Dragons of the Hourglass Mage

Monday, March 8, 2010

 

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, 2009


Okay, this is the part where I hang my head in shame.  I not only read this book, I had to order it from another library branch.  I feel vaguely dirty.  Only not really, because Dragonlance, for me, is pure comfort food reading.  It's like mac and cheese from a box: You know what you're getting, and it's gooey and easy and sort of tasty, if not very good for you.  That said, don't read this unless you read and remember the originals, and even then you're going to want to think twice.

I find the “Lost Chronicles” particularly ridiculous.  The idea here is that Weis and Hickman's kids must need dental work or something, and/or things are very sour between them and WotC.  This is the last of three books that aimed to fill in the time gaps in the original Chronicles trilogy.  You know, besides all the short stories and etc. that others have written that retread the same exact ground.  The first one was useless and the second inane.  This one is... complicated. 

My non-spoiler thoughts: overall it doesn't feel terribly in-continuity, the logic is flawed, the characters shaky, the happenings silly.  And then on the last page they kinda redeem it, and it feels like they're bidding farewell, at long last, and setting the world down. 

The complete repetition of a plot moment from a whole separate part of the continuity (i.e. not the part they're intentionally rewriting) is dumb.  It only feels slightly less silly when I look at this one as a little of everything they've written in this world.  Also there are little nods to D&D here and there.  They managed to touch on almost every character, and leave you right back in the middle of one of the best scenes they ever wrote.


My problems:  Some SPOILERS AHOY

Okay.  The reason that you should not write a book just about Raistlin, even though he's EVERYONE'S favorite, even if you're Margaret Weis, is similar, in some ways, to why you should never make a movie starring Darth Vader.  Once you place the narrative voice inside an ambiguously moral character, writers usually feel the need to make them: A) More moral, often uncharacteristically so B) More angsty.  The whole reason these characters are cool is because you don't hear their thoughts often, so you don't trust them entirely, sometimes you don't know what they're going to choose.  All that tension is defused by making that character the center. 

Also, repeating all the Fistandantilus stuff ad nauseum, making the same points you did in Legends?  That's just lazy writing, guys, and lazy plotting.  Also this book involves such retcon-ing that Legends now breaks the timeline, when only some pretty tortured doublethink had prevented it from invalidating the events of the Chronicles in the first place.  (I had to look it up to check.)  It's like they forgot what they wrote already.  Oops.

This could have been a more interesting book, if they'd been willing to go whole hog internal evil political intrigue, instead of adding in a side trip to the main crew of Spring Dawning, a whole bizarre subplot about a local rebellion, etc... it's silly.  And they didn't allow Raistlin to be powerful for most of it, which was really disappointing.  Come on, guys, the eternal short-changing only works for so long. I suppose they realized, rightly, that if they'd let it fit the established timeline, most of the time covered by this book would be Raistlin reading books.  It's not as truly terrible an alternate story for the time period as it could have been, but it doesn't fit with the originals as advertised. 

Now that wouldn't matter much if it were leaps and bounds better than the originals.  But, for all the faults of Autumn Twilight and it's clunky writing, random encounters, etc. the charm just doesn't hold for these shinier, less ambiguous “sequels”.  Everyone seems a bit underpowered, under-motivated, underdone.  It's a mediocre fantasy novel with a somehow truly satisfying last page.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

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