Rawn, Melanie 1954- (Ellen Randolph, Melanie Robin Rawn)
Rawn, Melanie 1954- (Ellen Randolph, Melanie Robin Rawn)
Born June 12, 1954, in Santa Monica, CA; daughter of Robert Dawson and Alma Lucile Rawn. Education: Scripps College, B.A., 1975; attended graduate school at University of Denver, 1975-76; California State University at Fullerton, teacher credentials, 1980.
Writer, novelist, and short-story writer.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
(Under pseudonym Ellen Randolph) Rushden Legacy, Walker and Company (New York, NY), 1985.
(With Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot) The Golden Key, DAW (New York, NY), 1996.
Spellbinder: A Love Story with Magical Interruptions, Tor (New York, NY), 1996.
Diviner's Key, DAW (New York, NY), 1999.
"DRAGON PRINCE" SERIES
Dragon Prince, DAW (New York, NY), 1988.
The Star Scroll, DAW (New York, NY), 1989.
Sunrunner's Fire, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.
"DRAGON STAR" SERIES
Stronghold, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.
The Dragon Token, with map by Marty Siegrist, DAW (New York, NY), 1992.
Skybowl, DAW (New York, NY), 1993.
The Ruins of Ambrai, DAW (New York, NY), 1994.
The Mageborn Traitor, DAW (New York, NY), 1997.
The Capital's Tower, MacMillan (New York, NY), 2006.
Fantasy novelist Melanie Rawn published her first novel, Dragon Prince, in 1988, beginning a succession of trilogies. The prince of the "Dragon Prince" trilogy is Rohan. In the series' opening novel, Rohan's father, Zehava, has recently died, leaving their desert kingdom open to threats from High Prince Roelstra, whose seventeen daughters give him considerable leverage in concluding alliances with nearby domains. Dragons are included in the adventures too, as is love in the person of an orphaned acolyte, Sioned. Commenting on the length and extravagance of this romantic saga, a Publishers Weekly critic felt it would appeal to readers of specific tastes, adding: "Rawn moves her large cast swiftly and colorfully through their expected motions."
The second volume in the trilogy, The Star Scroll, finds Prince Rohan settled into peaceful rulership of his realm fourteen years after the conflicts of the first novel have been resolved. This peace is mistaken for weakness by some, who wish for a change of leadership. A new conflict arises through a star scroll, which discloses the magic techniques of an ancient people who were able to control starlight. Two reviewers, Karen S. Ellis in Kliatt and John Christensen in Voice of Youth Advocates, cautioned that a reading of Dragon Prince was necessary to an understanding of the complicated feuds and character relationships in The Star Scroll; but both reviewers enjoyed the book on its own terms as well. Ellis called it "involved fantasy fare" in which the "characters … are all woven together by intrigue and magic." Christensen labeled it a "struggle of good against evil…. The main characters," he continued, "are well developed and it is a very compelling fantasy."
The "Dragon Prince" trilogy ended in 1990 with Sunrunner's Fire, and Rawn's sequel-trilogy, "Dragon Star," began that same year with Stronghold. A change of generations takes place, with Prince Rohan dying, his son Pol taking charge of the kingdom, and the kingdom's stronghold being destroyed. In the trilogy's second volume, 1992's The Dragon Token, Pol must deal with an attack from an army of unidentified invaders; to do so, he returns to his desert roots and consults the wise dragons who live there (and who communicate by means of color). Sally Estes, in Booklist, found the dragon-human relationship in The Dragon Token to be one of its most interesting aspects, both in itself and in comparison to dragon-human relationships in other works of fantasy. Writing that "Rawn demonstrates a fine sense of world building and characterization," Estes called the novel "challenging fantasy well worth the effort." The effort she referred to was the effort of keeping track of a huge cast of characters and interrelationships, many of them from Rawn's four previous novels. Reviewer Margaret Miles, in Voice of Youth Advocates, offered the same caveat to readers. However, Miles, like Estes, gave the novel a clear thumbs-up, writing that Rawn's "fully imagined historical and cultural backgrounds, and her absorbing systems of Sunrunners' and sorcerers' magic all give this series a tremendous and well-deserved appeal." Similar views were voiced by a critic for Publishers Weekly, who called The Dragon Token "unusually sophisticated" for its genre. The reception for the trilogy's finale, Skybowl, was less enthusiastic, as critics in both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews complained of the 1993 novel's massive length and intricate cast of characters. Estes, in Booklist, was once again on the positive side, saying that the novel was a fully satisfying wrap-up to the series—briskly paced, involving, and boasting a gripping denouement.
Rawn's next fantasy series, "Exiles," takes the reader to a different land, Lenfell, which was colonized in the distant past by a population of mages who gained control of—and polluted through warfare—the natural environment. The Ruins of Ambrai, the 1994 opening volume of the series, brings the reader up-to-date on this matriarchal society's past and introduces three orphaned sisters: Glennin, Sarra, and Cailet. Raised apart from one another, each sister has different strengths and attitudes and each separately, and together, has the potential to affect the planet's future. Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Rosemary Moran praised the author's "great attention to detail," and called The Ruins of Ambrai "engrossing." She especially appreciated Rawn's delineation of the structure of a matriarchy, as did Kliatt reviewer Judith H. Silverman, who, despite complaining of the novel's length and complexity, wrote: "Fantasy readers hungry for a good matriarchy will not be disappointed."
Rawn's career took a turn in 1996, when she collaborated with two other fantasy writers, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliott, to create a three-generation novel that aimed to preserve both novelistic unity and authorial individuality. Set in the fantasy duchy of Tira Virte, The Golden Key examines the relationship among art, love, and magic, for this is a world in which paintings constitute the recorded history of the society, and some of the paintings—those made by the magical Grijalva family—can actually affect history. The Grijalva artists, called Limners, are sterile, and insert their vital essence into the paintings, at the cost of the painters' early, painful deaths. Booklist reviewer Roland Green found the novel not only "original in concept and superior in execution," but clearly the best work any of its three authors had produced to that point. "The romance justifies every one of its nearly eight hundred pages," Green declared, marking a welcome departure from some previous reviewers who had thought Rawn's novels too long.
Holly McClure, the protagonist of Spellbinder: A Love Story with Magical Interruptions, is beautiful, classy, a happily successful author of historical novels, and a practicing witch. In addition to her writing talents, however, she also possesses a unique physical characteristic that makes her extremely valuable to the local witch's coven, of which she is a member. Holly is a Spellbinder, which means that a single drop of her blood is enough to magnify the potency and effects of a magical spell. Among the other members of her coven is Elias Sutton Bradshaw, head of the group and a U.S. district judge in civilian life. Through Elias's clerk and girlfriend, Susannah, Holly meets Evan Lachlan, a brawny and masculine U.S. marshal. Holly and Evan begin a romance, haunted somewhat by Evan's fight against alcoholism. However, their lives are greatly complicated by the presence of a group of black-magic practitioners, presided over by mentally deranged bookstore-owner and Satanist Noel. When Noel and his group murder the son of a prominent evangelist during a black mass, Holly, Evan, and Holly's coven are drawn into a deadly struggle to overcome Noel and his black magicians before more carnage occurs and a clash between magical and mundane world. The novel showcases Rawn's "talent for character building, her acute eye for the minutiae of daily life, and her storytell- ing excellence," commented Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada. "This cauldron bubbles over with spells, rituals, sex and even a vampire or two," remarked a Publishers Weekly critic.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992, p. 797.
Booklist, March 15, 1992, Sally Estes, review of The Dragon Token, p. 1344; February 15, 1993, Sally Estes, review of Skybowl, p. 1041; September 1, 1996, Roland Green, review of The Golden Key, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1992, review of Skybowl, p. 1542; September 1, 2006, review of Spellbinder: A Love Story with Magical Interruptions, p. 882.
Kliatt, September, 1989, Karen S. Ellis, review of The Star Scroll, p. 20; March, 1996, Judith H. Silverman, review of The Ruins of Ambrai, p. 20.
Library Journal, October 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of The Ruins of Ambrai, p. 90; October 15, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of Spellbinder, p. 55.
Publishers Weekly, October 28, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of Dragon Prince, p. 74; December 6, 1991, review of The Dragon Token, p. 60; October 9, 1995, review of The Ruins of Ambrai, p. 83; August 19, 1996, review of The Golden Key, p. 57; September 4, 2006, review of Spellbinder, p. 43.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1989, John Christensen, review of The Star Scroll, p. 291; August, 1992, Margaret Miles, review of The Dragon Token, p. 179; February, 1995, Rosemary Moran, review of The Ruins of Ambrai, p. 351; October 1, 1997, review of The Mageborn Traitor, p. 254; December 1, 2006, Heidi Dolamore, review of Spellbinder, p. 450.
Melanie Rawn Home Page,http://www.melanierawn.com (June 10, 2007).