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The Year of Rogue Dragons Omnibus by Richard Lee Byers

Posted by travizzt on November 19, 2010

Dragons are raging across the land and only a group of adventures can stop it. Is The Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy the cure or does it make things worse?


The Year of Rogue Dragons Omnibus by Richard Lee Byers- This omnibus contains The Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy along with two short stories. The Year of Rogue Dragonstrilogy consists of The RageThe Rite, and The Ruin. The two short stories are “The Prisoner of Hulberg”, which is found in The Realms of Dragons anthology, and “Rivals”, which is found in Dragon Magazine #343. The stories take place in the Forgotten Realms universe, which is a setting in Dungeons and Dragons. Richard Lee Byers has written a number of Forgotten Realms based books; a novel and a short story in the Sembia: Gateway to the Realms series (the short story is found in the first book of the series, The Halls of Stormweather, and wrote the third book, The Shattered Mask), wrote the first novel in R. A. Salvatore’s War of the Spider Queen series called Dissolution, a novel inThe Rogues series called The Black Bouquet, a book in The Priests series called Queen of the DepthsThe Haunted Lands trilogy (UncleanUndead, and Unholy) and he is working on finishing The Brotherhood of the Griffon trilogy (The Captive FlameWhisper of Venom, and The Spectral Blaze). He has written other novels for various series as well as writing a number of short stories in various anthologies. The Year of Rogue Dragons Omnibus was released in October 2010 and was published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

The Rage
An uncontrollable urge, or rage, has struck dragonkind on Faerun, causing them to go on murderous rampages. Even the goodly metallic dragons are struck with the affliction. With little to no hope of stopping the condition, many dragons choose to be put in a deep sleep, hopefully stopping the urge. However, not all dragons choose to do this and are trying to fight off the urge. However bad this may be, a group of hunters find this to be good news, or at least good news in the eyes of the leader. Dorn, a half-golem human who hates all of dragonkind, leads a group of hunters that specialize in killing dragons. He couldn’t be happier. However, his companions see it in a different, more terrifying light. With dragons losing the ability to reason, they would be an unstoppable force, laying waste to the world and could cause the extinction of the populace. However, after the hunters help an injured bard, she asks them if they could help escort her to Lyrabar, a city in the country of Impiltur. The group, actually more like Dorn, reluctantly agree and they set sail. However, the bard, Kara, has secrets of her own. Meanwhile, in Lyrabar, a spy learns more than he should and runs for to the aid of his swordsmanship teacher, an avariel (or flying elf) named Taegan Nightwind. However, he’s too late and gives Taegan what he stole, a folio of important notes. What is Kara’s secret and will Dorn and the hunters still help her after they find out? What’s the importance of the folio and does it contain information on how to stop the rage?
Criticisms:
1) Dorn. Dorn really brings down the novel. He is just bad. He’s poorly developed, unlikable, and comes across as more of a chore to read about than he should be. Basically, he is a good idea gone horribly wrong. The idea of a half-golem human is really interesting and he also has an interesting back story. However, when it comes down to it, he is little more than a whiny character with no deeper motivation. While he may have gained a new outlook on things towards the end, but it never feels like it. His changes come across as more forced and unrealistic. What’s worse is that he brings down the hunters and Kara. With Dorn being the leader of the group, almost everyone in it suffers. It’s obvious that the group would be in better hands with anyone but him leading. He comes across as selfish and ignorant early on, definitely not the type of person you want leading. It just gets worse with Kara who develops an interest in the half-golem. Why? I have no idea because it seems to spring out of thin air. It would have been different if we see a relationship or attraction start, but we don’t. This comes across as so farfetched and unbelievable that at times I just skipped the ‘touching’ scenes between them because they didn’t belong.  Dorn is what really ruins this book. He’s not good, he has no personality, he’s just a good idea gone bad, and he almost ruins the more interesting characters.
2) Dire. The situations that occur never came across as dire or life threatening, nor do they even seem that important. When we are thrust into the story, and I never felt like the events really were impacting the world as a whole. They came across as small and insignificant, bordering on pointless at times. In fact, the characters in the book didn’t really seem to cringe at the prospects of dragons raging. It never felt like it phased the people. There wasn’t the impact that was attended. Also, injuries to the main characters never seem to be all that life threatening. Having Pavel instantly heal them a few seconds later or having a potion conveniently on hand. This gets more frustrating as the story goes on, especially during a scene at the end. By that time we know they are going to be perfectly fine. It just felt like no one was in any real harm.
3) Story. The story just appears. There is no build up or anything, instead we are launched into a situation with little to no knowledge or idea about what is occurring. This really harms the overall immersion, because you are busy trying to understand what is going on rather than enjoying what’s happening. This felt more like a second or third book in a series rather than a first. There never seemed to be a time when the story slowed down enough to allow the reader time to understand what’s going on. It doesn’t help that things move so quickly that more questions arise every other chapter. Overall, the story was sudden and left too much unsaid and much to be desired.
Praises:
1) Taegan. Taegan Nightwind almost single-handedly saves The Rage. He took the story and made it his own, easily stealing scenes from people like Dorn, which isn’t hard to do. But Taegan did it with gusto that it was very impressive. What makes Taegan so great? Well, he has a likable personality and is surprisingly entertaining while talking. He makes the act of talking exciting. He comes across as a real rake, with a suave personality and a charm about him. That alone is great, however Taegan takes it a step further. He is of a rare breed of elves, that aren’t seen much and that adds more of a mysterious quality to him. In fact, I don’t believe there is any other stories that prominently feature a flying elf. After reading this, I wanted to find out as much as I could about avariels. Everything about him is unique and really drew me in. However, he doesn’t appear until close to halfway through, but he still left an amazing impression.
2) Banter. There is some very amusing banter found in The Rage. It mostly occurs between two of the hunters, the priest named Pavel and the thief named Will, and it is really humorous and lighthearted. Hearing Will call Pavel a sham of a priest or making fun of his healing abilities did put a smile on my face. Also, hearing Pavel’s retorts are as amusing. This really helps ground the pair and makes them come across as real friends. It really cements the friendship and reminds me of how real-life friends talk to one another. This does add a dash of realism to the story. The banter also helps the story be more bearable and interesting. The banter does a great job at making the story fun.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts:
The Rage is a poor beginning for a trilogy. The story just suddenly happened, with little to no build-up of the characters or events. It took time to understand what was happening, rather than just enjoying the story. Also, nothing seemed all that dire, even through the story tried to convey how dangerous the situation is. I never felt like it mattered and that the characters were in any real danger. However, the worst part of The Rage is Dorn. He almost ruins anything the novel could have accomplished. He was unlikable, under developed, and severely misused. But, thanks to Taegan the story is bearable. He is The Rage‘s biggest saving grace, but he just had too much to overcome. Another good thing is the witty and fun banter that is tossed back and forth between Pavel and Will. This does make some scenes fun, but overall, it barely helps with getting through the story.

“The Prisoner of Hulberg”
Will and Pavel travel to Hulburg (or is it Hulberg?) in hopes of discovering another clue to the rage. However, what they find isn’t what they expected and decide to try to intervene.
Criticisms:
1) Advancing. This doesn’t seem to advance Will and Pavel as characters. Not much is really displayed that wasn’t already shown in The Rage.
2) Beginning. This story takes place between The Rage and The Rite, yet when I started the story I didn’t know that Pavel and Will left the main group of hunters. There wasn’t a time when either said that they were going to leave the group to help quicken the search for answers faster.
Praises:
1) Significance. The short story does have some significance with the overall plot. What they discover does come up again in the next book, so it’s not a total waste.
2) Action Heavy. The short story is really heavy in the action, and it does do a good job at keeping your interest. There is a pretty exciting fight scene towards the end of the story.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts:
“The Prisoner of Hulberg” didn’t seem to really do much, other than have a pretty good fight scene. Will and Pavel didn’t really have that much more development and it was slightly confusing to see the duo away from the main group with no explanation to be found in The Rage. It is slightly significant however, when what they find is brought back up later on in the trilogy. It’s worth a read if you want some more action, but ultimately you can skip it without missing much.

The Rite
The lich Sammaster is not very pleased that someone is discovering and stopping him in his goal, having dragonkind turn to him to help quell the rage that is turning them insane. But he realized a grave mistake, he forgot to destroy everything he has learned, so no one can stop him. However, a group of hunters have started searching for answers and begin traveling to the sites the lich used to uncover the same clues he should have destroyed. The half-human, half-golem Dorn and the arctic dwarf Raryn travel with the song dragon bard Kara and a bronze dragon named Chatulio to one such site. Before arriving to one of the sites, the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, they discover that it’s under attack by a group of evil chromatic dragons tasked to destroy everything in the monastery by Sammaster himself. The group decide to help the monks protect the monastery, while looking for the valuable information that is stored there. However, as the rage gnaws on Kara’s and Chatulio’s minds, will they be able to hold that back along with the attackers long enough to find the answers? On a similar quest to one of Sammaster’s locations, the halfling Will and the priest of Lathander, Pavel seem to be lost trying to find the lost temple. Thankfully, after helping a tribe of ogres kill a dragon, the tribe decide to take the duo to the ruins of the hidden temple. But how long will it be until the ogres turn on the two? Elsewhere, war is brewing in the country of Damara. Their king, Gareth Dragonsbane, falls due to a traitor and is seemingly dead. With no king to lead, the country has no hope in stopping the hordes from neighboring Vaasa, unless someone knows how to help the fallen king. The problem is, will the people of Damara trust in the help? In the city of Thentia, Taegan Nightwind arrives to help aid the hunters and their mage allies, but discovers that they left to search for some of the sites Sammaster visited. However, after meeting with the mages he discovers that there may be a traitor in their midst. Taegan and his faerie dragon friend, Jivex, decide to found the traitor before they could do serious harm. But are they too late?
Criticisms:
1) Deus ex Machina. The Rite is riddled with a lot of things, big and small, that seem to happen for the sole purpose of moving the plot along. While some of the smaller instances of deus ex machina can be forgiven, however the amount of it is just too much to simply ignore. It seemed like every major part of the story had something that suddenly appears and move it along, only to have to disappear a few chapters later. In the Will and Pavel part of the story, a the sudden appearances of dragons helps them out in a bind. In the Dorn and Kara part we see something similar but with the unlikely discovery of a hidden passage. Even in Taegan’s part, he learns a lot of information about a type of dragon offscreen on the off-chance he will see one. But that said, these small things barely compare to the massive convenience of Brimstone, who seems to know everything and has all the answers. When he appears to help Will and Pavel, I didn’t give his appearance that much of a thought. But after that initial appearance of the vampire dragon, he quickly became the ‘god of knowledge’ telling and doing everything that others couldn’t. It was just so sudden and unexpected that I hardly believed that he knew the exact spell and the exact way to right things. It just got tedious and annoying to see everything being solved with either off-screen information or by sudden appearance of something, only to have it almost disappear later.
2) Dorn. Dorn is actually bearable in this book, but he still has a long way to go. He doesn’t bring down any of the other characters, but he still comes across as a whiny character. For the first half of the novel, all Dorn seems to do is complain and whine about how he looks and that he knows that no one would love a ‘freak’ like him. It quickly becomes annoying after seeing him put himself down continuously. Even towards the end, when the complaining, thankfully, becomes less frequent, it just gets to ridiculous levels of complaining. Dorn’s problems just don’t stop there. In The Rage, Dorn’s and Kara’s relationship just kind of happened out of the blue, with no build up or reason for attraction. With this novel, it’s the same story. The relationship is developing a little better, but it still comes across as sudden. there is still almost no build-up in the romance and it’s so off-putting that it’s unbearably stupid. It’s just a half-brained attempt at a love interest and it doesn’t seem be ‘real’ or sincere. Overall, Dorn has improved, but he is still a long way to go before becoming a decent and likable character.
Praises:
1) Main Characters. The other characters, aside from Dorn and the amazingly easy to forget Raryn, do get some good development and do start to shine a little more. It also helps that most of the characters are in smaller groups, allowing some actual growth and development from these characters. It’s just easier for them to share the spotlight now. The situations also allow the characters to grow a little more easily. The best example of this is with Kara. With the rage gnawing at her mind, you can see her become more frustrated and downtrodden when she is dealing with simple situations. It’s easy to see her frustrations and because of this, she does grow into one of the more interesting characters of the trilogy. With Taegan, well, he’s still Taegan. I did lose a bit of that mystery and uniqueness from the previous novel, but his sections were just plain awesome. He was more of a detective in this novel and it was fun to see him try to piece together the mystery. It really does add a new dimension to his character. However, in terms of ‘natural’ development, Will and Pavel really do take the cake. From the previous novel, you really only had the friendly banter to go off of these two, there really wasn’t much else. Now they really do grow into very interesting and complex characters. After seeing some of the things they say and do, I did get a better understanding of the two. But the one character who is the most memorable from the novel is Chatulio. He is an amazing character. Each scene he’s in, he seemed to steal it. Also, Chatulio has to have the most memorable scene of the novel, but I can’t tell what it is. It’s just a shame that their wasn’t more time to get to know the dragon. All in all, the main characters have a bigger impact in the story and do become more interesting.
2) Multiple Stories. The Rite has four main story-lines going on within the novel. The first is Dorn, Raryn, Chatulio, and Kara are off to a temple in search of some knowledge concerning the rage. This story was a little more basic, but it was undeniably attack pack. Then you have Will and Pavel looking into another lead, and it was pretty much the same. It was action packed, but it seemed to have something more added in. We also have Taegan traveling to Thentia to meet up with the hunters and offer his assistance, and that was a different type of story. It comes off as more of a mystery and adds something very different to the novel. Finally, we have war ravaging the country of Damara. Now, I will say that the final story-line is by far the weakest of the bunch. It seemed like it was thrown into just to help pad out the plot, but it still was exciting to read. With so much happening, one would think that it would be hard to follow. But this wasn’t the case. Everything was pretty easy to follow. I had no trouble recalling some of the events that happened a chapter ago. It was especially helpful when each story-line is distinctly different. However, it doesn’t really come together quite as smoothly at the end. In fact, the epilogue felt more like a rushed recap of everything. But, having multiple story-lines felt like I was getting more out of the story.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts:
The Rite is a definite improvement over the previous novel, but still has a number of issues. The worst thing that I found was the amount of deus ex machina going on. With the small things, it wasn’t that much of a problem. However, after ‘the god machine’ himself, Brimstone, makes an appearance, it become unbearable and annoying. It just gave me a headache seeing all these ‘random’ things start happening to either help out the characters or move the story along. Also, I am still not liking Dorn. He comes across as too whiny about his lot in life and it started get on my nerves. Also, the relationship between Dorn and Kara have is as awkwardly unnecessary as possible. However, the rest of the characters really do shine. They all seem to have a bigger and more important role this time around and it really helps in their development. The multiple story-lines also help in this regard. With the group of characters split up, they each got a moment, or two, to really shine and become more than what they were. It also helps that while reading it felt like I was reading shorter stories combined into one major story.

The Ruin
As the rage of dragons continues on, the hunters may have found the breakthrough that they need. The group, consisting of a priest of Lathander named Pavel, a halfling thief named Will, the arctic dwarf ranger named Raryn, the avariel (flying elf) bladesinger named Taegan, a faerie dragon named Jivex, a song dragon bard named Kara, and the leader, a half-golem named Dorn, set out toward the frozen north. Their travels lead them to a place called The Great Glacier, where the arctic dwarf Raryn’s home was before leaving and because of he’s knowledge of the region, he is able to navigate the wasteland with ease. After a chance encounter with his old clan of dwarves, the group relax. But treachery is afoot, and before they know it, the hunters are taken to the self-proclaimed Ice Queen of the Great Glacier. Seeing the value the hunters could process and wishing to out-think the lich Sammaster, she tries to coerce Pavel into telling her all they know about the lich’s plans. However, he proves to strong to break. During this, their vampiric smoke drake ally, Brimstone, sets off to find where his companions have disappeared to. After finding a group of white dragons led by a dracolich named Zethrindor, Brimstone learns that his allies may have been taken to the Ice Queen. The white dragons are tasked to serve the Ice Queen by Sammaster, were sent out to overtake the country of Sossal, something they don’t like and agree with Brimstone that the Ice Queen can be a threat to their wishes to become dracolichs. During this, the Ice Queen agrees to help the hunters search for a ruin that could hold the key to the rage. As the group find the site they believed to be linked to the rage, the white dragons strike. Has the group found the cure for the rage or is it too late to stop the destruction?
Criticisms:
1) Minor Characters. The biggest flaw that The Ruin has is the minor characters. They just weren’t interesting enough for me to care about them. They came across as poorly placed and almost useless at times. For example, the white dragons are off trying to conquer Sossal and we meet some of the defenders of the place. They aren’t memorable and while they do play a part in the story, they come across as through they should be something more. It was almost like they were meant to have a bigger role. Yet, things just happened to that are supposed to make you like them, but they happen so suddenly and vanish so quickly, that you just don’t care. It felt like some of the minor characters were supposed to be more, but were just rushed and forgotten. Also, even the bigger minor characters (the Ice Queen, for example) seem to be wasted. She does come across as a generally interesting character, yet what happens is that you really never get to delve any further than her surface. It could be that the story was deviating too far from the main plot, or something but it seemed like there should have just been more to these characters.
2) Impact. I still don’t see any real impact this story made to the world. The whole rage of dragons never really came across as something dire and deadly. In fact, the dragons themselves seem amazingly weak and not threatening. When a world-changing event happens, you kind of expect it to be world-changing. Instead, it felt like nothing changed, other than a few deaths. It felt like it didn’t matter to the world at large. The events really didn’t have the impact that was meant for it.
3) Dodging. This is something that really bothered me throughout the trilogy, the amount of dodging the characters did. I couldn’t count how many times Will runs under a dragon, poked it a few times with his sword, and rolled out-of-the-way when the dragon belly slams, or stomps down. It seems like this happened, every single time that Will attacked. With the others, they nimbly avoid bites, a tail whipping around, parry claws (which is amazing, seeing as dragons are huge and can crush a person easily), and stopping attacks. In fact, it only seemed like Kara was the only character to actually show terrible wounds. This really stopped my suspension of disbelief and cause me to question these characters abilities. They come across as god-like beings, with their dodging and blocking. It just doesn’t work when your fighting a huge dragon to come away almost unharmed and still alive.
Praises:
1) Action. The Ruin was a very exciting read, mostly due to it being full of action scenes and battles. The action itself is really well written and very easy to follow, aside from a few instances. Every chapter contained an exciting and fast paced battle, making the story a very quick read. However, the best part of The Ruin is at the end, when we get a gigantic battle that is filled with tension. This battle really put me on the edge of my seat, wondering what is going to happen and who will survive. Overall, the action is really well written and very exciting.
2) Dorn. Dorn does come across as a better character than in the previous two books. However, he still isn’t perfect. At least this time, his self-loathing and attitude is understandable, but it still did get on my nerves easily. Aside from one painfully stupid scene involving Kara and him at the end of the novel, he really works to his strengths here. His bitter attitude of his condition and how he considers himself a freak finally do come across as deep and sad. It could have been because of the event he goes through, but even so, it was well executed. Finally, we get a reason as to why Dorn is so full of self hate and he actually becomes a decent and likable character.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts:
The Ruin isn’t the way you want to end a trilogy. The plot does pick up from the previous book and a lot of loose ends were tied up in the end, but it doesn’t seem quite right. It was action packed with fighting and battles that made it a very quick read. The battles were well written and did keep me to edge of my seat, but it still felt like something was missing. At least Dorn’s character was actually decent this time! But still that sense of something missing was there. What’s the something? Well, the impact of the world-changing event wasn’t there. Not once did I feel like the world was in danger or even changed because of that. It didn’t even feel like it was all that important in the long run. It also didn’t help that minor characters only seemed to be there to move the story along when they were obviously meant for a bigger role. Finally, if this series was supposed to be as big and world-changing as it was supposed to be, why was it that there were so few major character deaths? It just didn’t have the impact that The Ruin was shooting for.

“Rivals”
Dorn Graybrook arrives in a small village called Pilver’s Creek for a job at hunting a beast that is terrorizing the village. However, he notices a group of people picking on a peculiar dwarf. After intervening, Dorn learns that the dwarf’s name is Raryn Snowstealer and he’s here because of the job as well. Dorn doesn’t like this and starts to hate Raryn for being here. However, the mayor decides to take them both out to do the job. After finding the beast, they learn not everything is how it appears.
Criticisms:
1) Dorn. Dorn is absolutely unlikable here, yet again. I can’t like this character. He constantly complains about his deformity and how no one should like him. It’s just unbearable!
Praises:
1) Raryn. Finally, Raryn has a personality and isn’t forgotten! He’s a great character in here. He’s charismatic, likable, and interesting in this short story. He finally has a personality and gets some well deserved development.
2) Story. I really did like the story and how it focused more on building the friendship between Dorn and Raryn. It wasn’t all that action packed, although there was some action, it didn’t dominate the story as a whole. It was really just interesting.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts:
“Rivals” was a good short story, but it wasn’t placed in this omnibus at the right spot. Having a story that is about Dorn and Raryn meeting at the end of the omnibus was really a bad move. It should have been at the beginning. However, this story was really good. Dorn is still very unbearable with his constant complaining and self-loathing. However, actually giving Raryn half the spotlight was just plain fantastic! He actually is an interesting character, who unfortunately was forgotten in the trilogy. I wish now that he was more prevalent in it. The story itself was really good, and didn’t rely solely on action scenes to move it along. Instead, it focused more on Dorn and Raryn’s friendship, which was good and refreshing. All in all, this short story was very entertaining, but it’s unfortunate that it had to appear at the end when it belongs at the start.

OVERALL AVERAGED OMNIBUS GRADE: 3/5
Final Thoughts on the Omnibus:
The Year of Rogue Dragons wasn’t a very good trilogy, but it still was very enjoyable for the most part. The characters were decent. The best being Kara and Taegan, and the worse being Dorn. Dorn was this trilogies main problem. I just couldn’t like him. He’s constant self-loathing attitude became annoying quickly. What’s worse is that he is the main character, and you have to deal with him the whole time. The story was pretty straightforward, but never really felt like it delved to deeply into the situation. When you have something as big and dangerous as the story seemed to be, it never felt like it was as big and devastating as it should have been. From reading the trilogy, it felt like it was more of a smaller scale problem than anything else. Also, it did get kind of annoying when each book pretty much went from battle to battle and fight to fight with a bit of downtime and character development. Also, something that really bothered me was all the dragons without any real descriptions and there just seemed to be way too many. The Year of Rogue Dragons really wanted to be more than it actually was. I really can’t recommend, but I will say that the cover art of the omnibus is really cool and I actually am happy I picked it up.

One Response to “The Year of Rogue Dragons Omnibus by Richard Lee Byers”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Travis Eisenbrandt, Travis Eisenbrandt. Travis Eisenbrandt said: Hopefully, this works! The Year of Rogue Dragons Omnibus by Richard Lee Byers: http://wp.me/pGqQm-lg […]

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