The Dragon Token (Dragon Star #2), by Melanie Rawn
If "The Dragon Token" is not the most confusing book I have ever read in my life, it comes very close. And since this is part of a project of reviewing every book I have read in my life, at some point I will know for sure whether it is. (Update, November 9, 2016 -- so far I haven't found a more confusing book; I'll keep you updated on future discoveries in the confusing-book area)
The central feature of this book is dozens of characters, many of them new to this trilogy, moving. all. over. the. place.
It's like the shell game, except with dozens of peas under scores of shells and you have to not only remember where each pea is, you also have to remember why the peas have moved from one shell to another.
I swear that sometimes a pea -- er, character -- moves and you just have to guess why.
And this is after my fourth or fifth reading of the book.
In most fantasy novels and series, the characters have to move around because there is really no other way to reliably gather and disseminate information. There are no long-distance communication options, such as television, telephones, or even the telegraph. If you want to know what is going on, you have to either send a messenger or a scout. You could write a letter, I guess, but an actual human being would still have to carry the letter and bring back the response. And if the information is important enough, you have to go yourself.
In the "Dragon Prince" and "Dragon Star" trilogies, though, we have Sunrunning. Half of the characters can watch events and talk to each other clear across the continent. And the half that can't communicate directly generally has a friend, lover, spouse, sibling, or employee who can. So I'm stumped as to why they were all Skybowl to Feruche to Dragon's Rest back to Feruche then back to Skybowl. Not to mention the occasional side trips to Swalekeep, Faolain Lowland, Goddess Keep, and other castles.
This tendency to run around from castle to castle is particularly perplexing with the Vellant'im all over the place and likely to descend on them at any moment.
This was also my first reading of "The Dragon Token" after my divorce. And so my interpretation of one of the central romance-related plot points had changed considerably. You see, after her husband, Tallain, dies, Pol suddenly realizes that he loves Sionell.
I used to think that, since Sioned had been a Pol/Sionell shipper (If memory serves, her bet that Sionell would someday be her daughter-in-law is the only bet Sioned ever lost), that she had the right of it and that Pol and Sionell should be together.
Now I think that Sionell should run the hell away and never look back. Sure Pol thinks he loves her. But he doesn't act in a loving way towards her, which to me says that he desires to possess her, not that he loves her in any meaningful way.
The Dragon Token is also a pretty stereotypical middle trilogy installment, in that it serves primarily as a way to connect "Stronghold" to "Skybowl". If I recall correctly, "Skybowl" is considerably less confusing than "The Dragon Token." It has been a while since my last reading of "Skybowl," though, so I may be mistaken. I guess the only way to know for certain is to crack out my copy of "Skybowl" and have a readthrough. And that review is coming up next.