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The Iron Dragon's Daughter

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,408 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
A slave in a dragon factory that manufactures flying fighting machines, Jane changes her destiny when a voice from a dragon promising freedom and revenge prompts her to escape and challenge the foundations of the world.
Hardcover, 424 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Avon Books (first published January 1st 1993)
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Ruslan Rodriguez No-no, no way. So much violence, sexual content, scenes of main characters taking drugs and drinking, lot of cruelty. Even for me it is too much…moreNo-no, no way. So much violence, sexual content, scenes of main characters taking drugs and drinking, lot of cruelty. Even for me it is too much sometimes, not sure if I'll end this book or leave it halfway...(less)
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Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kat  Hooper
May 17, 2009 Kat Hooper rated it it was ok
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Some people don't like to admit that they didn't "get" a book, but I'm secure enough with myself to say that I didn't get this one.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter started off well. Jane is a human changeling who works in a Faerie factory that makes flying iron dragons for weapons. Jane and the other child slave laborers (who are a mix of strange creatures) are entertaining and bring to mind Lord of the Flies and that scene in Sid's room from Pixar's Toy Story.
Nov 08, 2011 Jamethiel_bane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Faerie cyberpunk. Jane is a changeling, working as slave labour in the dragon factory. Her life is planned out for her, and it's not particularly pleasant path. Then she meets an iron dragon, and decides to rebel.

This is a FANTASTIC book. The world is incredibly detailed and very well thought out.
The only trouble is, it's about two books in one. We start off with Jane in childhood, and go through to her adulthood. Jane is wonderful. Smart, stubborn, not always especially moral and very, very ang
Meg Jayanth
One of the books on Mieville's list of 50 Scifi and Fantasy Books for Socialists, he tells you that it "completely destroys the sentimental aspects of genre fiction". And holy hell, please do take that warning seriously. Jane is a child-worker in a factory which is building treacherously aware warmachines made of cold iron. These "dragons" are enslaved to their pilots, wills broken by technology and magic, as Jane is essentially a slave to the factory. Until one of the dragons starts whispering ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Elspeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me stabby.
Feels of rage when I was done.
Bad ending was bad.
Margaret Taylor
May 18, 2013 Margaret Taylor rated it did not like it
I’d read some of the other reviews of The Iron Dragon’s Daughter on Goodreads, so I was forewarned that the author pulls a nasty trick on us around page 80. That still didn’t prepare me for how angry this book was going to make me.

I picked up this book because it’s noteworthy for deconstructing a lot of stock fantasy tropes. It was published in 1993, when fantasy was deep in the ghetto of Tolkien knockoffs. A few years later, A Game of Thrones would start pulling the genre out of Tolkien’s shado
May 05, 2009 Petr rated it it was amazing
This book is one of those rarities that make my brain a little bit numb from emotion storm. There is nothing coherent, just a storm of love, hatred, questions, guesses, objections, suggestions, alterations, admiration, amusement, dissatisfaction... I want more, but I know that there is no more and there must be no more - for all good things must end by their own will or be twisted into the MacDonald's-like things by others. Such books and the worlds they create is more like a glimpse in the dark ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Pele rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I read this book years ago, and it's one of those that really stick with you and rattle around in your head.

If you've ever read classic, well respected literature, you know that the author is telling a raw and original story, and cares nothing about the reader's comfort along the way. That, to me, is the sign of a truly well-written book. You experience the human condition through the writing, and a good part of the human condition is NOT comfortable, pretty, or easy to face.

The genius here (and
Jan 01, 2009 Terence rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 12, 2010 Loricious rated it it was amazing
This was one of the first books that I stumbled upon without anyone ever recommending it to me, and expected the normal fantasy-fare.

Imagine my surprise when this story turned out to be an entirely original tale about a girl trying to find her way in a strange, cruel, bold, ferocious world. I was used to reading about elves and dwarves; this world has giant metal dragons and invisible boys and anthropomorphic characters. And, as it were, elves as well.

I re-read this book every year, just for the
Apr 15, 2012 Bree rated it liked it
So, you know the feeling you get when you encounter a difficult piece of artwork in a contemporary art museum? Maybe it's a small box left alone on a table. Maybe it's a cake made of plaster. Maybe it's a series of lights shone on a wall. You can pick up on a few clues as to what concept is being explored and what aesthetic is being showcased, but you get the sense that you might just not be intelligent or cultured enough to grasp the big, profound entirety of it all. And then it strikes you: ma ...more
Mark Newton
Jul 09, 2010 Mark Newton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Cracking little read, this one, bonkers and brave and brash. Totally slaps anyone who suspects ‘gritty’ fantasy is a new thing. This book doesn’t shy away from adult language and themes (war, racism, sexism), and has a pleasing mish-mash of aesthetics, from the gentle veneer of the fae, to the harsh industrial landscape – all mixed with a spot of college antics and sex. Quite likely a deliberate attempt to upset some section of the genre readership – which you’ve got to love, right?
Aug 10, 2011 Sfbooknerd rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: advanced fantasy readers
An excellent and unusual dark fantasy book. The main character is an anti-hero so be prepared, remember it's a grim, gritty, nihilist fantasy book.

This book is for advanced readers who are familiar with the usual fantasy tropes. People who still prefer the old-style fairytales with heroic heroes may not like it. People who have already read a lot of fantasy and are bored with sparkly vampires and white knights may like this grim tale.
Matthew Kehrt
Jun 07, 2010 Matthew Kehrt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You'd be surprised how amazingly awesome a book that consists largely of depressing elf sex can be.
Jun 29, 2012 Bill rated it liked it
I picked this up on a recommendation by author China Mieville. It is interesting, and certainly different from anything mainstream, but I can see why the book faded into obscurity since it's publication in the 90's.

During the first 20% of this book, I thought it was going to be one of the best things I ever read. A changeling girl is stuck in a magical, steampunk factory with other fey children toiling away building sentient, mechanical dragons. She must escape by secretly fixing one of said dra
May 19, 2009 Kara added it
Shelves: modern-fantasy
I don't know how to rate this book. It's staid with me years after I read yet - yet I never felt the urge to read ti again, or tell anyone else they should read it.

The faerie realm never felt so real - or so modern. There are factories, cops, malls, high schools, colleges, duplexes - all the trappings of urban and suburban life, but populated entirely by the fair folk, who act very similar, except when the occasional Beltane sacrifice or Samhien orgy comes along. And there's magic and spells de
Nov 16, 2014 Gwern rated it really liked it
I read it based on Anatoly Vorobey's review:

"This is fantasy for adults: complex flawed characters, a world rich in detail, multitude of characters who live and do things for their own sake rather than to advance a plot point or help the hero. Utter disregard for conventions and cliches of the genre. A hero who is an anti-Mary Sue. Endless inventiveness of the author. To my taste, this novel is what books like The Kingkiller Chronicles promise, but then utterly fail to deliver. But if you're a f
Althea Ann
Jan 13, 2013 Althea Ann rated it liked it
Not so long ago, I was reading a forum discussion talking about how fantasy worlds never seem to progress past a medieval level of technology; and whether or not it's possible to write a technological fantasy world that is clearly not science fiction.
This book does it, with its plethora of faerie creatures - and our protagonist, a changeling - working in factories and dealing with magical/robotic creations.
The book is complex, with strikingly original ideas, and a carefully plotted structure th
Jul 04, 2009 Paula rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, unfinished
This book was recommended to me somewhere along the way and also appears as part of one of the 'Fantasy Masterworks' series, so I expected it would be good.

The basic premise of The Iron Dragon's Daughter is of a world alongside ours where human children have been stolen to work in the great foundries where dragons are made. Our protagonist, determined to know a different life from the one she is currently leading, makes plans to steal one of the dragons and flee - her plan works well in some way
One of the most intriguing books of science fantasy I've ever read, Iron Dragon's Daughter is set in a strange world that is best described as 'faerie cyberpunk.' Our heroine, Jane, is a changeling, a human child brought into a dark world of faeries, half-breeds and monsters both natural and technological. Jane starts the book working in a factory that produces dragons, huge flying mechs armed with state-of-the-art weaponry, using her unusual ancestry to practice her skills as a thief. One day, ...more
J.R. Barker
Oct 01, 2014 J.R. Barker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this many many many years ago, I picked it up in a book shop because I was intrigued by the blurb, the cover and the opening chapter.

I was hooked in the shop and couldn't wait to see where the story went, so I bought it then and there. I was around 10 years old.

I got about a fifth of the way through it unravelled, drastically.

What started out as a gritty kids book ended up a rambling mess of drug and sex filled nonsense.

There was no plot that I could see, there were no redeeming features
I rarely disliked a fantasy novel. But this one really got to my nerves. I could not enjoy reading the book. I just finished it for the sake of "have nothing else to read" at that moment.

Sep 03, 2010 Ouranosaurus rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark J. Saxton
Jul 10, 2015 Mark J. Saxton rated it did not like it
What begins brilliantly and appears to have the makings of a steam punk classic, wanders off into an unholy mess of disagreeable characters and fantasy cliches existing in a world that is wholly incomprehensible. Had I not read it on holiday I would have binned it a third of the way through and as it was just flicked through the final chapters, by which time I didn't have a care for anyone or anything within its pages.
Oct 30, 2012 Cia rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-for-lit
I wanted to like this so badly. The premise was great, the opening chapters were great...Then we get bogged down in Jane's sexual encounters. There's one chapter littered with the word "cunt". I was so disappointed. Once again, a potentially amazing book is ruined by the author's preoccupation with slut-shaming his heroine. I realise this book is from the 90s, but this is entirely symptomatic of how male authors treat female protagonists. In order to get ahead? Shag allllll the mystical creature ...more
Mar 09, 2008 Res rated it liked it
Shelves: sff
The one where Jane, a changeling and child laborer in a world where magic and industry coexist, steals (or is stolen by) a giant, intelligent machine called a dragon.

This book gets three stars from me on the basis of the worldbuilding, which is fantastic. It reminds me of Wicked: familiar and strange and neverendingly inventive.

But it's full of cruelties large and small, and it's unrelentingly nihilistic. Which would have been more powerful if Jane were fighting with all her might against indif
Sep 25, 2011 Robert rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Inventive and twisted, this is a dark solipsistic (or perhaps nihilistic) vision of a drug-fueled sex-laced industrial fantasy world. This book is a mixture of sh** and honey, and as such, the inventive good parts can't overcome the feeling that one has consumed something unpleasant and unhealthy. It rates two stars because I find value in both the good inventive parts and the chance for an insight into a mind of someone who is most unlike me. I'm sure this book will stick with me -- but I can't ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Alanna rated it really liked it
I hated this book. Sure there was great worldbuilding and lots of satire, but that's not what stood out to me. It was depressing, nihilistic, grating, disgusting... but I have no doubt that it was all of those things on purpose, that the deep sense of existential unease and confusion that I had upon completion was exactly what I was meant to feel. Reading this book made me want to purge my brain. It made me ashamed.

I still feel like I didn't really understand it, and that there was much more the
Aug 18, 2015 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is bleak and nihilistic. Jane, the protagonist, has few redeeming qualities. Her failure to Take Action is as disturbing and frustrating as Thomas Covenant's disbelief in Stephen Donaldson's classic series.

The book refuses to be what the reader wants it to be and it jerks itself forward in endless, random, nightmarish spurts. Jane's world is cruel, intense, nearly loveless, and disconnected. Michael Swanwick's wonderful prose was the only reason I kept reading after about page 100.

Lindsey Roberts
Jun 26, 2015 Lindsey Roberts rated it liked it
The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swanwick has to be one of the hardest books that I have ever tried to review, simply because it is so in-depth and so full of both magic and machinery, I wouldn’t even know whether to class it as science-fiction or fantasy.

Jane is a changeling, a mortal child brought into a world where elves, dwarves and all other manner of creatures live. Enslaved in a factory, Jane stumbles across what appears to be the ruins of one of the iron dragons. But the dragon is f
Jan 24, 2015 rastronomicals rated it it was ok
I've owned this book--purchased new in its first edition--for a long while now, without having ever read it. Then I recently read "King Dragon", which was incorporated into Iron Dragon's sequel, and loved it, so I figured it was time to go back and finally read the thing.

The book started quite strongly, then about a third of the way through strayed unconfidently from itself, then simply fell apart in its last ten or fifteen percent.

With a title like the Iron Dragon's Daughter, and a heroine name
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