Born in England; Canadian citizen; children: two.
Writer. Has worked in a chocolate factory and a veterinary hospital; cofounded a private school.
Touched by Venom: Book One of the Dragon Temple Saga, Roc (New York, NY), 2005.
Shadowed by Wings: Book Two of the Dragon Temple Saga, Roc (New York, NY), 2006.
Forged by Fire: Book Three of the Dragon Temple Saga, Roc (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of a comedy book.
Janine Cross is the author of the "Dragon Temple Saga," a "dystopian feminist fantasy trilogy," as a Publishers Weekly contributor described the three novels. Writing about the second novel in the series, Shadowed by Wings: Book Two of the Dragon Temple Saga, another reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt compelled to deliver the following warning: "These are not [fantasy novelist Ann] McCaffrey dragons. Think X-rated Tolkien set in the Middle East." Indeed, Cross caused a stir in the fantasy community with her edgy depiction of a society worshipping and at the same time enslaving dragons, and with her graphic descriptions of both violence and sex—including rape and bestiality. Cross explained, in part, her inspiration for writing the fantasy trilogy, as quoted by Lynn Viehl on Paperback Writer: "One thing in particular inspires/drives me: how human beings, women and children being my main interest, can survive tragedy and persecution, torture and deprivation—not only survive but continue with life. These things are happening every day, and have happened in our little corner of the world in the not-so-distant past, too. Really, my books are the stories of these people." Marcus Richards, writing on Blogcritics.org, noted that Cross was using dragons to a new and more complex purpose in her saga: "Cross has created a world where the dragons are both the focal point for human existence, and the tool for a religious elite to exert control over a conquered people."
The first novel in the series, Touched by Venom: Book One of the Dragon Temple Saga, lays the groundwork for the series, introducing the young female protagonist Zarq. As a contributor for Mad Times related in a review of Shadowed by Wings: "The protagonist is a woman in a male-dominated society who's become addicted to dragon venom which when ingested is a stimulant and hallucinogen." Zarq's situation goes from bad to worse as her serf family and other inhabitants of Malacar are ruled by the tenets of the Temple of the Dragons. Only the noble born are allowed to keep dragons, and women are most definitely second-class citizens. Sent into exile into the Dead Zone, Zarq learns the cruel truths of life, but ultimately is set to tending male dragons after a "unsexing" ritual. Marcus felt that Cross's opening installment is "a brilliant depiction of a despotic theocracy whose sole purpose is to insure that a very few people have power over the majority," and went on to observe that her "writing has a gritty reality to it that is not often been seen in fantasy until recently, but is becoming more prevalent." Others took exception to the grittiness of the writing. A Kirkus Reviews critic, for example, found Touched by Venom to be "a truly ridiculous and at times revolting fantasy," as well as "wretched drivel." Liz Henry, however, writing in Strange Horizons, had a far different assessment of Touched by Venom, describing it as a "thoughtful, enjoyable work of feminist speculative fiction…. a woman's hero-tale, the story of a survivor; a true dystopian fantasy, and one written with an awareness of non-Western cultures." Similarly, Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada thought it is "a fascinating story of love and vengeance," and found that Cross "combines skillful storytelling with sensually evocative details."
Cross carries the story forward in Shadowed by Wings, in which the now teenaged Zarq continues to fight for her own station in the male-dominated society. She hopes that she, in fact, will become a dragon master, while at the same time she must battle her addiction to the venom of the dragons. Cross brings her trilogy to a conclusion with Forged by Fire: Book Three of the Dragon Temple Saga, in which Zarq has established her own dragon colony, but seeks to unravel the ancient secret of the dragons to rid the society of the oppression of the Dragon Temple and the autocratic stranglehold it holds on the populace. Cassada, reviewing this final installment in Library Journal, commented that Cross "combines an unusual approach to dragons and dragon lore with strong characters and an exotic, tribal culture." Further praise for this concluding volume came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who felt that Cross "handles challenging themes of addiction, graphic sexuality, racism, slavery and the oppression of children and women."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, review of Touched by Venom: Book One of the Dragon Temple Saga, p. 1056.
Library Journal, November 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Touched by Venom, p. 64; April 15, 2007, Jackie Cassada, review of Forged by Fire: Book Three of the Dragon Temple Saga, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, September 12, 2005, review of Touched by Venom, p. 47; June 12, 2006, review of Shadowed by Wings: Book Two of the Dragon Temple Saga, p. 35; February 12, 2007, review of Forged by Fire, p. 67.
Bewildering Stories,http://www.bewilderingstories.com/ (September 15, 2007), Danielle L. Parker, review of Touched by Venom.
Blogcritics.org,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (May 3, 2006), Richard Marcus, review of Touched by Venom.
Janine Cross Home Page,http://janinecross.ca (September 15, 2007).
Mad Times,http://www.tomcat.com/madtimes/ (December 30, 2006), review of Shadowed by Wings.
Paperback Writer,http://www.pbackwriter.blogspot.com/ (November 16, 2005), Lynn Viehl, review of Touched by Venom.
SF Canada,http://www.sfcanada.ca/ (September 15, 2007), Celu Amberstone, "An Author's Cinderella Story: Interview with Janine Cross."
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (September 15, 2007), Donna McMahon, review of Touched by Venom.
Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (February 6, 2006), Liz Henry, review of Touched by Venom.