Dragonlance Dragonlance: Dragons of Deceit Review

Dragonlance is back, and not just with the RPG adventure book Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (I expect a release date announcement on August 18). Dragonlance: Dragons of Deceit is a new novel by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman and the start of the Dragonlance Destinies trilogy.

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Of course, Dragonlance has never really gone away. Even after Weis & Hickman left TSR and other authors were hired to write Krynn novels, the original duo have regularly returned to their fan-favorite series in addition to some novels written by Weis alone. Still, the last completely new novel by the pair was 2009's Dragons of the Hourglass Mage so it's been a long time.

If you're a Dragonlance fan, you'll be happy with DDoD. Weis & Hickman are still at the top of their game, and while this is a new story, familiar faces make an appearance with even more named. Prior knowledge of Dragonlance isn't necessary, but if you are a fan, you'll immediately recognize a lot of references.

Destina Rosethorn, daughter of a Solamnic knight, has been raised to follow The Measure, care for her hereditary lands, and maintain Castle Rosethorn as a line of defense against the forces of evil. Even when tragedy strikes her family, Destina continues as she was taught – until another loss strikes and upends everything she expected from life. Destina decides the solution is to go back in time, using the Device of Time Journeying, to save her father during the War of the Lance.

While I think Dragonlance fans (and I've always considered myself one) will enjoy or even love this book, that last sentence is part of the reason why I didn't enjoy this novel as much as I expected. I've been a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, and grew up on Star Trek time-space continuum shenanigans and Doctor Who, so time travel is not a deal breaker for me.

But...

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Even in a world where dragons and magic exist, I trip over Destina's leap in logic. Citizens of Krynn have experienced magic, lived through the return of the gods and clerics, and likely have seen dragons fly overhead, but time travel is beyond rare. People view Tasslehoff Burrfoot's stories of his time-travel adventures as Kender exaggerations. I understand Destina's desperation, but that's quite the leap. Maybe it's just that Destina sometimes comes across to me as more immature than I expect from the Destina depicted in the early chapters.

Or maybe my tastes have changed since I originally read Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Both books open with a location description, but DDoAT focuses on Tika and her thoughts while also describing The Inn of the Last Home, whereas DDoD begins with a several paragraphs description of Castle Rosethorn before Lord Gregory even appears. It wasn't exactly a grabber.

I'm used to Tasslehoff being flighty, but his refusal to accept the truth of a plot-point, even after it's been repeatedly explained just rubs me wrong. There's a difference between being trusting and denying evidence.

Worse, I didn't feel an emotional connection to the characters or Destina's dilemma. I enjoyed DDoD, was interested in the plot, and I'm curious about the rest of the trilogy, but I didn't feel any tension or emotion like I did while reading Drew Hayes' NPCs or Travis Baldree's Legends & Lattes. Yet when I compare DDoD to Weis & Hickman's earlier Dragonlance novels they all fit together, so the disconnect is mine.

Also, time travel trilogies can be tricky to accurately evaluate while incomplete. I might look back when it's over and love this book. I hope so.

The hardcover is nicely made with end-papers that show the map of Ansalon. If you prefer audiobooks, reader Kirsten Potter is very good. Whether voicing Destina, her parents, Tika, Caramon, Tas, Dalamar, or others, Potter changes her voice so you know exactly who is speaking before you get to the attribution. Most fiction audiobook readers try to do that, but don't accomplish it nearly as well as Potter does.

If you love Dragonlance, Dragons of Deceit will likely be an A or an A+ for you even though for me, it's currently a solid B to B+. Fan of epic fantasy but new to Dragonlance? It'll be somewhere between a B and an A+, depending upon your exact tastes. And despite my hesitation, I am interested in the next book, Dragons of Fate, and I think that's a truer sign of my Dragons of Deceit review than a letter grade.
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


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rooneg

Adventurer
But I strongly reject the objective reality of "literary quality" work, or "Capital L Literature". It is essentially stereotyping literature.
To be clear, I don't mean to imply that Capital L Literature is higher quality or better, I 100% don't believe that. It's simply a different set of priorities for a book that is trying to appeal to an audience that values those qualities. I don't feel like this is stereotyping any more than we already stereotype books by sorting them into categories like Mystery or SciFi/Fantasy, etc. Capital L Literature is just another genre, and there's plenty of space in between the various genres. You can have a Fantasy Mystery novel that is written in a Capital L Literature style, and I bet it would be pretty cool. All of these genre categories are just names that publishers and authors use to essentially advertise to readers about what sort of book you're getting when you pick theirs up and read them. The fact that most books in a given genre (even Capital L Literature) tend to be similar in a lot of ways is a deliberate choice, because it turns out it's easier to benefit from that category if you actually match what readers of that category are looking for.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
1. Thank you. I AM arrogant and elitist. That's why I have been eagerly awaiting the return of the greatest comedy duo in history.

beavis-excited.gif


First, a movie! Now ... A SERIES! They're back, and better than ever.

2. Shakespeare was not the trash fiction of his day. Let's start with the obvious- when he was alive, he wasn't ... you know .... SHAKESPEARE. Um, well, he was I guess. But not considered one of the all-time greatest writers ever. However, during his lifetime, he was incredibly popular.* No writer was more published. Other people began (falsely) attributing their work to him. And not just his plays- his poetry was incredibly popular. By the time of the First Folio, it was generally acknowledged that Shakespeare was the greatest writer of all of his contemporaries. Not a great example!

3. Work-for-hire for novels based upon corporate IP tend to be of ... a different type of quality ... for a very good reason. BECAUSE IT'S WORK FOR HIRE. It's not a passion project of the author. And, in many cases (not all!) the author doesn't get royalties on the books sold, or the royalties are insignificant compared to the amount paid initially. Again, if you look at the lists of the best books in any given genre category (from fantasy to science fiction to ... well, any kind) you don't find those novels.

4. Finally, yeah- I do think it's important to let people know in a review what the intended audience for a book is. Obviously, this isn't comparing this book to a new book by Murakami. Or Patricia Lockwood. But I do think it is helpful to understand if the book is something that a person who likes fantasy, but hasn't read prior Dragonlance books ... would like. I read the original trilogy, couldn't get past it (back when they were released) and tried to re-read them again a while ago and couldn't because the writing was ... not great. But that's me. Different people like different things.


AND THAT'S THE POINT OF A GOOD REVIEW. To explain to people if this is something that they might like.



*And just to head this one off at the past- being popular doesn't mean trashy. His poetry was insanely popular and well-regarded; when the literacy rate ... for men ... was under 30%, that means that he was popular with the elites.
Shakespeare was popular in his day, and also not considered high art, despite audiences with the queen. Dragonlance books are popular today and read by many, yet still looked down upon as not-serious literature.

Quality, popularity, and assumptions of the worthiness of art are all independent factors.

Beavis & Butthead are great examples. Super popular in their day, currently making a comeback, probably made MTV a lot of money . . . but not considered quality or high art by many. Some folks reject B&B because it is an animated show, and cartoons are for kids and dopeheads. Others because of the crass humor and deliberately ugly artistic style. Personally, I can't stand B&B because . . . well, I don't know, I just don't care for it. But I'm not going to try and convince folks its a part of a genre that, by its nature, is of lesser quality than other types of TV shows.

Authors write work-for-hire novels (or comics, or movies) for all sorts of reasons. One of those could be cash over passion, sure. But it's not the only reason, and passion can definitely be involved. A lot of the folks who work on D&D, the game, the comics, and the novels, are very passionate about D&D. Or Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, or any other franchise shared-universe fiction. Work-for-hire does not equate to a lack of passion or a lack of quality. Stanley Kubrick's comments on the Marvel movies is the same type of elitist arrogance towards art we're talking about here.

Books certainly can and do have intended audiences, and reviews do well to try and point that out, sure. But again, not a function of quality or grading-on-a-curve.
 






jasper

Rotten DM
I do grade some genres easier than others and price does sometimes affect the rating. Supers generally get a 1-star bump. But for Fantasy and Sci Fiction. 5 Stars..... you the author have to make me cry, laugh, and want to slap a character. Automatic 5 if you do it with the same character. Do 2 of those regularly and make it enjoyable read I may bump you to 5. So, authors can turn in enjoyable 3-star books on a regular basis and I will read them. Col Jonatha Brazee and Chris Nuttall generally turn in good popcorn 3 stars books. And once your price is over $9 on Kindle, I will grade you harder. At $9 you are my movie money.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying 3 star works and authors. Some books series do suffer from the "TV Episode" problem. Where going in, you know the "Heroes" are not going to be serious harmed. Star Trek, Star Wars, Dragonlance (after the original 3), Mack Bolan, and many other serious are great fun reads. But it will be hard for any author to put any MC in danger and expect me to believe they are going to get hurt.
 


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