Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climax Of The Chronicles With Dragons Of Spring Dawning!

The Good: Good character work, Well written, Firmly establishes the franchise
The Bad: Somewhat predictable on the larger plot elements
The Basics: As the armies of good and evil clash, a personal battle rages within Tanis, the half-elven leader, when the two women he love square off with the fate of Krynn in the balance!

The last act of a trilogy has a tough role to fill if the trilogy has been done well. The second act usually puts the characters involved in the worst possible predicament and the best trilogies have a third act that begins with the protagonists somewhat demoralized if the second act was properly agitating. The worst third acts are the ones that reinvent the characters involved in order to get the heroes out of their predicament. Consider, for example, how in Return Of The Jedi (reviewed here!), Princess Leia is a much more assertive and strong character (no whining!) and Luke is a virtual Jedi Knight and everyone trusts Lando Calrissian. George Lucas more or less recast the heroes for the final act and barring a significant amount of time between the two films, the viewer truly has to wonder.

Conversely, the best trilogies continue the story from the first two acts with only minimal character changes. The characters do not so much start the act as changed characters, but rather they continue the arc begun in the prior segments. The Chronicles trilogy of the DragonLance novels concludes with Dragons Of Spring Dawning. The novel is definitely a continuation of the story that began in Dragons Of Autumn Twilight (reviewed here!) and Dragons Of Winter Night (reviewed here!). It is impossible to discuss the final chapter without mentioning significant events from the end of the second novel, though. So those who want the richest possible experience out of reading Dragons Of Winter Night ought to stop reading this now.

Following the first major battle between the heroes of Krynn and the dragon armies following the discovery and production of the DragonLances, Laurana the elf maiden and Tas deal with the death of one of their own at the hands of Kitiara, who as it turns out missed her appointment in the Fall because she was busy joining the dark side. Now a minion of evil, the love of Tanis's life captures the other woman he loves and prepares to use Laurana to open a portal that will allow the evil goddess Tahkisis to enter this plane of existence. Eager to warn Tanis and save Krynn, Flint and Tas race to Tanis's side.

Unfortunately, the plans Tanis and Raistlin have been working on to save Krynn have put the world on the brink of a full-scale war and Raistlin is acting more twitchy than usual. As the companions both prepare for an all-out war with the forces of evil and deal with another casualty from their group, Tanis succumbs to Kitiara and Raistlin abandons the cause to take on the leaders of the magical orders, threatening the whole planet!

Dragons Of Spring Dawning is the final volume of the beginning of the franchise, so it's a pretty safe bet that Krynn will not be destroyed by the entrance of the Goddess of evil in this volume and it's not ruining anything to point that out. In fact, this book manages to be quite the nail biter in that regard because well before the reader gets to that point, two of the principle characters are already dead and two look like they are headed over to the side of evil. Dragons Of Spring Dawning is quite adept at keeping the tension high and the variables well in play.

Sure, there are some obvious things. The subtext with Tika in the very first book let any reader with a brain know that she was into Caramon. Moreover, with Kitiara working for evil and all of the racial prejudice against the half-elf Tanis, there are enough factors in play to make the reader consider that perhaps Tanis could fall as well.

What undermines that whole element of the story, though, are the character elements. Experienced writers and readers know that the ways a character is characterized is by what the character says, what the character does and what other characters say about them. It's the last one that undoes much of the tension in Dragons Of Spring Dawning. Tanis is surrounded by people of high moral character who are unwaveringly good: Flint, Laurana, Sturm, and Caramon. In order for us to believe that Tanis could go bad and help Kitiara open the portal, we would have to believe all of those other characters could be deceived.

And the thing is, there is a decent amount of character deception in this novel, just not in the form of the Tanis character arc. Dragons Of Spring Dawning pays off a number of the plot threads begun in the other books. The origin of the draconians is revealed, the presence of the gods on Krynn is confirmed in its way, and the various forces that have been moving toward an all-out war finally come into direct conflict and it is a satisfying novel for the way all of those elements are explained.

Moreover, characters who have not before had as much going for them become absolutely vital, like Laurana who is suddenly a central player. As well, authors Maragaret Weis and Tracy Hickman effectively make the character transitions both realistic and compelling. From the first novel, the sickly mage Raistlin has not been quite right and in Dragons Of Spring Dawning the payoff is done in a smart enough way to create new threads to continue the story after this book is done. Rather smartly, they do it in a way that is integral to completing this story, so it does not simply read like the establishment of a franchise.

Dragons Of Spring Dawning is written and marketed as a novel for young adults, but it is certainly targeted toward the smart and imaginative ones. We all know that the average newspaper in the United States is written in a way that a fourth grade student will be able to read and understand it. Dragons Of Spring Dawning is written with a more intelligent level of vocabulary and diction (honestly, probably about eighth grade). It is, however, written as well with a much more mature sense of interethnic relationships and that level of realism is quite compelling. Tanis is an outcast because he is of mixed heritage and he is written with a real sense of being an outsider that probably makes him appeal quite a bit to teenage audiences.

More than that, Raistlin is the ultimate outsider and his story is one that is dark and very adult. In other words, adults who like fantasy stories - sword, sorcery, grand epic battles - will find much to like in Dragons Of Spring Dawning, though it is virtually impossible to recommend this book without reading the prior two.

For other novels with fantasy elements, please be sure to check out:
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
The Day Of The Locust By Nathanael West
Heroes: Saving Charlie By Aury Wellington


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment