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The Last Dragonlord
Joanne Bertin
Tor Books, 400 pages

The Last Dragonlord
Joanne Bertin
Joanne Bertin shares her living quarters with ferrets. They're nicknamed the Weasel Patrol after a backup feature from the late, lamented comic Fusion. She is working on her second book, Dragon and Phoenix.

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A review by Todd Richmond

In some ways, writing a review about a book you like is more difficult than writing one about a book you dislike. With books I dislike, I feel like I have to justify my reasons and explain in detail what I didn't like. With good books, I don't feel the same need, so reviews tend to be a bit shorter. For The Last Dragonlord by Joanne Bertin, my opinion is "Buy it. Read it."

Still here?

I guess I should say a bit more. This is Joanne Bertin's first novel and she's off to a fabulous start. The Last Dragonlord is romance and intrigue wrapped up in high fantasy. The story is about Linden Rathan, the youngest of the Dragonlords. Dragonlords are weredragons, part human and part dragon. They come into existence when a dragon soul and a human soul bond together before birth. Those souls then divide, leaving an individual with a soul that is half human and half dragon. Every Dragonlord has a soultwin, the person who has the other half of each part of their soul. Dragonlords are born without knowing their destiny and many die before they make the Change, the time when they can shift from human form to dragon form. For the last six centuries, Linden Rathan and the other Dragonlords have waited in vain for the appearance of new Dragonlords. Of all the Dragonlords, Linden alone has no soultwin, earning him the title of the Last Dragonlord.

Created at first by the misuse of magic, Dragonlords have been committed to serving humankind and averting war. Dragonlords are often called upon to arbitrate disputes and sit in judgement on difficult cases. The Last Dragonlord begins with such a case. Along with the soultwins Kief and Tarlna, Linden is sent to Cassori to decide a matter of regency. The queen of Cassori has died, leaving her young son Rann to rule, but the Cassorian Council is unable to decide on which of the young prince's uncles should be appointed regent. The trio of Dragonlords is sent to arbitrate and help select a regent for the throne.

Of course, nothing is ever that simple. The court of Cassori is awash with intrigue. In addition to the controversy over the regency, there is dark magic at work. A secret society known as the Fraternity, thought to have been disbanded long ago, has again gained power. Objecting to the status and power granted to the Dragonlords, the members of the Fraternity plot their downfall, starting with Linden Rathan. To help them, the Fraternity has recruited an evil mage who has plans of his own that go beyond the simple scheming of the Fraternity. In the midst of all this intrigue, Linden discovers his soultwin.

Bertin has made an amazing start with The Last Dragonlord. The whole book is filled with a richness of detail that makes you want to know more. The character development is wonderful. Linden Rathan comes alive in the book, as do some of the other characters. When Linden finds his soultwin and is forced to distance himself from her in order to protect her, you feel his joy and his pain. His sense of compassion, and anger, become apparent when he discovers how the young prince has been treated. His sense of duty and responsibility get him into trouble more than once. And, though he has incredible powers, most of the time you get the feeling that he is just a lonely man, searching for companionship and comfort.

There are humourous moments as well, especially in the events surrounding Linden meeting his soultwin. In contrast to the warmth and goodness of the Dragonlords and their friends, we are also treated to the malice and deviousness of their enemies. The Fraternity uses blackmail, coercion, and magic to get what it wants, and their web of evil spreads from the prince's nanny to the Lord Steward of the Realm. A particularly good character is Sherrine, a beautiful young women who sets out to seduce Linden for the Fraternity. Her volatile relationship with her mother, her calculated plotting, and her jealous rage all add to the richness of the story.

The Last Dragonlord promises to be the first of several novels from Joanne Bertin about the Dragonlords. There are hints here and there in the book that point to other stories waiting to be told, especially parts of Linden's past. My advice is to read The Last Dragonlord so that you're ready when her next book appears on the shelves.

Copyright © 1998 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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