John C Adams Reviews 'The Dragon Token'
The Dragon Token by Melanie Rawn (Pan, 1993)
Dragon Star Book Two
Way Back Whensday
'The Dragon Token' is the middle book in the fantasy Dragon Star trilogy, which is itself a follow up to the wildly popular Dragon Prince trilogy. This is full-on swords and sorcery but with a firm focus on relationships and romance.
Time has moved on since Sioned and Rohan fell in love during the first book 'Dragon Prince'. Their son Pol is now married with two young daughters. A whole host of the characters I learned to love in Rawn's 'Dragon Prince' are now well beyond middle age, with grown up children and often grandchildren old enough to ride into battle. Plenty has changed in the intervening decades, though the relationship between the High Prince, his squabbling lords and princes hasn't become any more harmonious. The cornerstones of the tale remain the desert and the close bond between dragons and men.
Pol has just become High Prince upon the death of his father Rohan in battle against the Vellantim, unknown invaders who attacked many of the High Prince's lands in the autumn. It is now winter. Stronghold lies in ashes, as Pol's mother Sioned has burnt it to prevent the Vellantim from taking the fortress. Sioned, her daughter-in-law Meiglan and Pol's daughters flee the remains of Stronghold, heading for the safety of Feruche.
Meanwhile, Pol hears of his father's death and assumes the responsibility of being High Prince, tracking down the Vellantim and meeting them in battle, hoping to drive them from his territory. Old feuds are brought into play, with the Merida, longstanding enemies of the High Princes, siding with the Vellantim.
At Goddess Keep, where the Sunrunners (powerful sorcerers and sorceresses with the ability to command fire and communicate over long distances using sunlight) are trained, the ruling lord Andry begins to understand how he can turn the chaos caused by the Vellantim's invasion to his advantage.
'The Dragon Token' had less focus on romance than 'Dragon Prince'. It was more about the tensions between families and friends of longstanding. There was some romance, but it was dark and negative rather than positive and satisfying. A lengthy fantasy series over six books with a massive cast of characters can easily sustain a pivot from one form (fantasy romance) to another (swords and sorcery) and this change in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book. It was great to see just how versatile an author Melanie Rawn is.
To say that there are many characters featuring in 'The Dragon Token' risks genuine understatement. The main point-of-view characters Rawn developed in 'Dragon Prince' have married, had children and grandchildren over the intervening decades. A few have fallen in battle or from old age, but there were still many, many characters Rawn presents as central to the drama and a wide array of point-of-view characters. This made the story complicated, but because I enjoyed the novel I really took the time to be clear about whom everyone was. The handy glossary at the back of the novel helped, even with frequent similarities between names intended to represent descendants named after people in the generation or two above. In some ways, the strength of 'The Dragon Token' lies in its extensive cast of characters, interacting within a vibrant universe that the loyal reader knows inside out. The character of the enemy was less vividly portrayed, and I was left wanting to know much more about the warlord and the Vellantim.
As the middle book of three, 'The Dragon Token' presented a transition from the invasion narrative of 'Stronghold' towards the resolution of the fight back against the unknown warlord and his army to come in the final book in the trilogy. Many existing alliances were broken by betrayal or death, and new relationships forged in the crucible of challenging circumstances. By the end, the scene had been nicely established for the next novel in Rawn's series and I was itching to know what would happen next.
Thank you so much for reading my 'Way Back Whensday' post from John C Adams Reviews. Please share your thoughts on this review or on fantasy or romance in general in the comments section below. I'd love for you to recommend fantasy romance novels you've enjoyed!