I'm starting to really hate series. Oh, not reading them; I still like doing that. But I hate having to write about them. What's there to say about the fourth book of a series that I haven't said about the first three? Well, I guess we'll find out.

The book in question is Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Blood of a Dragon , another entry in the pleasantly diverting Ethshar series. As in the other Ethshar volumes, this one pries into the nooks and crannies of the magic system (though more tangentially than previous volumes have). Here, the book looks into the question of just where the heck wizards get all the exotic materials that they need to cast their spells -- dragon's blood isn't exactly the most common substance in the world, after all.

One of the things I liked best about this book was how it related to the previous books. All of the Ethshar novels so far have been completely standalone -- they have independent plots, they have independent characters, and take place at different times and in different parts of the world. Despite this, they do intertwine a bit. In all of the books, there have been events that have changed the world in ways large or small, and those changes are apparent in later books in light, glancing ways. There'll be a passing reference to an event that happened in an earlier book, or a cameo by a former protagonist, or a look at a town that's changed in the years since we saw it last.

So the macrostructure is cool. The microstructure, unfortunately, is a bit off here. The story in this volume is entertaining, but feels rather padded and disjoint, a novella-length idea forced into novel length by the addition of unnecessary subplots and irrelevant characters. Viewed as a piece of a larger series, there are enough insights into the world's background to keep the book interesting; but viewed as a piece of self-contained narrative, there's not much there. The Blood of a Dragon is still an enjoyable book, but is definitely the slightest Ethshar book yet.


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