Barbara Hambly,
(Ballantine, 2003)

Dragonstar, by Barbara Hambly, is the conclusion to a series that never should have been. This series is a sequel to Dragonsbane, one of the best books I have ever read. It stood completely on its own and was wrapped up perfectly. Instead of leaving it, years later she started this series. Dragonstar, while much better than the first two books, still limps along unnecessarily, never earning the right to have been created in the first place.

I have read that Hambly was going through a very tough personal time when she wrote the first two books in this series (Dragonshadow and Knight of the Demon Queen). You could tell this because they were very depressing books. Characters that I had grown to love in Dragonsbane were being put through a ringer that seemed more than just the normal "putting characters through conflicts to see how they come out." Massive doses of mistrust were placed between John and Jenny, wrenching their relationship apart. Meanwhile, the story that she was trying to tell wasn't very interesting and seemed almost cliched at times. There really isn't a new spin placed on the "demons trying to take over the world?" concept.

Dragonstar almost seems to have been written as an apology to fans for the gloom of the first two books. Jenny and John are rescued quite quickly in the book, both immediately thinking about what they should have said to each other the last time they saw each other. Both characters apologized to each other profusely in their minds, and then did so again when they finally met. Once they are together, there are numerous references to the pain they have caused each other, and how now that they're together, they will make things back to normal between them. When you take this book by itself, there is nothing wrong with all of that. It's the earlier behavior that's a bit out of character for them. However, when you read the whole series, the change is extremely jarring.

The only other semi-interesting character is Morkeleb. He's a dragonshadow now, a dragon who has renounced magic. The relationship between him and Jenny, the love that they share (though Morkeleb knows that it can never replace her love for John) is very sweet. Morkeleb has a very un-dragonlike sense of humor as well. In this book, he leads the other dragons in an attempt to help Jenny and John defeat the demons. He does this for Jenny, but you get a sense that he does this for the good of the world as well, which is something a dragon would never do. It's interesting to see the culmination of his transformation from dragon to what lies beyond.

However, the same can't be said of any of the other characters. Especially sad is Gareth, the regent and the man who came to John and Jenny so many years ago (in Dragonsbane) for help in defeating a dragon. In this series, and especially this book, he's a shadow of his former self. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that his "dead" wife has come back to life inhabited by a demon, but even that doesn't excuse how uninteresting he has become. Events happen to him, but nothing seems to really affect him that much. Then, there are the three demon characters; Folcalor, Amayon and the Demon Queen herself. None of them move much past the moustache-twisting villain. They're evil for evil's sake (not surprising, for demons, but that doesn't make them intriguing enough to read about). When your protagonists have nobody interesting to interact with, it makes for really labored reading.

The final problem with this book -- and this may surprise people who know how much I love Hambly's Benjamin January series -- is the extremely slow pace of the novel, mainly caused by her excessive description. Usually, I love that trait in Hambly's writing. However, I think what she's writing about has to be of interest in order to make it bearable. In this case, it isn't, and thus the pace grinds to a halt as she's describing things. The action scenes plod because of this, and the lengthy scenes where the plot is "developed" are almost unbearable. The only thing that kept me reading was my loyalty to Hambly (probably my favorite author) and my loyalty to these characters.

The plot is resolved, but an opening is left for a subsequent series of books. I sincerely hope that, if Hambly does decide to give in to the temptation, she really thinks about it first. This series almost destroyed my love for the original. I don't think it could take much more of a beating.

- Rambles
written by David Roy
published 17 October 2004

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