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Mistress of Dragons
Margaret Weis
Tor, 384 pages

Mistress of Dragons
Margaret Weis
Margaret Weis was born and raised in Independence, MO. She attended the University of Missouri, graduating with a B.A. in creative writing. She worked for about 13 years at Herald Publishing House in Independence. Her first book, a biography of Frank and Jesse James, was published in 1981. In 1983, she moved to Lake Geneva, WI to take a job as book editor at TSR, Inc., where she met Tracy Hickman, the Dragonlance designer. Margaret Weis is president/owner of Mag Force 7, a company which designs and produces collectible trading card games. The name derives from The Magnificent Seven, one of Weis' favourite movies. She lives in a converted barn in Wisconsin with co-author Don Perrin two dogs, and two cats.

Margaret Weis Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Journey into the Void
SF Site Review: Guardians of the Lost
SF Site Review: The Soulforge

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Margaret Weis turns in her first solo fantasy with this, the first installment of the Dragonvald Trilogy.

In Weis's scenario, dragons are the superior race, the secret masters of the world. For centuries they've watched the development of humankind, an upstart species whose odd blend of intelligence and weakness intrigues the dragons. By dragon law, humans are not to be harmed, nor are dragons to interfere or interact with them. There's just one exception: the Watcher, a dragon who consents to take human form and go among the humans, keeping watch and reporting back to the Dragon Parliament.

Three centuries before the action of the book begins, a renegade dragon called Maristara broke all the laws of dragonkind, seizing a human kingdom called Seth and setting herself up as its ruler. The people of Seth don't know they're ruled by a dragon -- Maristara has established an elaborate religion to conceal that fact, administered by an order of priestesses who believe it's their sacred duty to watch for and defend against the savage dragons who covet the kingdom. The leader of the order, known as the Mistress of Dragons, is worshipped as a goddess.

The Dragon Parliament has tolerated Maristara's deception, in part because three hundred years is an eyeblink to long-lived dragonkind, in part because they aren't certain what to do. But the discovery that Maristara is teaching her humans dragon magic -- and may also be working secretly with another dragon, possibly a spy within the Dragon Parliament itself -- spurs them to action. They summon the Watcher, Draconas, and order him to capture the current Mistress, the beautiful and devout Melisande, and bring her back to them for questioning. Draconas himself can't enter Seth without triggering the anti-dragon magic that defends it, so he chooses a surrogate: Edward, king of Idlyswilde, a brave and romantic young man whom he tricks into believing he must free the Mistress of Dragons from bondage in Seth. But Maristara's power is more terrible than Draconas suspects -- as are her designs upon humanity. Edward's incursion into Seth precipitates a series of terrible events that may forever change the fragile balance between dragons and humankind.

Weis employs a familiar fantasy template, from the European-style medieval world, to the somewhat predictable string of perils suffered by the characters, to the characters themselves -- who for the most part are exactly as chivalrous, beautiful, evil, calculating, etc. as you'd expect. The plot doesn't always hold up to scrutiny (Draconas's plan to use Edward to kidnap Melisande doesn't make a lot of sense, and it's never mentioned that in undertaking to kidnap Melisande in the first place, the Dragon Parliament is violating its own non-interference laws) and the prose clunks from time to time.

Nevertheless, Mistress of Dragons is an expertly paced narrative, generating suspense in the unfolding of Maristara's secrets (most of which, by book's end, remain mysterious). While many of the characters feel like off-the-shelf D&D, some have more depth -- Draconas, his dragon nature at war with his human form, struggling with his reluctant admiration for the humans whose lives he has disrupted; Bellona, leader of the female warriors who guard Maristara's temple, who must choose between her love for Melisande and the sacred service to which she has pledged her life. The dragon lore is interesting, as is the prickly interaction between the members of the Dragon Parliament, and the uneasy relationship between dragons and the rest of the world. And the story takes an unexpected turn toward the end, offering strong possibilities for upcoming books in the series. While connoisseurs of unconventional fantasy won't find a lot to challenge them here, fans of Weis's collaborative work should enjoy this new novel.

Copyright © 2003 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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