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June 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Mistress of Dragons by Margaret Weiss
0765304686 PubDate: May 2003
Review by Rob Archer

384 pages List price 25.95
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The Dragonvald Trilogy, a new solo series by Margaret Weis, jumps out to a great start that bodes well for this new world she has created.  After many winners in the past, this new trilogy should be very successful as it builds upon many of the traits that have made the author’s previous stories fan favorites.  There are powerful and mysterious dragons, a dose of magic here, a little swordplay there, and a host of compelling characters to keep the story moving.  Mistress of Dragons lays the foundation for a dramatic saga to unfold among the dragons and the humans who interact knowingly (or more often unwittingly) in their plans and machinations. 

The story follows Draconas, a dragon who walks among mankind, as he searches for a way to find the evil outcast dragon Maristara.  His search takes him among many mortals from the city of Ramsgate-upon-Aston to the the women who make up the Sisters of the Eye and their protectors high in the mountains of Seth.  He must learn to balance the links he makes to these humans to the rules he is bound to by the Parliament of Dragons. 

A hallmark of her writing style in the past, Weis once again does a tremendous job in creating the emotional and personal bonds both between characters and with the reader to those characters.  I've always marveled at the ability she has to draw the reader into the story and make an emotional investment in the outcome.  Hopefully the future books will delve deeper into the makeup of the Parliament of Dragons and their thinking since they remain a bit amorphous in this first installment.  Another bonus is that I've always been impressed with how the author has handled interpersonal relationships.  Unlike some authors where you're left feeling a little bit "icky" after a romance scene, Margaret Weis is able to work through this subject quite tactfully. 

As the first book in the series, Weis does a nice job of tackling the task of outlining the backstory.  She is able to do this in the vehicle of an adventure by King Edward and Draconas that brings them into contact with Melisande the High Priestess.  As we follow them through the story, the author uses Draconas to fill in many of the details and underlying reasons for the actions taking place.  A credit to Weis is that this adventure doesn't seem pro forma, but contains excitement, drama, and some intrigue.  There weren't any times where the story seemed to go stale as almost everything done along the way appeared to have a point even if it wasn't immediately apparent to the reader.

There were a few times when the story seemed reminiscent of Well of Darkness, a book in Weis’ Sovereign Stone series. Both gave me the impression that while there would be carryover characters, the current book was largely responsible for setting the context of the world in which the later stories would take place.  Both stories also seemed to end not in a typical cliff-hanger, but on a note that signified the conclusion of the first book would very directly impact where the story picked up even if the earlier chapters didn’t have this same import.  Another relative similarity was the manner in which a few of the characters we follow through the tale don’t make the leap to the next story.  If anything could be improved upon here, it would be the manner in which death is incorporated.  It is often handled matter-of-factly and while that may be appropriate at times, it also detracts from an opportunity to make an emotional impact in other places.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mistress of Dragons and will be looking forward to the future installments in the trilogy. I felt this book was a really good story on its own as well as doing a nice job of setting up the rest of the larger tale.  Whenever this can be done in such an entertaining manner without seeming to be going through the motions I fully support the effort and this book was an excellent start.  By the end you’ll be looking forward to seeing how Maristara and her consort deal with the developments as well as how the Parliament and Draconas plan their next move.  Finally, you’ll be looking forward to the roles of the twins (something else we’ve seen in a Margaret Weis world…) as the story unfolds.

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