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Stronghold (Dragon Star #1), by Melanie Rawn
"Stronghold" begins with another time jump. As the book opens, Rohan and Sioned are now 60 and Pol is in his thirties. Pol is married to Meiglan and the father of seven-year-old twin girls, Rislyn and Jihan.
Sioned and Rohan are feeling their ages, but not nearly as much as Tobin is. She is now 67 and towards the beginning of the book she has a falling spell that ends with her unable to move the right side of her body. Fortunately, her ability to use her Sunrunning is unaffected, and in the time jump she seems to have become more proficient, as she is now able to speak, as well as listen and watch, on the light.
Clearly what happened to Tobin is that she had a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. It is lucky that it hit the left hemisphere, because apparently Sunrunning is contained in the right. Some Sunrunners who have strokes in the right hemisphere lose their ability to Sunrun and, consequently, the will to live.
The time jump between "Sunrunner's Fire" and "Stronghold" will be the last time jump for a while because the book starts out with the invasion of their relatively peaceful land. The next three books will be too full of developments for there to be several uneventful years in a row.
This is, of course, the beginning of the war that Andry foresaw during his accession to the position of Lord of Goddess Keep. And now Andry's (futile, as it turns out) attempts to prevent the war bear their fruit.
The enemy attacks mercilessly. They begin on Dorval, destroying everything in their path. Most of the Dorvali barely escape with their lives as the enemy moves on the Desert, where they attack Radzyn and Remagev, and the residents of these keeps flee barely ahead of the attackers.
They also make a move on Goddess Keep, and Andry and a close circle of Sunrunners he calls the devr'im fend them off, using a form of the ros'salath that doesn't just frighten, but kills.
Pol is continually agitating to take a stand against the enemy, whom eventually they find out call themselves the Vellant'im, but Rohan believes that they will be able to whittle down the Vellant'im numbers by forcing them to cross the Desert. Unfortunately, the Vellant'im are really hardy suckers. Also, they are numerous and they desperately want something that can only be found in the desert. So it does come down to a battle after all.
Meanwhile, Chiana is at it again. Her son, Rinhoel, is now sixteen, and Chiana seems to believe that they can ally themselves with the Vellant'im and get Princemarch, and more importantly to Chiana, Castle Crag, into the deal.
One of the groups that have been offscreen this whole time are the Isulk'im, who are a free people who live in the Desert. They are distant relatives of Rohan's family, and are the people who were referenced in the "Dragon Prince" trilogy as "borrowing" Chay's best studs to service their mares. We meet Kazander, their leader, who falls in love with Chayla, Maarken's fifteen-year-old daughter.
The action moves quickly in this book. Battles and plots and romance and more plots and medical drama and even more plots abound.
One of my problems with this series is that a whole bunch of relatively new characters take center stage beginning in this volume. For example, back when Rohan was offered the throne of Firon and instead gave it to Laric, Lleyn's grandson, a branch of the ruling family got passed over. The son, Yarin, resented having been passed over, so while Laric and his wife are snowed in at Dragon's Rest, Yarin makes a play for the throne. It took me a really long time to figure out who the heck Yarin was and where he fits into the grand scheme of things. It's like a soap opera, only more confusing.
Another thing that bothers me is that the characters here jump to a conclusion about the motivations of the Vellant'im that makes no sense to me. You see, after the use of the ros'salath, the Vellant'im charge into battle shouting "Diarmadh'im!" Somehow, our heroes get the impression that they are using "Diarmadh'im!" as a battle cry, like the Desert people use "Azhrei!" and I've never seen that. It always has seemed pretty clear to me that they are attacking because they think the people they are attacking are diarmadh'im. They did, after all, use the ros'salath, which is a diarmadhi technique. Since the residents of Goddess Keep used a diarmadh'im technique, wouldn't a group that is allied with the diarmadh'im seek to ally themselves with them?
Is that their motivation? Um, well, this series is so confusing (just wait until I review "The Dragon Token"!) that I don't remember. On the plus side, this series is so confusing that it's like reading a brand new book every time.