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    THE RING OF FIVE DRAGONS by Eric Van Lustbader (see his website)


    TOR, Tom Doherty Associates, May 2001

    One hundred and one years before the book begins, the V'ornn invaded and conquered the mystical Kundalan people and are now pillaging their planet of its wealth and its secrets. While the Kundalan people are disunited, feel abandoned by their goddess, and incapable of effective resistance, a few of them retain sorcerous powers that exceed the knowledge of the most experienced V'ornn. Could these secrets be what V'ornn have sought since the destruction of their own planet in the forgotten past?

    THE RING OF FIVE DRAGONS tells the story of Annon, prophesied to be the savior of the world, the Kundalan woman who raises him, and the ever-feuding families of V'ornn who risk the entire world for knowledge and wealth. Even before the V'ornn came, the ancient religion of the goddess had lost its purity and was wracked by dissension. While the V'orne squabble for power, the Kundalan are rewriting their religion, eliminating the sacred truth with the notion that the goddess has abandoned her people.

    Eric Van Lustbader has developed a sophisticated world. With echos of DUNE, the young son of a doomed ruler must learn the way of the people his own race scorn. Filled with violence and rape, the novel is not intended for the young but it does have its rewards. Kurgan, in particular is an interesting character. Scorned by his father and everyone around him, Kurgan struggles for power in a world where power can only be seized and held by the strong and unscrupulous. Clearly he is being set up as an even more important character in future novels in this new series--fortunate since the ranks of the villains are severely depleted by the end of this first book in the series. In fact, Kurgan is the only truly multidimensional character in the novel. The others, without exception, retain a single dominant characteristic (e.g., sadistic, grasping, or treacherous).

    I found Van Lustbader's magical system with its ideal synthesis of mysticism and sorcery to be intriguing and well matched by the advanced V'ornn technology that allows complete reshaping of matter itself. The rich Kundalan cosmology and its gradual replacement with half-truths adds considerable depth to the story. Van Lustbader does a fine job mixing up action with mysticism, keeping the reader motivated to turn the page and find out what happens next. I also liked that THE RING OF FIVE DRAGONS can be read as a complete novel. Although the reader may look forward to the next volume in the series, this one ends with a sense of completion.

    Four Stars

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