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The Last Dragonlord
Joanne Bertin's first novel, The Last Dragonlord, is a surprisingly enjoyable, if occasionally cloying, assortment of blatant wish-fulfillment devices. There will certainly be sequels, but the story stands on its own.
Linden Rathan is the youngest of the Dragonlords, a race of semi-immortal were-dragons who act as judges for the human kingdoms. Linden is tall, strong, blond, and generally the most eligible bachelor on the continent; but he's spent the past several centuries pining for his soultwin, the female weredragon who will be the other half of his soul. No new Dragonlords have been born since Linden, however, so he seems doomed to be the last of his kind. Linden also has an intelligent horse. The horse isn't particularly relevant to the story, but all wish-fulfillment fantasies have to have intelligent horses. It's in the rules somewhere.
Upon the death of the queen of Cassori, Linden is sent with two other Dragonlords to decide who will become regent for the young prince. Cassori's bickering nobility fawn over them in public, but not everyone is happy about letting were-dragons sit in judgement over true humans, and this is a golden opportunity to rid the world of a few Dragonlords.
The good guys all just love one another to pieces, and their dialogue is sometimes syrupy. Linden himself is so noble and pure of heart that he's about as exciting as a cabbage, except for the hints of his past that Bertin sprinkles throughout the story. (Those hints spell "prequel.") The villains, however, have more depth than you'd expect in such stock furniture as the Scheming Usurper, the Evil Sorcerer, and the Cunning Seductress. Their moments of humanity are genuinely wrenching.
The Last Dragonlord is contrived for maximum romantic angst, but it's better executed and more imaginative than the usual run of daydream fantasy, including anything written by Anne McCaffrey or Mercedes Lackey in the past several years. Recommended to adolescent girls of all ages.
-- Christina Schulman.
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