Harper Christa and her lover Judith were ensnared by the Sidh back in Celtic times. Christa managed to escape two centuries ago, and has been trying to free Judith ever since, aided by the magical harp Ceis. But her harping skills are no match for her foe's Orfide's faery perfection. Then she discovers Heavy Metal...
This is great. Even though I know nothing about music, and less about Heavy Metal, the passion for music shines through. Christa's reawakening of music within the souls of those about her, her assembling of her band Gossamer Axe, and the trials and tribulations on the way to the final concert/battle, are told smoothly and well. Intriguingly, although it's set in the 1980s, it feels more historical than that, partly due to the prose style and flashbacks, by mostly due to changes in contemporary attitudes since.
Suzanne Helling is a pacifist, and a down-trodden research assistant to misogynist professor Solomon Braithwaite, until she is chosen by the dragon Silbakor to be the next protector of Gryylth, a fantastic land that bears an unsettling resemblance to 5th century Britain, with certain unpleasant changes. When the dragon takes her and Braithwaite, who is the current protector, to Gryylth, she metamorphoses into Alouzon Dragonmaster, invincible in battle with her magic sword. She has been there barely a few minutes before she kills an attacker, and has to battle the enemy hoards, and her own inner demons, to solve the mystery of the land of Gryylth, and save it from annihilation.
This is raised above conventional fantasy by the well-drawn complex characters: no-one is completely good and heroic, or completely bad and villainous -- each has their own problems, and is struggling to do right. And even though there is magic, the problems aren't too easy to solve, and the setbacks and transformations aren't just simply reversible with the wave of a spell.
Although the first of a trilogy, Dragonsword is a stand-alone story, with most of the ends sufficiently well tied up. Good fantasy, good characters, good plot.
Now Braithwaite is gone, Suzanne-cum-Alouzon herself has to take on a new menace to Gryylth. Her adopted land is being attacked by modern weapons, and Suzanne knows who the culprit is: her own fears and imagination. She must overcome these to save Gryylth, and her companions-in-arms must also battle and triumph over their own internal demons before the outer conflict can end.
There are no large pitched battles here, it is more small battles, and internal wrestling with old fears and hatreds. Good solid characterisations, and good character developments. Unlike much, generic, fantasy, the characters here do grow and change.
The middle of the trilogy. Although a large conflict is resolved at the end of the book, there is still the major one remaining, waiting for the third novel.
The Gryylth army is stuck in Vaylle, while the traitor Helwych tries to take control of Gryylth. But Helwych must control the Spectre first. This final conflict, left over from the previous book, will require an enormous sacrifice from Alouzon, which she is not sure she will be able to manage.
Less character development this time, and more battles. There are a few humorous touches as some of the warriors experience Los Angeles, but also some grim events as Helwych abuses the remaining loyal Gryylth. I did feel that the Corrinan army's women's divisions, held in reserve for two whole volumes, and finally loosed here, were rather underused. Nevertheless, a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.