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The Empire of the Stars: The Dragon Throne, Book II    by Alison Baird order for
Empire of the Stars
by Alison Baird
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

The Empire of the Stars continues the epic myth-tale of Princess Ailia. According to legend and prophecy in all the worlds, she is destined to defeat the evil dragon-lord Mandrake, also known as Morlyn, a powerful sorcerer who has lived for centuries and whose preferred shape is that of a powerful red dragon.

Ailia and her friends evade Morlyn's traps (in Book I, The Stone of the Stars) and win through to a haven on Arainia, the paradise-like planet from which her mother fled in an effort to hide her child. However, doubts continue to plague Ailia. She cannot believe that so ordinary a person as herself can be the powerful 'Tryna Lia', the goddess heroine promised by the myths. She fears the horrors that war will bring to Arainia, even as she worries about the fate of her adopted family and friends on Mera. There, all are threatened by the war-like policies of mad king Khalazar, who believes himself to be a god. He sees the Tryna Lia as a threat to his godhood, and plans to carry the war to her. He is encouraged in this by Morlyn, who plots to destroy Ailia before she can develop her mystical powers.

Agonized by the disaster that befalls the military force Arainia sends to Mera, with her dearest friends missing in action, Ailia evades her protectors and sets out alone to meet with Morlyn, despite the warning that his proposed peace negotiation is a trap. Her odyssey on the planet Mera is a tale of danger and adventure, peopled with fabulous creatures and unusual characters. She finds out more about her enemy Morlyn/Mandrake, as well as about herself. Ailia is far stronger and more courageous than she believed.

The Empire of the Stars is an entertaining tale. Baird draws on myths and history to present a knotty problem for a young but thoughtful protagonist. Ailia wants peace desperately. She wants to protect all who live against evil. However, she finds that Morlyn is not simply a villain but a complicated and often likeable personality, believing he needs to protect himself by all means possible. As he himself tells Ailia, power is to blame. If Khalazar were powerless, he would only be a cranky old man. If Morlyn were powerless, he would be an eccentric charmer. As it is, he is her deadly enemy. The third book in the trilogy, The Archons of the Stars, will conclude this epic adventure and tell us what happens to Ailia, Morlyn, and her friends.

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