01/06/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: DAW. 425 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 0-7564-0194-1.
check out website: www.dawbooks.com
I’m new to ‘ The Stargods’ series, not having read the first book, ‘ The Hidden Dragon’. I thought that I would read the second volume of the series to see if it stood up as a novel in its own right and if it was enough to compel me to go and read the first book. Looking through the list of other fantasy books written by Irene Radford and published by DAW, I see there are three other series two of which also feature dragons.
‘ The Stargods’ series is set in a future where the Galactic Terran Empire is the dominant force and supplies the majority of the villains in the form of IMPs (Imperial Military Police). The Terran Empire is the traditional space-faring civilisation using jump points in space to traverse immense distances in their spaceships. The plot concerns the three O’Hara brothers, who are renegades from the IMPs and are hiding on a planet not recorded on star charts. This planet has dragons and also seems to provide the catalyst for the three brothers to develop their latent psychic powers. How the brothers became renegades, arrived at the planet and became known as Stargods to the local hunter-gatherer natives is all covered in the first volume.
The story of this volume opens with one of the brothers finding a tracking device on their damaged spaceship. It must be destroyed before it leads the IMPs to their safe haven. The only way it can be destroyed is by dropping it into the molten lava of a volcano, which holds bad memories for the brothers as they killed someone there in the first volume. During the attempt to destroy the tracking beacon, an unknown adversary, who just might be the reincarnation of an evil character from the first volume, steals it. To make things worse, an IMP cruiser has detected the beacon, found the jump point and is closing in on the O’Hara brothers.
As the story progresses, more and more characters from the brothers past make appearances. There is also a small side-line with Martin Konner O’Hara’s ex-wife and son which has minimal impact on the events in this novel but is obviously shaping up for something bigger in volume three. On the whole, Irene Radford’s writing style is enjoyable although there were phrases that would not be out of place in a Mills & Boon romance story. There are also a lot of instances where the O’Hara brothers use the phrase ‘ St. Bridget’ and sometimes ‘ St. Bridget and the angels’ as in, ‘ St. Bridget and the angels, he sounds just like Hanassa.’ There may be an explanation for this in volume one but it is missing from this volume. Also missing is the back-story of the dragons. The fact that crystals used for spaceship drive and navigation are alive but not sentient, although they seem to have feelings, is skimmed over.
During my initial read, I found that there was far too much referral to previous events that had occurred in the first volume. This tended to break up the flow of the story and frankly became annoying. I’m not sure if it would have read any better had I already have read the first volume in the series. The frequent referral back to facts I already know would be equally annoying. There’s a fine balance that some authors can find when writing a series of books with an evolving story where each volume stands by itself while continuing the story. In this case, I think it would have been better to combine volumes one and two into a single volume. ‘ The Dragon Circle’ relies far too heavily on the preceding events to be a stand-alone book. It also suffers from not having an ending just a natural break in events. I expect Stargods # 3 will just carry on from where this one left off.
The big question is having read Stargods # 2 am I inclined to go and fill in the back story and read Stargods # 1 and then go and read Stargods # 3? The answer is, not really. I know what the ending is to the first volume and if ‘ The Dragon Circle’ is anything to go by then the third volume may not have an ending but simply prepare the ground for the next volume. It is a bit much to ask a reader to slog through four hundred plus pages just to reach the last page to find out the story continues in the next volume. That is what ‘ The Dragon Circle’ does to the reader.
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