Melanie Rawn’s DRAGON PRINCE trilogy is finally being produced in audio format by Tantor Audio. The series begins with Dragon Prince (1985) and follows the inhabitants of a continent divided into several princedoms and ruled by a nasty and ruthless High Prince who has 17 bratty daughters but no male heir.
At the beginning of Dragon Prince, the prince of the desert region of the continent is killed while dragon-hunting and is succeeded by his son Rohan. Rohan’s youth and bookish nature do not inspire much confidence from his subjects and the High Prince and other princes assume they can take advantage of him. (There are some women in the family, including Rohan’s strong and competent older sister, who probably would have made excellent rulers, but nobody in this culture seems to consider the possibility that a woman could do that job.)
The first thing Rohan needs is a suitable wife. His aunt, who leads the institution where those with magical talents (the Sunrunners) are trained, chooses a young woman named Sioned and sends her to the desert to be Rohan’s wife. Some of the High Prince’s scheming daughters, eager to escape his household but not willing to diminish their noble standing, also have their greedy little eyes on the new prince of the desert. But Rohan and his allies know that marrying one of the High Prince’s daughters will almost certainly shorten his lifespan because once he produces a male heir, he’s expendable.
Dragon Prince covers the first several years of Rohan’s reign when he and his allies are challenged by assassination attempts, betrayals, kidnappings, miscarriages, plague, dangerous horse races, knife fights, a baby-swapping scheme, and even drug addiction. Rohan is a noble prince who wants to elevate the level of civility in his land. He has the best of intentions for his people, as well as the dragons who were hunted under his ancestors’ reigns, but the stressors he faces from opposing forces sometimes lead him to actions that he feels are just as barbaric as his enemies’. He spends a lot of time regretting this, feeling like a failure, and lamenting the consequences of power. (Actually, Rohan is so noble-minded that he’s a little bit boring.) Sioned, also, is confused about her actions, and her adherence to her own values is tested multiple times.
Romance features heavily in Dragon Prince, but I found it unsatisfying. Rohan and his wife-to-be declare their feelings early on and seem to be yielding to match-making or destiny rather than love (though they quickly discover that they do love each other). With all those scheming princesses, this part of the plot, which is significant, could have held some delicious romantic tension, but it didn’t. Another aspect of Dragon Prince that disappointed me was the lack of challenge to their patriarchal society. Melanie Rawn’s female characters are strong and smart, so I kept hoping to see them defy the idea that a ruler must have a male heir and that a woman who doesn’t bear him one must resort to unethical behaviors to provide one. Maybe this will happen in one of the sequels. I will keep hoping.
Dragon Prince was narrated by Christa Lewis who does a nice job with all of the voices. It’s 22 hours long. The next novel, which continues the story of Prince Rohan and his family, is The Star Scroll, which I’ll be reviewing soon.
Dragon Prince & Dragon Star — (1988-1993) Publisher: When Rohan became the new prince of the Desert, ruler of the kingdom granted his family for as long as the Long Sands spewed fire, he took the crown with two goals in mind. First and foremost, he sought to bring permanent peace to his world of divided princedoms, realms hovering always on the brink of war. And, in a land where dragon-slaying was a proof of manhood, Rohan was the sole champion of the dragons, fighting desperately to preserve the last remaining lords of the sky and with them a secret which might be the salvation of his people…