Rereading Melanie Rawn

Rereading Melanie Rawn: Dragon Prince, Chapter 9

Welcome to the weekly Wednesday reread of Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince! This week, we’re reading the last chapter of Part I, and wrapping up the section. Rohan and Sioned continue to negotiate the ups and downs of their budding relationship. We learn more about dragons, and about Rohan’s feelings toward them. Our protagonists discover a spy in their midst—and Sioned takes action.

Chapter 9

So this happens: Rohan is still in a snit over the fact that Sioned has sexual experience, but his plan to match it is not proving successful. He isn’t attracted to the pretty girls, and he can’t bring himself to look at the plain ones. The only one he wants is Sioned.

Then the female dragons begin to fly, and Rohan has another preoccupation: the Hatching Hunt.

He has a visceral objection to killing dragons of any age, but his vassals’ enthusiasm combines with the force of tradition to prevent him from stopping it.

Most of the family, including Chay and Tobin’s twin sons, goes on the hunt. Sioned, too, of course, which is not a comfortable situation for Rohan.

When they reach the dragons’ canyon, Rohan leaves the hunt to Chay and Maeta. While he keeps his distance, Sioned approaches and tries to comfort him, but he snaps at her and bolts.

He is pursued—but the pursuer is Andrade. He unloads his hatred of the hunt and his doubts and misgivings about being Prince, and confronts her with the fact that she arranged the marriage between Milar and Zehava. She doesn’t deny it, nor does she admit to any grander plan that “to see our family powerful.”

Rohan doesn’t entirely believe her, but he focuses on his ongoing grievance: that Sioned isn’t a virgin. Andrade points out that the two of them are already bonded, and Rohan is an idiot.

Rohan takes off again toward the hunt, furious at his powerlessness to stop it—and is stopped short by Sioned calling his name.

She’s seen his twin nephews climbing up toward a dragon’s cave to watch the hunt from high above. Rohan races with Sioned to catch them before they fall or a dragon flames them.

They reach the ledge just in time to find a baby dragon getting ready to flame Maarken. There’s no way Rohan can kill the dragon in time, but Sioned conjures Fire, which distracts it, and Rohan drives it away without killing it.

Once the boys have been delivered safely to their father, Sioned points out that Rohan must have dropped his sword in the cave. They have to go back and get it. This is a ruse, of course, for another of their secret trysts.

There are no hatchlings left in the cave, though only one flew away. They’re cannibals, Rohan tells the shocked Sioned. Then he shows her the cave by the light of her conjured fire—and he reveals a secret.

The grains of sand in the cave, and the shell fragments seared on the inside by infant dragon fire, look like gold. Rohan intends to test it, to find out if it’s real.

If it is real, this is a source of infinitely renewable wealth, and a powerful reason to keep the dragons alive. But Rohan can’t make it public, or every greedy noble in the world will mount an invasion.

Then the conversation takes a sharp turn southward, as Rohan confronts Sioned with her sexual experience. She counters by demanding to know about his—and by declaring that once they’re married, “Your future is mine.”

Rohan is taken aback, but also delighted. His fit of temper has changed into laughter.

Sioned is now the one in the snit. Back in Stronghold, still in a rage, she has a visitor: Princess Milar. Milar has wise words to say to her, and Sioned realizes that Rohan’s mother is not nearly as shallow as she seems.

Milar encourages Sioned to attend the banquet that celebrates the conclusion of the hunt, and promises to provide her with suitable attire. Sioned will be publicly thanked, she says, for rescuing the twins, and should put on a proper show.

It’s apparent that everyone here expects Sioned and Rohan to marry. Which may be a problem for the Rialla and Rohan’s plans for Roelstra and his daughters. Sioned is still severely out of temper, and having serious second thoughts about the whole thing, starting with Rohan himself.

The scene shifts to the banquet. Rohan is late, and no one can eat until he arrives. Milar and Andrade are not amused.

When he appears, Andrade is as awed as anyone else. He’s in full royal prince mode, Zehava variation, and he is working it.

Milar is delighted to see him, but is looking for Sioned, whose dress she sewed herself, as she tells Rohan. She has plans of her own; she’ll stay home while the others go to the Rialla, and get Stronghold ready for Rohan’s bride.

After some byplay between Andrade and Rohan about his princely entrance and his plans to thank Sioned, the lady arrives at last. Everyone agrees she’s worth the wait.

Rohan thanks her formally for saving the lives of his nephews, and gives her a gift, an emerald ring that he sets on her finger—the finger reserved for a faradhi’s tenth ring (she has, so far, achieved six). This is shocking, and leaves Sioned with little to say.

Rohan shocks the assembly further by stating that he will be making major changes in the way land is held in the princedom. Instead of the prince owning it all, he will be allowing each nobleman to own his own land in return for paying an annual tax to support Stronghold. The first step will be to raise three more nobles to Chay’s status as independent landowner, to travel with him to the Rialla.

This is radical. Also, extremely clever, which Andrade is not slow to point out.

While this goes on, Sioned is fixated on something near the door. The wine steward is acting strangely. Andrade recognizes the signs of a man being used as a spy for a Sunrunner.

Sioned moves quickly and publicly to stop him—and the man who is using him: none other than Roelstra.

She works powerful magic, and almost but not quite manages to find out who the Sunrunner is who has turned traitor. Andrade helps her; she too is severely tested, and leaves the hall before anyone sees her weakened.

Andrade is impressed but not happy with Sioned. She accuses Urival of teaching Sioned too much—and reveals that Urival was Sioned’s mysterious first lover, as Andrade was Urival’s. She also realizes that Sioned is not going to put Goddess Keep or Andrade first. That place belongs to Rohan, and to Sioned’s status as future Princess.

Sioned has earned her seventh ring. Urival points out that Rohan has already bestowed it on her. Andrade acknowledges Sioned’s strength, and observes that, all things considered, Sioned is going to need everything Urival has taught her.

And I’m thinking: This chapter has a rocky beginning. Eighties Me isn’t too horribly perturbed by Rohan’s thoughts about pretty versus plain girls, but 2014 Me wants to smack him upside the head with a nail-studded clue bat. So much for Sioned being sex-positive and all that. It’s just one more obligate-binary female as door prize sexist culture. Feh.

Now come on, says Eighties Me. Rohan just wants to even the sex-act score, that’s all. And he’s being a dick, but that’s because he can’t be perfect all the time. This is supposed to make him human and flawed and adorably stupid.

Sioned is being a snot, too, we can both agree. We also agree that the conflict disappears awfuldamnfast and they’re back to being secret buddies again. Though the sparks keep flying and the missteps keep happening. The course of Fated True Love is not running smooth.

One thing about this chapter. The pacing is remarkably fast. Rohan’s conversation with Andrade during the dragon hunt is a bit off balance, but it’s relatively short and it makes it clear that he’s doing anything he can to avoid being involved in the slaughter.

We’re being eased into the dragon part of the story nice and slowly, with just enough teasers to make us hungry for the next tidbit. This contrasts, sometimes sharply, with the ongoing telegraphing of the human intrigue. Rohan especially cannot resist telling everybody he can back into a corner, exactly what he’s planning and how he plans to go about it.

His lack of agency in the hunt seems a bit too distinctly plot-driven considering how willing and even eager he is to shake up the entire economic basis of his princedom. The rationale seems to be that people are so directly and personally excited about killing dragons that he can’t see a viable way to stop them, but when it comes to the more abstract realm of economics, he figures they’ll come on board with anything he can charm them into. Especially since he believes he’s doing it for their own—and the princedom’s—good.

That makes him look to me as if he’s a whole lot more confident about abstractions than about the day-to-day personal and political business of being a prince. He’s full of doubts and misgivings, even while he makes up his mind to change the world.

The chapter ends with the first major public interaction between Sioned and Rohan, and Sioned’s first clear demonstration of her usefulness to her future husband. Challenging Roelstra through his renegade Sunrunner might not be the best or the wisest idea. We’ll see what comes of that.

We’ll also see if, and if so how, Rohan’s plan to reveal Sioned at the Rialla plays out. Her appearance at the banquet here feels like a dress rehearsal—spectacular designer dress, emerald ring, and all.

I have some questions that may or not be answered later on. Why doesn’t anyone try to kill the female dragons? Why let them keep on breeding, and only kill the hatchlings, instead of aiming at the mothers? It seems terribly inefficient to make a big deal out of killing the male dragon, but leave the females to keep on laying eggs and producing offspring.

I’m not sure I’m totally clear about how the world views faradhi, either. It seems to be a common enough gift to fill Goddess Keep and crop up elsewhere around the world, but reactions to it are inconsistent. In one scene it’s not a good thing, in another it’s saving the princedom. Sometimes Rohan is objecting to a faradhi wife; other times, he’s just fine with it. People seem to accept it, except when they don’t.

And what about Crigo? Doesn’t Goddess Keep keep records? Wouldn’t they have some idea as to who he is? Hasn’t anyone ever sensed that Roelstra has a magic-user in his employ? He certainly isn’t making a huge secret of what he’s doing, if Sioned can spot him at it in the middle of a highly distracting banquet. Shouldn’t Andrade have picked up on it quite a bit sooner, if she’s as powerful as she’s supposed to be?

Lots of questions. Some may have answers. Or give rise to new questions.

To sum up Part I: So now we’ve met our key players. We’ve got a solid sense of the world they live in and the issues they deal with. We begin with a dragon hunt that ends in tragedy, and end with a hatchling hunt that ends in the saving of lives: not only the twins’ but that of the hatchling who might have killed them. Rohan and Sioned test their relationship in various ways, and Sioned sets herself up as a clear and present adversary to Rohan’s most powerful enemy.

The opening chapters are loaded with exposition and speechifying and pages and pages of setup. Once the story gets going, it picks up the pace. The exposition gets shorter, the action quicker.

By the end of Part I we’re ready to move on to the Rialla. Rohan’s plans aren’t going to survive contact with the enemy, there’s no doubt about that. But we know he’ll give it his best shot—along with Sioned and Andrade and the rest of his very determined family.

Judith Tarr’s first epic fantasy novel, The Hall of the Mountain King, appeared in 1986. Her YA time-travel science fiction/fantasy/historical novel, Living in Threes, appeared as an ebook from Book View Café in 2012, and will debut in print this fall. Her new novel, a space opera, will be published by Book View Cafe in 2015. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies, some of which have been reborn as ebooks from Book View Café. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.


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