Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dragon Prince Trilogy

Dragon Prince
Melanie Rawn
Fiction, Fantasy

This is the perfect antidote to the myriad Tolkien clones running around the fantasy section. Yes, there are dragons, but understandable large creatures with identifiable habits, not forces of nature. Yes, there is magic, but not incantation-laden mysticism. And while there are villains, they are real people with a yen for power, fully realized and intelligent.

The story begins in the Desert, a kingdom set amidst sand and heat. Anyone who has lived in the Southwest understands the climate. The mindset it engenders is even more important, because anyone who has lived in a desert understands how important certain resources are, and how they must be cultivated. The mindset of Prince Rohan of the Desert it at direct odds of that of the High Prince, Roelstra, who comes from a princedom so rich in resources that his conspicuous consumption - and mind games to promote strife - hardly have an impact. The power-hungry nature of Roelstra is the stumbling block to Rohan's grand dreams - dreams he is going to perform subterfuge to get underway.

To make matters more complicated, Roelstra has no male heir, only eighteen daughters. His obvious strategy is to marry one to Rohan, a strategy that might work except for the stumbling block of Sioned, a Sunrunner who is Rohan's true love. In order to get the dreams of peace underway, however, they pretend disinterest so as to make Roelstra think Rohan will marry one of his daughters.

If only it was so simple. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and the subterfuge of a slightly dim prince that Rohan has to maintain starts to strain under the events that take place at the Rialla, the thrice-yearly convocation of princes. The intelligence of Roelstra and the desperate plots of his daughters and mistress make for danger at the celebration, a Rialla that ends in fire.

And that's just the first half.

This book is not for the faint of heart, as it is the typical bricklike size of the fantasy novels that come out these days. If that's your style, however, this is a superb example of the best that modern fantasy has to offer - a unique foray into a fully realized world.


The Star Scroll

This second entry into Rawn's world displays the same level of writing ability that made Dragon Prince so good. It is set roughly eleven years after the events in Dragon Prince, and Prince Pol is being fostered on the island of Graypearl. His seasick reaction to crossing water only confirmed what his parents already knew: Pol is a Sunrunner, and destined to be a ruler with both political and quasi-magical power.

At least, if he comes to power. The plots and machinations of the Rialla from the last book have lasting effects, as a pretender to the High Prince's crown is rumored. Worse, the discovery of an ancient scroll in the ruins of an old Sunrunner temple hint at another kind of power, and the potential for an ancient enemy to emerge. Still worse than that is the fact that Roelstra's three eldest grandsons have that power, and have been trained by those ancient enemies in its ways... and all they want is power for its own sake, even if they have to destroy the continent to get it.


Sunrunner's Fire

This culmination of the Dragon Prince series is on a par with the first two. The sorcerous challenge is underway, as the grandsons of Roelstra make their claim to power. As typical with schemers of high intelligence, they set their plans in motion when they cannot be ignored. And all to soon it is time for Rohan and Sioned to tell their son the truth about his heritage... the truth that makes it possible to go into battle with his full strength.


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