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Dragon's Winter
Elizabeth A. Lynn
Ace Books, 261 pages

Duane O. Myers
Dragon's Winter
Elizabeth A. Lynn
Elizabeth A. Lynn won two World Fantasy Awards in 1980 -- for her novel Watchtower and for her short story "The Woman Who Loved the Moon." She is also the author of The Dancers of Arun, The Northern Girl, A Different Light, The Sardonyx Net, and the short fiction collection The Woman Who Loved the Moon and Other Stories. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area, teaches martial arts, and is at work on a sequel to Dragon's Winter.

ISFDB Bibliography
Elizabeth A. Lynn Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

Dragon's Winter, first in a new series, marks award-winning author Elizabeth Lynn's return to writing after a hiatus of nearly 10 years.

Karadur and Tenjiro Atani are twins, sons of the dragon-king of Ippa. But only one of them, Karadur, has the dragon blood. Tenjiro, bitterly jealous of Karadur's gift, uses sorcery to bind his brother's power, and steals the talisman Karadur needs to work his shape-shifting magic. Then he leaves for parts unknown, taking with him Karadur's lover Azil, whom he has manipulated into betrayal.

Time passes. Rumours come to Ippa of an evil gathering in the north. A huge black fortress has appeared on the ice, guarded by ghostly warriors and nightmare monsters. The villages of that region have been razed, and their people massacred. Then one day Azil comes back, mute and crippled. When he can speak, he tells Karadur that Tenjiro is lord of the black fortress, which he rules by means of an ancient and terrible sorcery. Karadur gathers an army and marches against his brother, determined not only to destroy Tenjiro's dark kingdom, but to regain the stolen talisman, and take his true form at last.

In other hands, this story might have seemed flat or even trite. There's not much that's new here, after all: jealous twins, dark wizardry, shape-shifters, dragons, heroic warriors battling a consuming evil. But Lynn's character-driven approach breathes fresh life into these high fantasy conventions, and lends her narrative an emotional depth not often found in the genre. Though they play traditional roles -- king, betrayer, warrior, sorcerer -- her characters aren't cookie-cutter fantasy archetypes, but fully-rounded individuals, whose actions are dictated by more than the requirements of plot, and whose sufferings (and they suffer terribly) are both moving and meaningful. Their complex and ambiguous relationships are as important to the tale as its many magical elements, and generate as much suspense as the battle against evil itself.

Lynn writes lyrically, yet with great economy and restraint (there's certainly enough material here for a fat epic, yet Dragon's Winter is only 261 pages long). Worlds of emotion are conveyed in a gesture; entire landscapes come to life in a single sentence. Especially refreshing is the lack of heroic excess that's so often a part of high fantasy plots. There are no over-the-top action sequences, no improbable victories over impossible odds, no just-in-time rescues or escapes. Those who fight are evenly matched; those who are captured suffer the horrible, and logical, consequences.

Only at the book's end does Lynn's control falter a little. The final confrontation between Karadur and Tenjiro is well-wrought and powerful, but there's quite a bit more to come, and this narrative, while absorbing, lacks the power of the rest. It's hard not to see it as a lead-in for a sequel -- though unlike most sequel setups, it's difficult to predict where the next installment will go. I'll be looking forward to finding out.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.

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