epic dragon fantasy series. The two main characters are pretty interesting and the world they inhabit has a lot left to explore.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Shiromi Arserio makes a really good Aranya, both princess and dragon. I enjoyed the quick banter between Aranya and Zip throughout the book. For the most part, she usually had distinct character voices but sometimes there were a few conversations where the distinctions became muddled. The male character voices really needed some masculinity. She was great at imbuing characters with the correct emotions. 

What I Liked: A world made up of islands; natural dragons and dragon shapeshifters; Zip and Aranya make a great team; pygmies; little dragons; dirigibles; Odya playing grandmother.

What I Disliked: Could use some gender balancing; Nak is creepy; Aranya’s power grow so numerous and powerful during the book that she becoems a little boring; male characters don’t sound particularly masculine.

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

Bookish Giveaway & Interview: Marc Secchia, Author of the Shapeshifter Dragons Series

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Folks, please give a warm welcome to historical fiction author Marc Secchia. I recently had the pleasure of listening to his book, Aranya: Shapeshifter Dragons Book 1 which follows the dragonish adventures of Aranya and her friends.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Snape – well, he’s not so much a villain, but he is a beautifully conflicted character who I found myself rooting for almost despite my instincts. Very well-written indeed.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

African fiction. I believe this is one of the most underrepresented fields of literary endeavour and I’d love to see powerful African voices taking their place on the world stage.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

I’d choose a dragon. They are Fantasy’s finest and most magical creatures and they’d undoubtedly possess the skills and magic to pull off a crazy rescue.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Definitely The Lord of the Rings. It’s the classic fantasy tale of the insidious, corrupting power of evil and the courage of those who choose to stand against it. Peter Jackson did an awesome job of bringing the tale to the big screen, but I still love the rhythm, detail and power of the original text. I’d love to dive into that world afresh because it’s just incredibly immersive and every detail is thought out.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

There are so many terrific books out there that would make amazing movies, it’s hard to choose. Let me throw out a classic author’s name here – Anne McCaffrey. I think it’s a travesty her works have never made it to screen, although some of the mores are a bit dated I think this series would still resonate with so many people, not just Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans. I’d play Robinton, the Master Harper of Pern.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Let’s see … Dumbledore since we’re having a smallish Potteresque vibe here, Aladdin if he doesn’t come in his canned-and-potted Disney guise, since he’d have plenty of fun tales to tell, and it’s weird I know but I think Mulan just kicks it in her world and time. Two more (scratches chin) … Killashandra from one of my favourite books of all time, the Crystal Singer omnibus by Anne McCaffrey, and Aragorn from LOTR. Maybe I’d throw in a dragon just to liven things up. Toothless is awesome but not much of a conversationalist. He’d just have to make funny faces.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I live and work in Ethiopia so that’s a little different to most. I love to play music – I play a range of woodwinds such as flute, panflute and Irish whistle – and when I’ve a quiet evening I love nothing more than a relax with an epic book.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Ha ha, it’s really boring, but it’s one of those “learn-to-read” books about Kathy and Mark I think. After that must come Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and then I had a Hardy Boys binge before graduating to older books.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Well, I’ve a sale coming up on 15th/16th August when I’m going to take a run at getting one of my books into the Top 10 free books on all Amazon. If you’d like to sample my work, Aranya will be free on the 15th and it is a bestseller in Coming of Age fantasy. http://smarturl.it/draconic

Secondly, I’m really excited about the release of Dragonstar on August 16th. It’s the 4th book in my Dragonfriend series and the culmination of the series. http://smarturl.it/dragonstar

I think you’ll love the cover art for this series – do check it out, thanks!

Check out more interviews, spotlights, & reviews on the blog tour.

About Author Marc Secchia:

Marc is a South African-born dragon masquerading as an author, who loves writing about dragons and Africa, preferably both at the same time. He lives and works in Ethiopia with his wife and 4 children, 2 dogs and a variable number of marabou storks that roost on the acacia trees out back. On a good night there are also hyenas patrolling the back fence.

He’s the author of 21 fantasy books in 3 languages (2 more languages coming this year – watch this space!), including 8 rip-roaring dragon fantasy bestsellers. Dragonfriend won a Gold Award for Fantasy in the 2016 IPPY Book Awards. Look out for Whisper Alive, his latest release. The 4th tale in the Dragonfriend series, Dragonstar, is coming soon!

When he’s not writing about Africa or dragons Marc can be found travelling to remote locations. He thinks there’s nothing better than standing on a mountaintop wondering what lies over the next horizon.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of Aranya:

Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?

Long ago Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonizing, building, and warring. Now the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom – the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.

Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.

Series Note

There is a companion series to Aranya, set in the same unique Island-World above the Cloudlands. Aranya is the last of the Dragons – or is she? Find out why the Dragons disappeared in The Pygmy Dragon, now available on Kindle.

Audible ~ Amazon ~ iTunes ~ Audio Excerpt

About Narrator Shiromi Arserio:

A native of London, England, Shiromi Arserio is a stage actor, voice talent and audiobook narrator. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. In addition to narrating dozens of audiobooks, her voice can be heard in documentaries, e-learning projects and video games such as Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion. Shiromi currently resides in the Seattle area with her husband and her two furbabies.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ SoundCloud ~ IMDB

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a $50 Amazon gift Card. Open internationally! Ends August 16th, 2017.

Aranya Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card