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Book Review: The Elvenbane by Andre Norton & Mercedes Lackey

Dragons have been spreading rumors of The Elvenbane to sew seeds of trouble among the elves who are cruel to their human slaves.  Neither dragons nor elves are native to this world, but while the elves have conquered the native humans, the Dragons have opted to hide in seclusion.  The Elvenbane follows the story Shana, a half-blood outcast raised by the Dragons and the subsequent rise of the half-blood wizards years after the last rebellion had been put down by the Elven Lords.

The story is told from the various points of views of people within the world (third person) but focuses mostly on Shana, Alara (a dragon shaman and Shana’s foster mother), and her son Kemanorel.  The story actually starts with the point of view of Shana’s mother, Serina Daeth who is a concubine of one of the elven lords.  Serina  became pregnant with a forbidden half-blood child and is fleeing for her life at the start of the story.

The story starts a little slow with lots of back-story as seen through Serina’s memories.  It picks up significantly and becomes more interesting after that and once Shana is born and adopted by Alara.

Shana is, for the first half to three quarters of the book anyway, a very well fleshed out character.  Alara and Kemanorel are too.  I found the story very interesting reading during this part.  However, the story starts to sputter later on.  The plot skips forward in lurches, leaving previous happenings to be covered by exposition on the part of the authors.  Late in the story, Shana looses much of her defined character at times.  This is especially when it comes to her love interest who is introduced later on in the story.  I found it hard to believe that Shana acted the way she did, even after having it “explained” as to why she was.

Alara is a great character, but she seems to be forgotten in the second half of the book until towards the end.

Kemanorel is perhaps the strongest character from start to finish.  He logically followed the progression that the story set him on without deviation.  Unlike Shana, who started to take on the role of love-struck girl out of the blue, and had her character altered in a way that I simply found implausible.  The reader is simply expected to accept the transformation and move on with it willingly.  It’s possible to do, but it does break the story slightly until one accepts it.

The story is very strong at it’s base.  The plot and world building are quite good.  Where it falters however is in how it is rushed to a conclusion that is just a set up for further stories.  This rushing towards the end would have been unnecessary, in my opinion, if some of the superfluous point of view characters, dropped in only to be discarded, were done away with.  Most of what they had to contribute, while interesting in an inside baseball sort of way, really did not do much to further the story.  Plus, existing, established characters like Kemanorel, who is a dragon capable of shape shifting and eavesdropping, could have been used to relate their actions and motives to the reader in most instances.  But he wasn’t.  The time saved by not introducing all these other characters who could have been used to make later events slow down and be made more comprehensible, and believable, to the reader.

This is another book that simply does not conclude, but rather opens up for the next book in the series.  While enjoyable escapism, I think, as far as epic fantasy goes, The Elvenbane ranks a slightly above average 3.5 out of five stars due to problems late in the book with story telling and the rush one feels in as we are ushered along to the end.  It is just simply almost too cookie-cutter in development with a typical epic fantasy cliff hanger ending where the characters set themselves up for further adventures after a sudden end to the story.

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