Review: Dragonlance ‘The Lost Chronicles’

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently finished Weis and Hickman’s ‘the Lost Chronicles Trilogy’. This comes close to 17 years since I first read the original Dragonlance Chronicles. I was drawn to these books by my love of the characters of Krynn and the original tales that have been read by millions since their publication. To many, Dragonlance is synonymous with dungeons and dragons and is seen as a mild fantasy setting, which tends towards adventure and swords and sorcery rather than more serious epic fantasy. However you look at them, the original Dragonlance trilogies are an easy and highly enjoyable read, made famous by the Heroes of the Lance which populate the tales.

The Lost Chronicles fill in the gaps from the original Chronicles and provide us with some insight into what happened to our Heroes in between the first novels. It also details events previously mentioned, but never fully explained, in particular where characters broke off from the main group and continued in the background. It is important to note that the three books of the Lost Chronicles could actually be read standalone and each cover separate stories. Though there is chronological order and some characters crossing over, each book focuses on different heroes.

The first book ‘Dragons of the Dwarven Depths’ provides us with the tale of the Heroes’ escape to Thorbardin after their escape from Pax Tharkas. It is a tale that in itself is enjoyable to read and allows us to return to the characters we grew to love when first reading Dragonlance. Tanis, Flint, Tass and Caramon all carry out their adventure to the dwarven kingdom and we are provided with the amount of action and inter character banter that we have come to know. The first thing I noticed is that the grand scale of the original trilogy was lost in this book. It seemed much more like a one off story or adventure. That isn’t a bad thing, but threw me off a bit as when I pick up a trilogy there is a certain scale I have come to expect. Tass and Flint shine strongest in this tale and their interaction with the dwarf Arman Kharas was a pleasure to read. I enjoyed the story of Thorbardin and would definitely recommend it to fans of the series.

‘Dragons of the Highlord Skies’, the second novel in the trilogy, drew my attention to a greater extent. It deals with Laurana and Sturm’s journey to Icewall castle to obtain the dragon orb from Highlord Feal-Thas. It is a tale I have always wanted to hear more about and is presented in great fashion. A few new characters are thrown in which provides some extra conflict and the climax of the book is well received and exciting. The book also follows Kitiara, who is a character we love to hate, but also garners some new sympathy. It was great to get to know her better. The only disappointment in this novel is that from the very beginning you are waiting for the first meeting between Kitiara and the death knight Lord Soth. However this does not come until the very end and is for my tastes a little short, given the lead up to it.

 As for the final book in the trilogy, I loved it. ‘Dragons of the Hourglass Mage’ covers the tale of Raistlin’s journey to Neraka. Raistlin is by far my favourite character and is the sole focus of this book. I believe that many other Dragonlance fans would appreciate a book which hones in on the famous mage’s aspirations and allows us to enjoy all that is Raistlin Majere. The story follows his transition to a black robe and his uncovering of Queen Takhisis’ plot to seize control of all magic. As always we see him weave his schemes with guile and ferocity and I found myself flying through the pages much quicker than the first two. Sadly the ending is a bit short, however this is more a result of the story’s place in the Dragonlance timeline. It ends at a point where the original Chronicles tell the rest of the tale, and as such feels a little abrupt. That being said it rekindled my love of the cunning mage.

It is always hard to top a masterpiece, and looking back at the Lost Chronicles I can say that I am glad to have read them. But I now see them more as appendices to the original tale. They provide us with further insight into the motivations driving the Heroes of the Lance and show us previously unseen events. If you have read the original Chronicles and are looking for more of your favourite characters, then I recommend these books. If you are looking for a traditional trilogy with epic scope and a long story arc, return to the original Chronicles or Legends trilogies.

Rating: 4/5

Review: The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Truth

There is no doubt about it, whether you enjoy his books or not, Terry Pratchett is a master of storytelling. His ability to use a single sentence or word to paint an image in the reader’s mind is incredible. In a genre full of exposition and detailed description he is able to convey, with ease, vivid and lively locations and diverse and quirky characters using phrases that in themselves tell you nothing about their physical appearance.

‘The Truth’, discworld’s 25th novel, is no different. Characters dance from the pages and within moments of being introduced to them you feel as though you know exactly where they have come from, what they had for breakfast, and what they like to do on their weekends. Ankh-Morpork continues to evolve into a squalid, yet loveable cesspool of civilisation that reminds us of everything that the real world and the Fantasy genre have to offer.

Something I find when I read a discworld novel is that from the first page I have a warm feeling and thoroughly enjoy Pratchett’s introductions. However a fault, if I can find any in his writing, is that I tend to find my interest diminishing the further I read. A friend once said to me, “I feel like when I read one of his books that he got a really good idea, began writing and then realised he had to finish it somehow, almost as an afterthought.” Occasionally I have to agree.

‘The Truth’ deals with the arrival of newspapers and journalism to Ankh-Morpork and for the most part the characters are not too different from ones that have appeared in previous books. In many ways I was reminded of “Going Postal”, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The main character, William is likeable enough and the rest of the cast (dwarves, vampires and talking dogs), all add a certain charm. The villains in the book are also well presented and a great take off of the ‘brawns and brains’ crime outfit.

The book’s strength is in its evolution of the newspaper. As things come together and William begins to get papers into the streets, you find yourself wanting to read more and see what happens next. The sub plot of the attempted replacement of the Patrician, I found to be less interesting, though vital to the story. That being said, as ever Lord Vetinari stands out as a brilliant character, and when he is involved in the dialogue I cannot get enough.

Without spoiling anything, I felt the end of the story was average on the whole. Though not by any means poorly plotted or written. I think I was merely expecting the tale to go in a different direction. I did though really enjoy “The Truth” and find myself smiling whenever I read one of the discworld novels.

As with most of Pratchett’s novels I would recommend this to my friends. I would however recommend it after most of the others that I have read. Therefore my final rating reflects not poor quality, but a comparison to his other great works. If you are seeking a smile and a wonderful mockery of the modern newspaper give it a go. If you are looking for your first discworld novel, then start with ‘The Colour of Magic’ first.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Review: Magician’s End by Raymond E Feist

 

There is something profoundly sad about finishing the last book in a series. When that book is the culmination of a lifetime of stories, in a world that has become a second reality to so many readers, there is an even greater sense of loss. I turned the final page of Magician’s End last night and did not know what to do with myself.

There is no single author whose books I have read more of. Raymond E Feist will remain my biggest inspiration and the reason for my urge to write fantasy. He has managed to spend thirty years crafting the tales of Pug and the world of Midkemia. And it has finally come to an end.

Without spoiling any of the story, I have to say that the most enjoyable part of this book was the way in which Feist revisited characters and elements from the many books of the past. It was fantastic to be taken back to all of the stories that I have read over the years. The brief mention of Erik and Roo from the Serpentwar Saga or Kulgan and Meecham from the very beginning was enough to remind me of the long journey that Pug has taken.  This is well placed in a book that is set to end Feist’s time in Midkemia.

The plot itself holds the grand scope that one would expect, with cataclysmic destruction looming on the horizon and Pug yet again called on to save the universe. It is a tried and tested formula that Feist has received much criticism for. But I say if it aint broke, don’t fix it. The very reason that this series has continued to sell and be loved, is that Feist is a master of approachable epic fantasy. The kind where action and strong character relationships come to the fore and the grander struggles remain in the mix. He avoids the heavy description and at times dry reading of many fantasy series, yet creates a rich and believable world.

I will be honest and say that the first two novels of the Chaoswar saga did not grip me as did his earlier works. Characters such as Hal and his brothers did not provide the same appeal as Arutha and Jimmy the hand from Magician. But as this book progressed I began to appreciate them more. And by the end I was glad to have known the next generation of conDoin’s. They provided a grounded view of the issues presented, whilst Pug and his companions showed us the bigger picture.

I feel that Feist has done justice to his stories with Magician’s End. Finishing a story is often the hardest part, and will always receive criticism. How many novels, movies and shows receive harsh criticism for their choice of ending. With this story I feel Feist has managed to end his foray into Midkemia on a high note and though not everyone will be pleased, I think that the majority will.

For all those who have at some point taken the journey with Pug, this is a must read. For those who have not, I encourage you to pick up the very first story, ‘Magician’ and treat yourself to a masterpiece of fantasy writing.

To Pug, Tomas and Midkemia I said goodbye. To Raymond E Feist I say thank you.

Rating: 4.5/5