has also reviewed:

The Chalice and
the Blade

 
Dream Stone by Glenna McReynolds
(Bantam, $22.95, PG) ISBN 0-553-10393-8
****
Of the many wonderful aspects of Glenna McReynolds' writing, one of the best is her ability to create vividly imagined worlds. When I read The Chalice and the Blade, I dearly wanted to be transported into her magical vision of 12th century Wales.

Barring that, however, a nice second best would be for McReynolds to write a sequel. And luckily for me, and others spellbound by The Chalice and the Blade, she has.

Dream Stone returns readers to Carn Merioneth, an ancient fortress on the edge of the Irish sea, and a land inhabited by Druids, witches, elves, dragons and giant worms. Carn Merioneth sits over a mind-bogglingly deep labyrinth of caverns, which are of paramount importance to the fate of the whole world. All sorts of weird and bizarre things lurk down there in the deep dark and if venturing into those mystical caverns was exciting in Chalice, Dream Stone goes even further. But more on that in a moment.

Dream Stone takes up a season after Chalice ends, and tells the story of Llynya and Mychael. Llynya, a memorable secondary character in the first book, makes a beguiling, fey heroine. I, like many readers, loved Chalice, but found its heroine a little too passive; Llynya, the plucky warrior elf, is anything but.

As the story begins, Llynya has yet to recover from the fierce battle at the end of Chalice. The prince she was sworn to protect fell into a time worm-hole; not only does she suffer from guilt, but also from periodic episodes where she actually feels him falling endlessly through time. It has certainly been a dreary time for the once spritely Llynya. She resolves that her only recourse is to go down into the caverns, and enter the worm-hole herself, and try to rescue him.

But someone else has been wandering the dark caverns under Carn Merioneth, also looking for answers to mysteries Mychael ab Arawn, twin brother to the previous book's heroine.

Mychael is heir to the last rulers of Merioneth, and to a long line of powerful Druid priestesses. He has within him "dragon blood", and the magical ability to summon dragons. This rare talent, while it sounds pretty cool, causes him to suffer intensely. His body burns. He sees fiery visions. It causes him to flee from the monastery where, until the dragon blood began to boil, he'd been living the life of a monk. But how can Mychael be a good monk, when the dragon blood is on fire in his veins?

When Llynya meets Mychael again, she is fascinated by him, but also frightened by his intensity. Mychael is just as taken with the elfish maid, but fears he has nothing to offer her; that the flames which consume him will soon finish him off. Meanwhile, Llynya feels that her first duty is to rescue the prince from the worm-hole, a duty she probably won't survive. It seems to be a case of right person, wrong time. But of course, as Mychael and Llynya join forces to battle the evil lurking deep in the caverns, their attraction soon becomes irresistible.

Unfortunately, the hectic pace of doesn't allow for the gradual, intense unfolding of romantic tension that was so enjoyable in Chalice. But if the romantic element isn't as rich and profound in Dream Stone, the adventure surely is for this is high adventure of the most rip-roaring variety. Dream Stone kept me completely enthralled as I read into the wee hours of the night, despite my dear husband's grumbling, and the fact I had to get up with small children in the morning.

Generally, any book that is such an exhilarating roller-coaster of a read, would merit a five-heart rating. Glenna McReynolds' is a unique, superbly talented writer, and perhaps one of the most exciting I've come across during my stint reviewing for The Romance Reader. However, as a reviewer, I do have reservations which make it difficult for me to grant Dream Stone an unqualified recommendation. First off, it doesn't stand by itself; without reading Chalice first, readers would have few clues to what is going on in Dream Stone.

And poetic and gorgeous as McReynolds' prose can be, sometimes her sentences don't make sense to me, even if I read and re-read them. How very vexing.

While McReynolds creates brilliant fantasy settings, there are times she is overly enigmatic. Or just deliberately mystifying. Extraordinary phenomena which exist in the world of Dream Stone such as dragon larvae or worm-holes leading to the gates of time are presented quickly in passing without enough explanation. Llynya, for example, is considered special to the Light-elves because she is the Aetheling. What this meant exactly, I have yet to discover. Just a little more information from the author would have been sufficient.

Finally, I was disappointed that after a dramatic build-up during the final battle scene, when Llynya and Mychael are finally standing alone against an entity of ultimate evil, we don't get to see the finale. McReynolds glosses over it and takes us straight to the HEA. My erudite reaction: HUH?

Still, despite my problems with Dream Stone, I loved it anyway, and love the series. I can't wait for more such soaringly imaginative books from Glenna McReynolds.

--Meredith Moore


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