Short Fiction Review: Death at the Dragon Circus

This one isn’t quite a short story, but please bear with me. I just discovered a serialized fiction podcast (Sheep Might Fly), and fell madly in love with the first complete story that I listened to: “Death at the Dragon Circus,” by Tansy Rayner Roberts, originally published in And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales.

Before you get scared by the phrase “serial podcast,” know that this one is short – only six episodes, all of which are less than 20 minutes long. So each episode is very manageable, and you’re not committing to a story for eternity. Though you might wish you were once you get listening, because this one is a lot of fun.

The premise: former assassins known as the Hammer and the Dove have decided to retire from the life. They are now calling themselves Kurt and Inga Frostad, and before they get far into developing these new identities (and their new sibling relationship), they fall in with a dragon circus. Of course the circus is in trouble, and Kurt and Inga are just the ones to fix it. It’s a rollicking good time.

Plot-wise, this is a tidy adventure/mystery, with just enough of the Frostad’s past to give them flavor, but the real focus is on the present day adventure – getting to know the circus, finding their places, and then discovering (and helping to thwart) a nefarious plot.

The narration is close third, with Kurt in the drivers seat. He’s a good narrator – funny and observant and self-deprecating and gruff. He doesn’t want to get involved with the circus, but allows himself to be sucked in because it makes Inga happy (though I also got the sense that he didn’t dislike the circus nearly as much as he let on). Like so much short fiction, I’d say that the voice is the best part of this story. It’s consistently fun, and often funny. I hope she revisits these characters in the future. I’d love to see what other trouble Inga and Kurt get up to!

I highly recommend this story for when you are feeling down and need a pick-me-up.

I can’t wait to check out Tansy RR’s other serialized stories through the podcast, and of course her published fiction.

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