Today's book review is Dragonstar by Barbara Hambly.
This is the fourth book in the Dragonsbane series. I read at least the first in this series a long time ago, but I'm fairly sure I never read the one just before this, and despite a section at the beginning summarizing what's gone before, I was rather confused about what was going on. If you seek to read this series, I recommend reading them in order, though finding all of them might be hard. Dragonstar is from 2002 and the others are a fair bit older than that; Dragonsbane I believe is from the early 90s.
This story features a bunch of bad guys, demons who are mainly fighting against each other but using the human world as a battlefield and playground as they go. The book looks at how society can't exist without a basic foundation of trust, as the demons possessing humans leave people not knowing who's really a demon. It also looks at the value of connections with others as some characters who start out only worrying about themselves gradually learn that others are important. The two main characters had a major falling out in the previous book and spend a lot of this one hoping they'll survive and be able to make up. A lot of compelling thematic material, but it didn't come together very well for me, perhaps partly because I spent the first half of the book trying to keep track of who was who. The main protagonist is an exceptionally competent individual, but we keep getting hit over the head with his folksy ordinariness. He speaks in a thick country-bumpkin patois that gets in the way of my appreciating him as a character -- despite being a world-class scholar who seems to be an expert on everything -- and even though we dwell quite a bit on how blind he is without his glasses, he still manages quite a lot of derring-do when he doesn't have them.
Oh, and somebody needs to tell the publisher that they need to choose a cover artist who understands that dragons are supposed to be beautiful.
There's a lot to like in this book, but I spent enough time being confused and frustrated as I read it that it never fully came together for me. 6 out of 10.
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