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When Dragons Rage
Michael A. Stackpole
Bantam Spectra, 465 pages

Ciruelo Cabral
When Dragons Rage
Michael A. Stackpole
Michael A. Stackpole was born in Wausau, Wisconsin in 1957 and grew up in Vermont. He sold his first gaming project to Flying Buffalo in 1977. After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1979 with a BA in History, he moved and has lived in Arizona ever since. In 1987, FASA hired him to write the Warrior trilogy of BattleTech novels.

Michael A. Stackpole Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Star Wars: I, Jedi
SF Site Review: Battletech: Warrior: En Garde

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

In the last book of the DragonCrown War Cycle, Kedyn's Crow is discovered to be the infamous and well-hated Tarrant Hawkins, who is known for betraying the heroes of the last war with Chytrine. He is now prisoner, waiting to be transported to King Scrainwood's domain and tried for treason. This leaves many of his friends -- Princess Alexia of Okrannel, Will Norrington, (who is hoped to be The Norrington of prophecy, promised to free them all of Chytrine's threat for good) and Kerrigan Reese, a mage of great ability -- wondering if the brave and honorable man they fought beside for so long is really the evil nightmare they've been taught to despise. The fact is, Chytrine, upon her defeat (which is detailed in the prequel, The Dark Glory War) vowed that she would return to silence Hawkins. Tarrant is determined to spread the word and get the people to prepare to fight her, when she does come back. A frightened group of leaders decide to destroy him, by accusing him of betraying the heroes of this first war. Unmasked, and long thought dead, Crow and his friend, a Vorquelf named Resolute, have continued to do what they can to undermine Chytrine's plans.

Her plans are simple -- to collect and unite the pieces of the DragonCrown and conquer the south, which she sees as a foul, rotten place. Her conversations with her adopted daughter, Isaura prove this As Chytrine poisons her against the south, and praises the cleanness of the hard, cold north, we see the war from her perspective. One can't help wondering how much of this is manipulation of Isaura, who isn't a bad person, just devoted, and how much of this is what she really feels. It makes her seem more evil, somehow, because she's not this generally evil bad person. She's a human with a perspective that, when we are with her, seems oddly reasonable.

Alexia and the others soon realize that Crow is Crow and that the lies of the past mean nothing. It is the future, and their friendship, that is important. Setting aside their plans against Chytrine while they support Hawkins during his trail, they show that they know caring for the people that are close to them is one of the things that will undo Chytrine's desire to rule a world of ice for good. We also revisit the heroes who survived the fall of the Fort Draconis, as well as meet new friends, including a mysterious mage who seems to be training Kerrigan for something more.

When Dragons Rage has some wonderful elements, brought together by a writer who deftly and colorfully manipulates this world, bringing things that are familiar and mixing them in with the new, creating an adventure of quick pace and amazing color. I like how people are defined by their masks. In most provinces everyone wears masks, with their ranks, whether they are orphans, and everything else of import marked on it, so instead of hiding identities, they actually reveal far more personal things. The various ways these masks, or lack of them, convey how the characters react to or feel for each other is quite nifty. Also, not all the cool characters are humans. The urZrethi are a wonderful and strangely developed civilization whose network of caves prove to be a fighting ground to try the best of solders and Perrine, a hawk-like warrior who has been like a sister to Alex, are just a couple of examples. I'm leaving out some really cool characters.

One of the things I that I read an epic fantasy for, aside from an original story, is the camaraderie. I like positive interaction between a tight knit group of friends. When Dragons Rage has a ton of it. These people are interesting, they work well together, and they genuinely care for each other.

I did not have the pleasure of reading the first book, Fortress Draconis, but I had no problem reading the novel. Michael A. Stackpole does carry on all the threads, and adds to them, twining the various parts through the book and preparing them for the next volume. An excellent read.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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