Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Not Even Remotely Indie Book Review: Dragons of the Hourglass Mage

Amazingly enough, I do actually read the occasional traditionally published book.  Especially if it's a book by authors I like about a character I love.

Back in 2008 I found out that Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman had come back, yet again, to DragonLance to do something called the Lost Chronicles.  Basically, they were filling in the bits of the story that didn't make it into the first Chronicles.  So I was pleased to see them.  Then I started reading, and they were, well, blah.  Apparently there was a reason those bits didn't make it into the story.  They were boring.

But, hey, stories of Dwarven intrigue and Dragon Highlords in the midst of romantic angst were never my thing.  But Raistlin, dark, hacking, anti-hero Raistlin, golden-skinned-outsider with the weak body and the Herculean mind, he was always my thing.  (The particularly astute reader might notice a similarity between my name and his, and the serious DragonLance geek might get the entire reference.)  So, it was with some hope of joy, I waited for summer 2008 and Dragons of the Hourglass Mage.

Summer came and no book was written.  As the release date came and went word was there wasn't even a finished manuscript.  And with that I more or less gave up, the first two books had been lame, and the one I was hoping for unwritten.  With two kids, a book I was writing, and fan fic waiting to be read, I let hopes of Raistlin's further adventures go.

Fast forward three years, and I'm on Goodreads chatting with another reader about the comparative merits of DragonLance and Forgotten Realms.  During that conversation it comes to my attention that Dragons of the Hourglass Mage had eventually gotten written and came out in 2009.

Twenty-four hours later I had finished it.

So, how did it look to a mad fan girl, now all grown up?  Decent.  The actual plot seemed solid, if improbable.  It fills in the period between when Raistlin vanished with the Dragon Orb in the Maelstrom and then pops back up again during the final battle to make sure the Companions win it.  Basically we're asked to believe that Raistlin joins the resistance, infiltrates the temple at Nerka, and more or less singlehandedly overthrows the Queen of Darkness (while getting Fistandantillus out of his head).  It hangs together pretty well, but it wasn't what I was expecting.  Having read it, I can say with assurance that Hickman and Weis had no idea whatsoever how it was Raistlin came to be on the platform in time to save Tanis, or if they did, they tossed those ideas to write this book.   There was one plot hole that needed some patching, but nothing that caused me to want to toss the book aside in disgust. 

Now, in the twenty plus years since I picked up Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I've changed.  We all have.  The problem is, Raistlin shouldn't have.  Dragons of the Hourglass Mage supposedly takes place less than six months from the end of Autumn Twilight.  His internal voice shouldn't have gone from high functioning sociopath (which was something I always loved about him) to a pretty well adjusted Objectivist Hero.  (I defy anyone, having read Dragons of the Hourglass Mage to come up with a substantial difference between Raistlin and John Galt.  What this says about Hickman and Weis and their ideas of what constitutes evil might make for an interesting discussion.  But I digresss...)  He's actually emotional, sad, scared, unsure, angry.  Besides angry we didn't see much of that out of Raistlin before.  And, while Hickman and Weis were always a little vague about what precisely it was that made Raistlin evil, they've gone from flat out vague to not evil at all.  Seriously, the guy who would step over his brother's corpse to get to his goals is gone from this book.

I still enjoyed this latest installment of Raistlin,  (I like Objectivist heroes.) but he's not the same man he was before.  This new version is close, but not quite right.  And while I enjoyed Dragons of the Hourglass Mage, I'm honestly not sure if I was happier not having read it.

You know what they say: you can't go home again.  They're wrong.  You can.  The question is: should you?  Hickman and Weis took me home again, and I found the furniture rearranged and the walls painted a new color.  It looked okay, but it wasn't home.

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