Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: Stronghold by Melanie Rawn

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Title: Stronghold
Author: Melanie Rawn
Publisher: Daw
Series: Dragon Star, Book 1
Paperback: 592 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
A generation of peace is about to be shattered as a seemingly unstoppable invasion force lays siege to High Prince Rohan's realm. For Andry, the Sunrunner Lord, the invasion is a fulfilment of his long-ago visions of disaster to come. This is the first book in the "Dragon Star" trilogy.

Overall Rating: 4/5

I made the mistake of reading this even though I haven't finished the Dragon Prince trilogy. Due to that, there were some plot points of the previous trilogy that I'm sure were ruined, and I was thoroughly confused for the first 100 pages or so. It didn't help that those pages were also incredibly, incredibly slow. The family tree and character list at the end of the book really helped, and after the first 100 pages, I got the gist of who everyone was.

As with most high fantasies, Stronghold takes some time to get going, but once it does, it's impossible to put down. My first love is high fantasy, and it's due to this incredible payoff that they give. It takes a lot of patience to get through the beginning, but the endings are always fantastic for all the setting-up that we have to deal with.

This novel deals with a nation that has been spoiled with a couple decades of peace suddenly being overrun by "barbarian" invaders intent on taking them over. As with most books that deal with war, there's a huge struggle between Rohan, aged war veteran who goes for patience and not attacking until he has to, and Pol, his son who's desperate to prove himself as High Prince and warrior. Lots of violence, lots of death, but not gratuitous violence. It's not done for shock value, but rather for a realistic depiction of what war is.

What I've always admired about Rawn is her ruthlessness to her characters. They're given tough choices and touch circumstances. It's not fluffy by any means, so they have a chance to really grow and change, which always makes for interesting reading. She also has no problem with spending ages and ages creating characters, giving them a history, background, family, etc., and then killing them off three books later. Again, it gives the feel of a war. For readers of the Dragon Prince trilogy, there are some hard deaths to take. It's really tough reading about these characters go from peaceful happiness to once again fighting a war.

The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, and I'm glad I have the second book at hand so I can see what's going to happen next. For fans of high fantasy, if you haven't yet come across Melanie Rawn, I would definitely suggest you give her a try. (Start with Dragon Prince, and don't go near her Ruins of Ambrai series. It's unfinished and will probably remain so.) For those who have already read the Dragon Prince trilogy, pick this one up. It's a definite must-read.