DWJ ReRead · Fantasy · Short Story

“Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” by Diana Wynne Jones

unexpectedmagicI’m reading this story for the first time. “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” is a multiverse story, but less developed than the worlds in the Chrestomanci series and Deep Secret/Merlin Conspiracy. Maybe because it’s a short story – it makes me want to see this multiverse expanded and to read more stories based on this world, and the characters in it.

Like Witch Week, it’s set in a world where witches – or people with magical powers, called heg – are hunted and executed. Siglin could read people’s minds, so she knows that it’s only time before the Dragonate comes for her. And they did, when she’s fourteen and a half, after an incident at the dragon reserve. The Dragonate are people from various worlds, working as sort of a police force, capturing hegs and keeping worlds safe from the Slavers that come into worlds to enslave people. When they come for Siglin, interrogating her and every member of her family (not reporting a heg is also a criminal offense) her brother admits to knowing about her powers, so the two of them are taken away. However, their journey gets interrupted by an invasion of the Slavers, who are taking over the worlds, one by one. Of course, Siglin manages to save them all by her powers and quick thinking, and the Dragonate decides that they need to rethink their “burn all the witches” policy. To me, the more interesting story is the one about the incident at the dragon reserve, and the use of her abilities with dragons, that leads to the final (spoilery) revelation about secrets kept by her mother.

The world of Sveridge (or Home Eight to the Dragonate) is rather Nordic, which I guess is a change from my usual reading. I like that women, for the most part, run the world – it’s a world where there are more women than men, and Siglin’s mother has three husbands, which is normal to them. Her mother is the breadwinner of the family and runs the household, and Siglin is her heir. It’s also normal for the children not to be told who their real father is, so it’s interesting when Siglin is asked that question, and she contemplates her three fathers, thinking about which man she wishes is her real father. Due to the fact that they’re living in a matriarchal society, they are named for their mother – Siglin’s brother Neal is Neal Sigridsson, for their mother Sigrid, so I’m assuming that Siglin is Siglin Sigridsdóttir.

One of the things I like in DWJ’s books is how the villains are usually complex characters, either created from circumstance or just a weak person making bad mistakes, and not just evil without an explanation. The Slavers of “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” aren’t given any voice or character, so in this story they do come off as Just Plain Evil. Orm, the other villain, who reported Siglin to the Dragonate in the first place, is a more typical DWJ villain – although I suppose not everyone would consider him as a villain. I like that even the strongest person according to Siglin, her mother, shows weakness and comes off very real, instead of being just a Strong Female Character. I think overall, “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” is a very satisfying read.

DWJ RE-READ no.20 | “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” (1984)
previous story: Witch Week
next story: “No One”


2 thoughts on ““Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. I do think Orm is a villain in the way that a lot of DWJ’s parents and parental figures are. Which makes sense in a way that I will also not talk about to avoid spoilers. 😉
    We really don’t end up knowing anything about the Slavers which is kind of strange but also keeps them scary! I only read this story for the first time a couple years ago but have already reread it and hope to get to it again this month. It’s some of her best ideas!


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