Friday, August 04, 2006

The Dragon Star Trilogy

The Dragon Token
Melanie Rawn
Fiction, Fantasy

I have chosen to review these books together because they form a cohesive narrative, the story of an unexpected war from an unknown foe. Whereas the first trilogy set in this world took place over years (and each individual book took months or years in itself), this entire trilogy takes place in a matter of months - less than a year all told.

The series begins with portents and preparations. Andry, Lord of Goddess Keep, has been drilling the Sunrunners in preparations to combat the war that visions have shown him is coming; more troubling is his refining of the scriptures of faith, particularly those which are based on his belief that sorcerers are, by definition, evil - unless they are trained to obedience by Sunrunners. The Isulki natives of the desert have their own portents, but none are as troubling as the message from a dragon that he has seen dragons as ships - an assertion he is very angry to have contradicted.

And then the dragon-carved ships land in a simultaneous razing of keeps; several major towns are burned to the ground in a single night, with princes and commoners alike fleeing.

The setting for this event is critical; without High Prince Rohan's endeavors to bring peace to the princedoms, the horrors of this war would not have such an impact. At first the enemy is merely an unknown bringer of horrors with no discernable motivation, well-planned horrors that threaten to cripple the response. While isolated pockets of resistance crop up, the overall strategy still has to be determined. Prince Pol is critical of his father's efforts; as several major keeps are lost, he finds his father's tactics lacking.

The buildup in the war is long and brutal; several sympathetic characters are killed or wounded, entire families are wiped out, and even our "good guys" are not always admirable. Moreover, the animosity between Pol and Andry has grown no less in the interim between the last series and this; they both realize that cooperation is needed to defeat the foe and they still can't get along. The issues spiral beyond the war, touching on faith, fear, freedom, and what it truly means to have power. There are many narratives to keep track of, and yet each one draws the reader further into the story, presenting an overall picture that shows a multifaceted portrait of what war truly can be.

My one note on the trilogy is that it has a plethora of similar names, due to the world's practice of naming children after admired people. Therefore, you have Sioned's namesakes Sionell, Siona, and Sioneva; Rohan's namesakes Rohannon and Rihani (and a close cognate, certainly not named after him, Rinhoel); and characters named Sorin and Saumer, who are not the same people as those in the last trilogy. While it is not nearly as bad as a Russian novel (Ivan Ivanovich, called Peter), the similarity of names might cause some confusion on the first reading.


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