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Reviews of 'Prisoner of Haven'

Prisoner of Haven

by Nancy Varian Berberick
Age of Mortals, Volume 4


Reviews of 'Prisoner of Haven'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

Usha and her sister-in-law Dezra find themselves trapped in Haven when an unexpected turn of events leads to a Dark Knight taking over the city, along with his flight of dragons. They both find a way of coping within the city limits and their imprisonment in their own ways: Usha through her art and political dealings, and Dezra through her work with an underground organization geared to helping people escape the city.

Tensions rise though, as Usha becomes more involved, both politically and romantically, with one of the council leaders, one of the only ones left in power underneath the Dark Knight. Is he the one leaking information out about the underground resistance? Or is the organization falling apart from within?

While I found this story interesting and well put together, I had a few issues, the main one being cosmetic. In other words, the editing left much to be desired. Spelling errors and poor sentence structure were rampant throughout this book, to the point that I found it distracting. While I can accept the occasional typographical error, there were far too many in this book, giving it a rushed image and disrupting the flow of reading.

I also think I have a bit of an issue with a storyline centered on female characters. While Usha and Dezra were never really high on my list of favorite characters, throughout this novel, I grew more and more bored with them. Both characters started to feel like stereotypical females: Usha was the unhappy, prissy, political female, while Dezra was attempting to be the antithesis of a female character, and as a result, came off as a typical female attempting to not be a typical female (if that makes any sense). In fact, I felt that she was supposed to be the spitting image of Kitiara, who would be her half-aunt. While I can appreciate the attempts to draw a familial resemblance, at the same time, it felt contrived and stretched.

That being said, the story was well done. There were twists and turns in it which I wasn't expecting... allies where there shouldn't have been, and very few foes hiding in the shadows (which is rather contrary to a "cookie cutter" storyline).

I do have to add though, I dislike how many of these "Age of Mortals" books turn out. I've found the ending of this book, as well as the previous one, The Dark Thane, to be rather disappointing. I don't know about the rest of the readers out there, but a definitive conclusion to a storyline is more appealing. While I can appreciate the cliff-hanger concept of the conclusion and the idea that not all stories end on a completed happy note, I felt dissatisfied and incomplete at the end of this book.

For those that enjoy stories about the Majere family, or would like to read more about Usha, who doesn't act like the air-headed bint in Dragons of Summer Flame, then pick this up for entertainment value.

Review made June 10th, 2005


Reviewer: Madrigal_of_the_Ogre

Rating: Stars

Prisoner of Haven was a disappointment. Set during the Age of Mortals (421 AC), at the time of the War of Souls, the story takes place almost exclusively within the walls of Haven.

Essentially there are two main characters, Usha and Dezra Majere, trapped in the city after it falls to the Knights of Neraka during an aerial assault by dragons. Berberick does an excellent job giving personality and voice to these two strong women, though I'm not totally convinced that the Usha of Prisoner of Haven is in keeping with the presentation of the Usha in Summer Flame. And while there is a plethora of minor characters, none, save the dwarf Dunbrae, made any lasting impression on me. While sinister characters like Lady Mearah are built up throughout the story, their eventual appearance and actions are anti-climatic and don't befit their ominous presence in earlier passages.

And while I enjoyed Stormblade and the Bertrem's Guides, Berberick failed to capture my attention in this narrative; I was always waiting, on the verge of something exciting or engaging, but never seeing those events realized. Berberick certainly isn't of the same caliber as Chris Pierson, Douglas Niles or Richard A. Knaak—ecent authors of Dragonlance novels who excel in presenting the Age of Mortals to Dragonlance readers.

Even if this book was a mere treatise on Haven I would have been satisfied, but even the urban setting itself seemed somewhat lack-luster and common under Berberick's pen—a city we know to have a rich past in the Seekers and the War of the Lance. Neither event is even mentioned when Berberick begins to fill in the (few) details on Haven's culture and history.

While the book does provide some insight into the city of Haven and the dark dealings of the Knights of Neraka, it is a far cry from the urban suspense thriller that I had expected from reading the back cover of the book. The narrative leads the reader through a somewhat descriptive, at points enjoyable, trip of the streets of Haven under the occupation of the Knights of Neraka -- but you never truly feel like you know or care for Haven, its citizens or its future; not in the way you know and care for say, Solace under Hickman and Weis.

While the siege and capture of the city by a flight of dragons was exciting, the battle's presentation lacked depth or detail and I never felt fully engaged in the desperate attempts by the protagonists to escape the crumbling city—and this event happens early in the book and there are no similar battles or skirmishes in the whole remaining two-thirds of the text. Berberick fails to capture the reader in this regard by providing too few examples of the dangers the two women must face in order to even make attempts to escape the city. And the sub-plot, the tension between Usha and Dezra, never really seems to develop into anything of significance—beyond an all too common moral dilemma we've seen presented a number of time in better authored books. I had expected "earth-shattering" events to befall the Majere's while they remained trapped in Haven.

Likewise, the efforts to involve the reader in the dangerous attempts by the Qui'thonas to get people out of the occupied city fall short of the intended suspense and drama Berberick seemed to be reaching for throughout the book.

And while a minor point, it is important to note that like other recent products from Wizards of the Coast, this book too is plagued by misspelled words and incorrect punctuation.

Unless you are a die-hard fan of Usha and/or Dezra, I think you can pass over this particular Dragonlance novel and not miss out on much.


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