Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night Chapters Two and Three

Two sharply contrasted chapters that both kind of work in their own way. The omniscient POV chills for a bit and settles into the one POV per chapter that most of us have grown accustomed to in our epic fantasy. We get some interesting perspective in these chapters and LOADS of important information that sort of sets up this book. It's a little heavy handed but sometimes being heavy handed is okay AND tie in novels were in their infancy, no one was exactly sure how these things work, so I can have some patience with these parts of the book.

We get a dragon POV, but I'll get to that later, I want to talk for a second about the long infodump that looks like it was copy and pasted (would that have been a thing in 1985?) from the Dragonlance World Guide. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I have a "thing" for setting guides, so much so that one of these days I'd love to do a formal one for each of my fantasy works. I'm a terribly mediocre world builder when compared to guys like Erikson, Bakker or Lou Anders (I dream of having a real sit down with Lou about doing one because he is the master of this), so naturally I kind of enjoyed this section of the book. Now, I was going to write a long post about geography, but maybe I'll do another one later.

One of the criticisms that's come up over on is that how is it possible that people haven't heard any news concerning Tarsis for 300 years. It's actually consistent with the world building. Tanis and the other companions, almost all "experienced" adventurers knew nothing about Xak Tsaroth, a once major urban center close to them, and other things going on around them. After the Cataclysm people stopped talking, stayed very regional and didn't hear rumors from far away (think about Alexandria or even Terminus in The Walking Dead). The Knights of Solamnia were sort of the newsbringers of their day since they seemed to protect everyone so with them holed up and disgraced, news slowed to a trickle, especially in the South where the dwarves cut off the only passes and with the sea taken away from them and what water they could access was filled with shipwrecks (basing this on a Ansalon map found online from one of the RPG supplements).

And as for the temperature, using several maps I could find online of the Krynn, Ansalon is connected to the southern pole continent by a large glacier (could be directly connected but there is the glacier covering it) and Tarsis is only 100 miles from the glacier. It's a cold place. Think Patagonia in South America, where the coldest spots get to -25 degrees Celsius. There are other wobbles, but I'll address them later.

As for the Dragonlords, one of the things that Dragonlance did that I don't remember seeing in other fantasy works at the time is that we clearly get the POV of the "villains." The conversation between Skie and the Dragonlord is interesting because it's setting a big picture. It actually puts AUTUMN into perspective as a "small" story. The organization of the armies is interesting and gives some insight into the politics of the Dragonlords and that is interesting, I hope there is more (I don't remember). But this mission sounds personal on so many levels it makes you wonder who the three the Dragonlord seeks and why. (Heh)

The whole Elistan/Laurana/Tanis thing is weird, yet deserves notice only because it's the one heavy handed thing in the chapter that isn't working for me. To Laurana's eyes as an elf, Elistan is still kind of a baby. It doesn't sound like she's had a lot of experience with humans (at least pure humans) and this is kind of a novelty to her, an "old" human extolling wisdom to a "young"elf that has probably been alive as long as Elistan has been, though she hasn't probably experienced as much as he has. Elistan was never an interesting character to me. It was like they needed a wizened old man to be the "leader" because that was the trope they needed.

I want to say something quick about Sturm. He's just an idiot and a liar. Who walks around in full battle armor all the time? Even GRRM doesn't make his people do that. Seriously. He's supposedly this experienced adventurer and wanna be super soldier, but instead he acts the complete opposite.

Can we just get to the tomboy/princess/outcast hero love triangle already? Seriously, Dragonlance was SO an 80s movie. AND, maybe, just maybe a precursor to just about EVERY YA FANTASY out today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dragonlance Reread: Dragons of Winter's Night: Prologue and Chapter One

I'm back. I didn't do a post for the end of Autumn Twilight. My basic overview of the last section was how rushed it was. So now we're moving on to the EMPIRE of the series: Dragons of Winter's Night. I am following along with again and here's my 2 cents about the book so far:

Autumn Twilight, when you think about it, was a small story. The entire story, despite the scope, really took place in a very small geographic corner of the world and, for such an epic story, really wasn’t all that epic, the elves leaving withstanding, as we know it. For the first time in the series we’re starting to get into a bigger world and it feels more epic right off the bat. We see the way two separate societies work in a short space, the human refugees and the dwarves. The politics of the Highseekers is fascinating, even after all that’s happened. It’s something I wish there was a little more of in this story. It makes me wonder if the Lost Chronicles books are worth it. (I can tell you I bought Highlord Skies because it looks like a vastly interesting story than the other LC books, but I’ll let you know.) Let me address that though….

The gap in the story bothered me as a kid and it bothers me more now. I get that they were probably under pressure to write a trilogy, but come on. Oh well, maybe I’ll read that Lost Chronicle some day. Oh, well, we all makes choices when we write.

It feels like Sturm and Tanis have become bigger dicks than they already were, but thinking about it, it’s actually not bad characterization. The cheap observation is that it’s all representative of the conflict they are both feeling inside. But there’s more going on. Sturm is desperate to be a hero, the bit with the dragonlance shows that and restore glory to his people in his family name. I get that and that’s kind of interesting, but we don’t get to see a lot of that yet. He’s also lied to his closest companions about what he is and still hasn’t come clean to them….AND STILL wants them to go north to fight in the war. That’s some stones. Sturm becomes a much more fascinating character in this book and this is the first insight into it.

I’ve also commented before on these reread posts about how fascinated I am my Solamnia and the Knights. One of my favorite parts is the kingfisher. I love that it is a symbol of the knighthood and the nation. Such a strange thing and I love it.

Tanis continues to be cool because he was emo before emo was cool. I’ll bet he listened to a lot of Smiths and Morrissey (I have a funny Morrissey story, but that’s not for here!). Anyway, he’s another one that is annoying because all of a sudden he has severe claustrophobia. Again, I know that this can be explained away, but it’s still sort of convenient for the story. He had no problem every other time they had to go underground, now all of a sudden he’d losing his shit over it. The cheap explanation is that he’s underground longer than those other times and the conditions are cramped, but as an supposedly experienced adventurer and sometimes sellsword, he’s not acting like one. This has been one of my complaints about the series reread as a whole. Now the more complex explanation might be that it isn’t the dwarven complex but the fact he is in a confined space with Laurana and he might be suffocating because of it.

The whole Tanis/Laurana relationship comes across as that couple in high school that was constantly fighting over stupid things. Actually, they remind me of some adult couples I know.

Let me also, quickly, talk about Raistlin. I get why he’s so popular. He’s the guy that all the nerds think they are/could be. (I loved me some Tanis when I read it, but good googly moogly, I’d kill to be Caramon.) Most aren’t. Raistlin’s a dick. I don’t care why, he’s just a jerk. I have no patience for it. I hated Catcher In The Rye because I always felt that Holden Caufield was just an asshole. Raistlin’s being a jackass to his FRIENDS. No wonder they thought he would betray them multiple times (and he kind of did, when you think about it, with the whole Xak Tsaroth affair).

By the end, we’re on the move again. And this time, there is something foreboding about it.