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Reviews of 'Dragon's Bluff'

Dragon's Bluff

by Mary Herbert
Crossroads, Volume 3

Reviews of 'Dragon's Bluff'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

This same author wrote Clandestine Circle, a very well done book about Linsha Majere. This book follows her brother Ulin, and his beloved Lucy, after the fall of the School of Sorcery and Palin's capture, torture and release by the Dark Knights.

Centred strongly on Lucy, both mages find themselves traveling to Flotsam in order to identify Lucy's estranged father's body. Once they arrive, they discover that her father is not dead, but is wanted for stealing the town's taxes, leaving them at the mercy of the red dragon Fyremantle (a minion of Malys) who will be arriving in a few weeks to collect their tribute. Lucy and Ulin find themselves caring for the people in the town and doing everything in their power to help them.

An interesting gnome character named Notwen is a major player and accomplice to Ulin. Together, they build a steam powered boat which works. Several other of the gnome's inventions work as well. It's refreshing to read this view of gnomes.

Other interesting characters in this book are the kender. After the destruction of Kendermore, many kender migrated to Flotsam. Bridget, the cook at the Inn where Ulin and Lucy are staying, and her son Pease are very wonderful characters. Obviously kender, in their personalities and actions, they are still very unique as characters and stand out from other "typical" kender which is a trap many authors fall into. Pease's death was terrible and Bridget's grief at the loss of her son was moving and believably done.

The story overall was well done and interesting. While the storyline is pretty straight forward, there are several twists and turns that occur, from Lucy finding out more about the townspeople's reasons for summoning her to the town, to Ulin and Notwen's adventures in finding Kethril (Lucy's father) and then stealing the dragon's treasure trove.

One thing I didn't care for about the characters is that there were several references to Ulin's parents, grandparents, and uncle (Palin, Caramon, and Raistlin, notably). These references didn't take over the story at any point, and while I don't mind stories about the descendants of the Heroes, I prefer the story not use "name dropping" of the heroes. These characters can be done well enough to stand on their own and not the history of their relatives.

Some mention of Ulin's background was interesting though. He was unable to have a full relationship with Lucy, due to dwelling on his lost wife and child in the destruction of the School of Sorcery. Several mentions and foreshadowing (through a fortune teller) of Sunrise, Ulin's gold dragon partner, were also interesting. Due to reading the War of the Souls series, I know the reason for the missing metallic dragons, and therefore where Sunrise is, but reading Ulin's pain over losing the dragon was interesting.

Overall, a strong book that can stand on its own feet for the story line. It's a mystery and adventure all rolled into one, with a touch of a love story, and personal healing.

Review made September 6th, 2002.

Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

Coming off the heels of two strong novels in Legacy of Steel and The Clandestine Circle and a few good short stories (IIRC), it was no surprise that Mary H. Herbert's latest offering would be just as good, if not better than her previous works. It also follows on the heels of two very good books in the two months before it's release, namely The Inheritance and Betrayal.

Dragon's Bluff returns us to Ulin Majere and bride-to-be Lucy Torkay. It is months following "The Raid on the Academy of Sorcery," with Palin apparently back with his hands smashed and Ulin still dealing with his failure and the loss of magic. It would seem Lucy's errant father died in Flotsam and she needs to go to identify the body and collect her inheritance. If only things were so simple... But they aren't, as Ulin and Lucy soon discover once they arrive in one of the most infamous cities in DragonLance history, where nothing is as cut and dry as the ruling council like to make it seem. But I won't ruin the story for the folks who haven't read it.

As far as the characters go, Mary did a good job taking the previously-penned Ulin and Lucy and making her portrayals of them fit with Margaret and Tracy's and Jean Rabe's. She even goes the extra yard and clues the readers in on why Ulin is with a new woman and why Sunrise is MIA. I won't reveal that here, although it is not that big of a shocker. Ulin is almost a secondary character in the book, with Lucy as the main hero, a smart move to somewhat take the focus off the Majere family. He still has his adventures, though, and we are allowed a good look at his psyche. Mary does a great job of bringing him along from a grieving, nervous, aggravated, yet supportive fiancee to a secure, hopeful fiancee. Great job. Ulin is becoming the character Palin Majere was never allowed to be.

Lucy is a great character, who breaks the mold of the busty, sexy swordswoman hero stereotype we always get. She is not described as even close to being the most beautiful woman in the world, in actuality being called plain at one point (her nickname at the Academy was Plain Lucy). Nevertheless, she is done very well and is just as good a hero as her predecessors. Her own insecurities and inner demons are brought to light and dealt with well. While I don't want a whole trilogy on the woman, I wouldn't mind seeing her and Ulin in further adventures, something I think we can be assured of.

Other major characters included Chalcedony, or "Challie," Flotsam dwarfmaid magistrate. She was a decently-done character and a bit different from standard dwarf females we've met before. I perceive the difference between the dwarven sexes as one of the weaker elements of just about every fantasy series. They are either just like the boys or very feminine. There's never a happy medium, but Challie comes close. She wasn't given any time to herself, though, so was more of a window dressing than anything else, like a follower. Still, she was a decent enough character and if DL ever returns to Flotsam in the near future, I wouldn't mind seeing her name crop up.

Kethril Torkay, Lucy's father (who isn't dead, obviously) was excellently portrayed as the rogue with the heart of gold. He reminded me very much of the King of Thieves character from the Xena: Warrior Princess TV show, a good guy overall but still a criminal. I think we've seen another Chaotic Good thief folks! He was fun though, but I don't think a return is necessary. He served his function well enough this time around and left the book on a pretty final note. If he comes back, Lucy and Ulin shouldn't be anywhere near him.

The other main character was Notwen, a thinker (mad) gnome, who was the provider of a helping hand on more than one occasion as the book progressed and was a very gnomish character despite not being a tinker. I believe that this is the first time a thinker gnome has appeared in DL literature. The differences were very negligible, which is good. Kudos to Mary on capturing the thinker gnome character.

The book also featured some afflicted kender who were done very well and showed that just because they are a little more hardened than normal kender, they are still good comic relief and fun characters. Thankfully, there was not a Tas clone in sight! In particular, Bridget was excellently-done in all of her scenes. I think Mary showed a great progression in the kender character: where normal kender are concerned, they are much like human children, maybe age 8-12. Afflicted kender are a bit more grown up and seem like human teenagers at some points, maybe 13-16. Still young and healthy spirits, yet tempered with some wisdom to make them seem a little more worldly. Aylesworthy, Fyremantle, the sirine, Efrim, Saorsha, Akkar-bin, Knight-Officer Venturin, and the Silver Fox Lysandros were the other big characters and were all well-done, though less significant than the above four.

Now I have to hand out major props to Mary for actually bothering to flesh out some of what we know of Khur people and culture. That was a pleasant surprise and one that I hope to see more of in later releases based around that area. The connection to The Clandestine Circle (which she also wrote) was cool too. Not enough authors do that, IMO. Doug Niles makes it a point to most of the time and it is always a cool little thing to pick up on when reading. My biggest kudos, however, come from the addition of ghagglers, sea lions, and vizier's turbans to DL literature. The whole concept of sea-sligs works, considering there are sea hobgoblins (koalinth) and sligs are related. Sea lions were a cool monster, in my opinion, and I was glad to see one show up. They can so easily be worked in as a product of the Graygem that it's a wonder we've never seen them before. The vizier's turban, though, was the best idea. I've often said that Khur strikes me as an area that could be very akin to Zakhara, the Land of Fate (Al-Qadim), where vizier's turbans originated, so it was cool to see an element brought in like that. I don't want to ever see another one, though, unless it's Lucy's! They are extremely rare creatures and should not be handed out like credit cards to every sorcerer we meet from that region of the world in the future.

My only real gripes come from the "orc" mention in the book (although, I've come to start using the word orc as a dwarven insult, calling it (in DL) the fictitious spawn of a goblin and an ogre that's twice as stupid as its parents combined; whaddaya think?) by Challie. That and the fact that many mentions were made of the Legion of Steel, yet none ever showed up (though the Silver Fox title is supposed to belong to the leader of the Legion, is it not?). Some of those elements were poorly explained, but that's a relatively minor issue.

Overall, this was a great book and one I heartily recommend to fans of Herbert's work and the DL series in general. Unlike The Thieves' Guild, this book actually had a small connection to the War of Souls, which is what the Crossroads series is supposed to be about, although the connection wasn't as strong as it was in The Clandestine Circle. If this series continues, I wish more emphasis would be placed on that. Surprises from the book: Lord Toede has been dead for five years, sadly and the bronze dragon that may or may not have been Hogan Bight has also, like Sunrise, mysteriously vanished. Bight's still there, though! Hmm, the plot thickens. :)

Reviewer: Richard Pierson

Rating: Stars

An extremely well written novel by Mary H. Herbert, as always with her Dragonlance novels, "Dragon's Bluff" is solid. This time she expands on her forays into the Majere family and Ulin Majere, son of Palin, comes into the spotlight. While not as interesting as his sister Linsha was in "Clandestine Circle", he provides a strong draw for anyone that enjoys the Majere family. This novel includes just about everything a good DL novel needs. It has mages, thieves, dragons, gnome and kender sidekicks. It even has the cool theme of the story revolving around a card game called Dragon's Bluff. But it just kind of lacked that killer instinct that could have turned it into a truly great novel. Instead, while well written, the plot never really gives you the action you assume you should get. And the ending lacks that large bang you want during the end of a DL novel.

While it was realistic, had a well driven plot, developed characters, and even had the all important dragon as a villain, it just lacked a little "umph". Can't say I didn't like it, but sadly can't rave about it either.

Final Thought: Anyone up for a game of Dragon's Bluff?

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