It was a wonderful trip through some familiar territory. I love the world that Paul created for her stories. For example, the seven high races that Wulder created and the seven low races that Pretender created via corruption. Each of the fourteen races are unique and colorful. Emerlindians who change color as they mature. Kimens who wear light. Mordalkeeps who cut people off by swallowing them. Quiss who swarm over the land occasionally. And then the bisonbecks who, for some reason, I always picture looking like this:
Then there are the wizards. I love the fact that the different wizards have primary aspects that change their appearance. Wizard Fenworth, the bog wizard, who turns into a tree when he sleeps and constantly has critters scurrying out of him. Wizard Cam, the lake wizard, who drips when he sits and occasionally sprays people. Wizard Lyll, the mortal wizard, who grows old if she sits still too long. It's a colorful conglomeration that makes the book all the more fun.
And finally, there are the dragons, especially the minor ones. Each one has a color and the color determines what talent they have. At first, I wasn't completely sold on that idea, but it grew on me, especially after Dibl hatched. But there are minor dragons who can sing, who can heal, who are engineers, who are basically flying memory banks. That, plus the fact that all of the minor dragons have their own unique personalities, really made the stories sing.
And the stories themselves were great, following the adventures of Kale Allerion as she learns what it means to not only be Paladin's Dragon Keeper but a wizard herself. She makes friends, she makes enemies, in books that are truly great.
Except for the third one. This time through, I had a hard time with DragonKnight. It just didn't have the zing of the other three. Part of it is the fact that it's so long. It's the longest of the series and because of the pacing, takes a while to work through.
There are two other problems with DragonKnight, namely a lack of conflict and a lack of personal stake for the protagonist.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Bardon, a knight in Paladin's service, is supposed to be on a sabbatical when he's saddled with a quest. Three women of various races want him to take them north to save a group of sleeping knights. If they don't make it in time, the knights could die.
There's no obvious bad guy in the story, only the ticking clock. Normally a race against time could be a nailbiter. The problem is, Bardon and the women take a leisurely route. While it sounds like they should be desperate, they don't come across that way. They know they need to get north, but they seem to take it easy. They wind up meandering through the countryside. Instead of coming across as a fevered race against doom, it seems more like a leisurely stroll.
The other problem is that Bardon doesn't really have a perosnal stake in the outcome of the quest. He goes with them out of a sense of duty to Wulder, but not because he'll gain or lose anything from it. This impression is ultimately wrong, but the reader carries it with them throughout the book. At least, I did. Bardon's just along for the ride for most of this lengthy story. As a result, there isn't much to drive it.
But for all its faults, DragonKnight doesn't drag on the overall series too much. It's a delightful story set in a creative, fun world. And tomorrow, I'll discuss what I liked and didn't like about the final entry, DragonLight.