Dragonstar by Barbara Hambly
Del Ray Hardcover: June 2002
 ISBN 0345441214
Review by EJ McClure
292 pages List price $24.95  Purchase this book at Amazon.com

Thereís good news and bad news. The good news is that Lord John Aversin, Dragonsbane of the Realm, and Jenny, erstwhile witch and dragon and mother of Johnís three children, are back on the same page after spending the previous book of the series, Knight Of The Demon Queen, in different corners of earth and hell. The bad news is that there are a lot more demons ganged up against them.

Thatís bad news for the reader, too, because the tangle of tongue-twisting demon names is a puzzlement. Amayon, Aohila, and Adromelech lead the line-up, with Folcalor and Caradoc thrown in for good measure. There is not much to distinguish them in characterization, either; they are all treacherous, mean, and nasty. So it was a while before I got my score-card straightened out, and then it was to find out that the good guys were down by one in the bottom of the ninth with no runners on base. And John was at the plate, the only one who knows the way through the Maze that guards the Henge, the current goal in the demonís endless war against one another, a war in which human lives are fuel and fodder.

Though the demons may blur together, the heroes are boldly drawn in a full palette of dramatic colors. All our old friends are back: John and Jenny; their son Ian, who is just coming into his own magical powers; Miss Mab, a queen of the gnomes; and Morkeleb, the Dragonshadow. Prince Gareth is there, too, still acting as Regent for his mad old dad. And, unfortunately for everyone, his wife Trey is also part of the cast, though she died of the plague in the previous book . . .

Itís no good trying to summarize the plot; this is the fourth book in a series that began with Dragonsbane, then continued on through Dragonshadow and Knight Of The Demon Queen. Like most of Hamblyís books, Dragonstar contains an element of mystery. There are puzzle the heroes have to solve, lies and deceptions they have to expose, clues they have to unravel, if they are to outwit both demons and dragons, and save the Realm. Suffice it to say that the plot is marvelously twisty, with enough daring rescues, clever escapes, eerie magic and witty repartee to keep you turning pages until you get to the end of the book.

Then you find that there is one more tidbit of good news. While not a cliff-hanger like the previous book (in which the author left John Aversin being taken to the stake for execution), Dragonstar does leave the door open for another adventure in the Winterlands, and beyond.