The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.
Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Why I Read It: It was a teen favorite of mine.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy a strong female lead and a whirlwind adventure.

Publisher: TOR (1993)

Length: 576 pages

Series: The Halfblood Chronicles Book 1

Shana is a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are forbidden, and killed when discovered. Her mother was a human concubine to a powerful Elven lord. Shana was born in the desert to a dying mother who had no use or love for her in the presence of a camouflaged dragon, Alara, who becomes her foster mother. She was born into a world where humans have been enslaved for generations by the invading elves from another world. Their written language, history, and culture have been all but eradicated. The Dragons too are from another world, but have remained in hiding, in secluded colonies out of the way of both humans and elven kind. All three races have individuals with magical abilities. Hence the half-bloods often contain the strongest powers of both parents, and are very dangerous to the ruling elves.

When I was in my teens, I read this book and thought it was one of the best books I had ever read. So when SJ from Snobbery and I teamed up for a read along of it, I was quite thrilled to revisit it. The first half of the book is a very good lead into the world created by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton. We get to ride along as Shana grows up in a dragon colony (why can’t I be that lucky!), as she explores her own magical abilities, and eventually as she learns that the dragon colony may not be for her.

However, then things drastically shift gear for the second half of the book as more and more new characters are introduced and Shana is thrown into ever increasing dangerous situations. In fact, the second half of the book became kind of muddled for me and I am pained to point out these flaws. I really wanted to love this book as much or more so as an adult. I think the major issue for me was that in the first half of the book we have pretty clear story rules about what the dragons could do magically, what the elves could do magically, and what the humans could do magically. Each had their own flavor of magic where certain things were possible and others things impossible. Then individuals within the race had varying strengths. Made sense. But the second half of the book kind of broke all those rules, or threw them out the window….was there a window or did they just smash against the wall and get all mixed together?

I could go on about the lesser flaws, but it’s really unnecessary. One of the weaknesses and greatest strengths of the fantasy genre is that you can literally make anything happen to your story and your characters. However, it is then extra important for fantasy writers to stick to the rules they have created for said story. If you start breaking those rules for plot convenience, then you’re going to loose the strength of your story, and your readers. I am not sure I will continue the series, even though I am itching a bit to see what happens to Shana in further adventures. She was very easy to get attached to, and to stay attached to.

What I Liked: The dragon colonies were real societies with their own cultures; Shana was an adventurous, strong, flawed character; Keman was my knight in shiny scale – the best friend and foster brother Shana could ever hope for; the history of the world with the past strife between humans, elves, and half-bloods gave the story depth.

What I Disliked: Somewhere around the mid point, lots of new characters were introduced; the delineated rules of the first half were tossed out the window in the second half; some characters did major things that were not in character; suddenly Shana is performing feats that no half-blood has successfully pulled off before.

OnceUponATime7Tis the Fantasy Season over at Stainless Steel Droppings, who is hosting the spring reading event Once Upon A Time. This is a celebration of all that is fantasy. Make sure to stop by and check it out.

If you would like more in depth discussion of this book, check out the read along posts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

7 thoughts on “The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey”

  1. Thanks for the review! I always get nervous about reading readalong posts where I might want to read the book later ya know? While it looks like I wouldn’t enjoy this one as much as I hoped (dragons :D) that’s good to know now!

    1. I hear the second in the series is better. There are 3 books, and a 4th one has been planned to wrap up the series for….years? Norton died and Lackey hasn’t finished it. Don’t know if that will happen.

  2. Ohhhh! so glad to read this review! I had picked up Elvenbane in a used book store but had no idea what it was about (no book cover so no blurb).. I may have to search out the rest of the trilogy now! Thank you for the review!

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