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Crystal Dragon
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Meisha Merlin, 336 pages

Crystal Dragon
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller were born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. They now live in Central Maine. Steve Miller is the founding curator of the University of Maryland's Kuhn Library Science Fiction Research Collection. In 1997, Sharon Lee was hired by SFWA as the organization's first full-time executive director.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Sharon Lee
ISFDB Bibliography: Steve Miller
SF Site Review: Crystal Soldier
SF Site Review: Balance of Trade
SF Site Review: Balance of Trade
SF Site Review: The Tomorrow Log
SF Site Review: Pilot's Choice
SF Site Review: Partners In Necessity

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

Crystal Dragon is the second half of the Great Migration Duology. Readers should realize that this is not a sequel so much as the second half of the story began in Crystal Soldier. In that book we met Jela (full name M. Jela Granthor's Guard), the burned-out soldier who was a genetic experiment, and Cantra yos'Phelium, the burned-out smuggler pilot. Jela, stranded for a time on an empty planet, finds a single living tree, and rescues it.

Those who have never read a Liaden book will shrug at those three essentials, but anyone familiar with the series will resonate immediately. This duology is the prequel to all the Clan Korval tales. As the story spins out, elements behave almost like hypertext: you realize, ah, there's where that came from! Oh, that's what's behind that mystery! What's particularly cool is, I believe that new readers who might begin the Liaden tales with the duology will experience the same effect, only in reverse -- when they read the books farther down the timeline they'll discover what those same crucial elements eventually become. As soon as I finished reading Crystal Dragon I revisited one of the much-read Liaden novels and discovered that story elements I was used to now revealed new layers of meaning, which subtly altered how I perceived each scene, novel, and the overall arc of Liaden history.

It would be a mistake to go into the plot too much because there are so many surprises. So what I'll do is confine myself to a sketch of the story-line, and comments on the reading experience.

Most important, don't begin with this book -- before the prologue it says Part Three. Even those familiar with the Liaden tales up the time-line really ought to read Crystal Soldier first. Crystal Dragon opens with a vastly strange prologue that makes sense only if you've read the first book. Chapter One brings us back to humans, specifically Tor An yos'Galan; and Chapter Two shifts us to Cantra and Jela, launching the second of the three lines that eventually converge at the promised galaxy-destroying disaster. In Part Four we meet some new characters -- including a cat, who, like the tree, is more than it seems. These new characters form the third thread, binding the aliens and humans together at the last.

Events, and their own inner drive, force Jela and Cantra to transcend their tired, middle-aged humanness. The aliens become gradually less impenetrable and more interesting as the sides in the universe-scale conflict form up. Along the way many questions are answered about the nature and origin of the tree, the dramliza and sheriekas, the true meaning of Korval, and finally where 'Liad' comes from.

The flow of the story begins with deceptive slowness, but the threads begin to whirl together faster and faster until the powerful ending. Weaving everything together is the single thread of luck. The impact of the last chapter, only a page, was just breathtaking -- especially the last line.

This is space opera at its very best -- complexity and nifty ideas, action, emotion, transcendence. Characters one cares for, and will want to revisit again and again.

Copyright © 2006 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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