Irene Radford,
The Stargods #2:
The Dragon Circle

(DAW, 2004)

In The Dragon Circle, second volume of The Stargods series, Irene Radford delivers a more engaging story than that found in its predecessor, The Hidden Dragon. The novel fleshes out the story significantly by bringing outsiders into the action and providing closer connections between the protagonists and the world they left behind.

Five months have passed since the O'Hara brothers, wanted smugglers just trying to earn enough money to regain their citizenship and help their Mum find their missing sister, made a blind jump to an uncharted system in a desperate attempt to escape close pursuit by the Imperial Military Police (IMPs). They discovered a pristine world free of the pollution and biodomes of the Galactic Terran Empire, a local population of primitives descended from a long-ago colonization attempt and actual, real-life dragons. With months of repairs staring them in the face, the brothers set to work trying to provide for the villagers while defending their charges from the ruthless evil of a high priest borne of dragons.

As long as they kept this place a secret, they knew they could eventually make a fortune supplying bonafide natural foods to the mega-industrialized empire. Rather quickly, they began to regard the planet as home, and the local villagers as their family and friends. The villagers, for their part, looked upon the brothers as gods.

Suddenly, their paradise is threatened by disaster when Konnor O'Hara discovers a hidden beacon inside his ship, placed there by his cruel megalomaniac of an ex-wife who seeks to keep him from returning to claim his son. In short order, IMPs arrive in the system, and the peaceful brothers are forced to fight for the planet and people they have come to call their own. Outnumbered and certainly outgunned, they must rely on the psychic powers they have developed during their time on this planet, their knowledge of the land and the aid of two dragons.

These dragons, it must be said, are almost secondary to the story. They are important, and it seems clear that their knowledge will be of life-changing importance at some point, but the first two books in The Stargods series should not be looked upon as traditional dragon-oriented works of fantasy. The brothers must also deal with internal intrigue, as the high priest Hanassa, whom the brothers believed they killed in the first novel, proves to be as dangerous a threat as ever.

Along with the IMPs who arrive in system with hostile intent are a couple of individuals of great importance to two of the three O'Hara brothers. Konnor in particular seems to take center stage as the story develops, for he must leave this planet and return home within a matter of days if he is going to contest his ex-wife for custody of the son who knows him only as a summer counselor and not yet as a father. Loki's character is also developed much more fully in this second novel of the series, however, as the most take-charge and seemingly calculated of the brothers finds love in the form of a native Tracker seemingly sent to the village to aid him in this time of crisis. Kim, the most sensitive of the brothers, fades into the background at times, particularly as he grows more and more dependent on the psi-raising yet addictive effects of the local Tambootie plant.

I felt as if something were missing in The Hidden Dragon, but whatever that something was, it is noticeably present in The Dragon Circle. By connecting two of the brothers much more closely with their pasts, much more of a human side of their characters is revealed, and it is this human depth that makes this novel a much more satisfying read than its predecessor. The action is also more consistent and intriguing here, as the struggles detailed in The Hidden Dragon were frustratingly repetitive. Radford also manages to set the stage for at least one future novel very effectively in these pages. Past, present and future all seem to be in collision; much remains to be done, and many questions remain to be answered. I for one eagerly await the third novel in The Stargods series.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 2 July 2005

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