cover image The Archons of the Stars

The Archons of the Stars

Alison Baird. Aspect, $21.99 (327pp) ISBN 978-0-446-69097-3

There's nothing more refreshing than a fantasist breaking with formula, as Baird ably does in this brisk wrap-up to the Dragon Throne trilogy (after The Empire of the Stars). Though she shows her roots in YA, she conceives a very grown-up solution for the kind and brilliant sorceress Ailia, who finds herself in love with both Damion, a martyred priest and Paladin, and Mandrake, a bitter half-dragon mage who offered his soul to the dark god Valdur in a bid to rule the universe. Faced with the option of joining the former in the afterlife and the latter on a higher plane, Ailia turns away from them both and chooses a solitary mortal life in the material world. Despite this seeming veneration of hedonism over considerations of good and evil, Baird manages to make this the most moral of three very moral books, emphasizing the importance of conscious choice and self-definition in a tale where every character is deeply influenced by parentage, past and prophecy. The adolescent audience will love this novel, older readers will find its conceptual complexity thoroughly redeems the bland plot, and those who disagree with the author's conclusions will still find tasty philosophical morsels.