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?

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