Sunday, April 30, 2006

Books: Stronghold

Earlier this month after finishing Hard Drive, I started reading Stronghold, the first book in the Dragon Star trilogy by Melanie Rawn. I had read Melanie's previous trilogy (the Dragon Prince) quite a while ago. That trilogy ends with quite a cliffhanger setting up the next trilogy. But for whatever reason I had never gotten around to reading it.

However back in March, Linzy and I ventured up to Uncle Hugo's to trade in some books. Amazingly they took all of my books (usually they don't take any, or maybe just one or two) and I had a bunch of store credit to use. While wandering the store I stumbled across a complete set of the Dragon Star trilogy in aged, but good shape. Since they were older, they were even cheaper then normal, and with the store credit I couldn't pass them up.

Stronghold turned out to be quite good. I enjoyed the Dragon Prince trilogy, but seem to recall being a bit bored with the books in the middle, and then amazed at how much the third book picked up. Stronghold takes place several years after the first trilogy, but for all practical purposes picks up with the plot right where the other books left off.

Since it had been so long since I read the first trilogy, I struggled a bit at first with the massive collection of characters. But after a while, and with enough refresher information woven into the story, I was able to recall who everyone was.

The basic plot for Stronghold is one that has been done a million times before, a land united in peace under a just ruler (see: the first trilogy) is ripped apart by a basically unstoppable invasion by an unknown enemy (see: Sword of Truth, Wheel of Time, etc, etc).

Despite the well-worn plot device, all those characters are what really make the book. Melanie Rawn has a talent for creating and describing intricate characters who really make you connect with the story. In particular, she did a terrific job in Stronghold really making you feel for the characters forced to abandon their homes in the face of the enemy invasion.

At times, the book seemed to get a bit too focused on minutiae. For example, Melanie will spend a couple pages describing two characters, their family history, how they met, their arranged marriage, how they ended up falling in love, etc only to kill them off in the next paragraph.

Now, is that building a realistic world, adding to the tragedy of the invasion? Or is it just being pointlessly long-winded? In that case I happened to think that it was a legitimately added to the feeling of senselessness to the whole invasion, but in other books stuff like that has annoyed me. So whether I was just in the right mood for meandering storytelling, or whether Melanie Rawn just does a better job weaving those details into the story without them feeling pointlessly tacked-on, I don't know.

Overall I quite enjoyed the book, and happily started into the second book in the trilogy. Hopefully it will be able to maintain the high standard set by Stronghold.

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