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Touched by Venom: Book One of The Dragon Temple Saga

Janine Cross
384p. Roc. $14
ISBN: 0451460480
(November 2005)


book cover Touched by Venom is certainly not the first fantasy novel to deal with a headstrong outcast girl and her fascination with dragons, but it is definitely the first in which bestiality is not only a positive, but provides spiritual enlightenment. First of a planned trilogy, this remarkable debut novel prologues with its young heroine witnessing some highborn thugs violently murdering her father and crippling her mother. Nine-year-old Zarq, her father, beautiful older sister, and mother, Kavarria, are members of the pottery clan who live, as do similar serfs, on the estate of a dragonlord. Kavarria, despite belonging to the hated Djimbi race, is valued for her artistry, healing, and helpful spells. She has hopes that her sexually enticing eldest, Waivia, will capture a lusty young noblepis attention and move far up the societal scale. Itpis about the only way a female can better herself in the male-dominated feudal society. All plans go array, however, and Waivia becomes, instead, a lowly sex slave. Kavarria goes to extraordinary lengths to save her, but her heroics result in the violent events of the prologue. Zarq and her insane mother seek refuge first in the macabre Zone of the Dead then in a convent of castrated holy women who care for old bull dragons. Even after death, Kavarria remains a devastating presence in Zarqpis life and in an effort to escape maternal haunting, she turns to the comfort of the highly addictive venom of the dragons. Zarqpis story continues with many grim but fascinating twists as Zarq moves toward her seemingly impossible destiny as a dragonmaster. By the bookpis end, future triumph can be dimly envisioned and it is clear that Janine Cross is a significant new voice in fantasy. Donpit be misled by the totally inappropriate cover of a curvaceous brunette; this isnpit run-of-mill girl-meets-dragon fantasy. (CFQ Vol. 37, Issue #8)