Bordering on the Sicklands

I’ve been almost sick for a little over a week now.

It started on our anniversary weekend, when we stayed in the Walnut Street Inn for a night. We had stayed there on our wedding night, but this time we were in a different building. The air seemed dryer, and my allergies kicked into high gear. Or something. I don’t know, but I didn’t sleep well and was all phlegmy the next day. And the five days following that.

I couldn’t call in sick to work because I just had too much stuff to do. I’ve always got something important going on, something that can’t be delayed, so I made sure each evening to rest well and drink lots of fluids. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I’ve spent lots of quality time with our Sumo Sac. Every evening I have done my best to make sure I didn’t get sick.

Finally, I began to feel better yesterday. The congestion was gone, and my nose was only a little runny. I still feel more tired than I would if I were well, but I’m getting closer. Despite that, work was a complete… well, it wasn’t the worst Monday I’ve ever had. Not even close. Relatively speaking, it was a very good Monday. But it included a surprise call to go work on the Help Desk (for the rest of the week), a major system going down, and my not having any idea what was going on because I haven’t worked in the Help Desk (our call center) in six months.

Then I came home and cooked dinner because I’m awesome. And April and I watched Friends. Now I’m going to go to bed and read.

I figured out chapter 4 of Herbert, and I’ve got theological essays piling up left and right. A couple of things clicked for me today and I know what I’m going to write now in response to a few Biblical questions that have been posed to me. But instead of doing all that, I’m going to go to bed and read about Raistlin Majere; stories that are like old friends to me and, because they are so familiar, are ones I don’t have to think too hard about.

I feel bad about not getting anything posted. Sorry! I have lots I want to share, but I’ve got to keep healthy. The Help Desk is down to two User Support Specialists, and they both have tests in a couple of weeks for their Apple certifications so they need some time to study. Drew was the only other Labs person there today, at least for the second half of the day. I’ve got projects to kick off, oversee, and guide. Health comes first.

Also, I have class tomorrow night, and the night after. And my voice was going by the end of today, so even podcasting or doing video reviews are too demanding. Bah. I’m going to bed.

Dragons of Summer Flame

The companions are growing old, and for most, this will be their last adventure. Relative peace has settled over the land for the last twenty-five years, and while the armies of Takhisis still exist, they are bottled up in Sanction and perceived to be of little threat. Dragons of Summer Flame, in fact, begins with none of the action the other books have, but instead focuses on a small island and a new character: the beautiful human woman with golden eyes named Usha.

Larger than the previous books in the saga, Summer Flame begins more slowly as well. However, you won’t lack for adventure and battle in this novel, and it contains in one book what we would have had to read three for with the original novels. The entire story is contained between these covers, so you won’t have to wait and see what happens.

What does happen is both sad and satisfying, catharctic and thrilling. Journey with Palin Majere, the son of Caramon and Tika, and his cousin Steel Brightblade (the son of Sturm Brightblade and Kitiara uth Matar, the half-sister of Caramon and Raistlin; presumably Sturm and Kitiara had the child during the five year span before the original trilogy), who will be joined once again by an exuberant, if somewhat older, Uncle Tas. This book is perhaps my favourite of the DragonLance Saga, particularly the character of Steel, and it is one I will read over and over again throughout the years.

Test of the Twins

The cover art of this book shows the twins standing back to back, one with a sword held over his shoulder, the other with his staff. A slight smile quirks Raistlin’s lips while Caramon scowls at the reader, and it leaves one wondering at the artist’s meaning. In Test of the Twins, Raistlin has succeeded in entering the Abyss where he will challenge the Queen of Darkness, Takhisis herself, while Caramon and Tasselhoff traveled 302 years into the future. Overshooting their own time, they find themselves in a desolate land torn by lightning and ravaged by starvation and plagues. Their home has been destroyed, and while unsure of what has transpired, Caramon has learned a few lessons in his travels. He has a kender with him: he can change history.

Test of the Twins is almost a denouement for the trilogy. I really felt like the climax was reached in the last book with Raistlin entering the Abyss. The end of this book is exciting in a way, but only in the same way that the end of one of Shakespeare’s plays is exciting. The climax was in act 3, and now we’re done. We know the end, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as act 3.

Still, it wraps up the trilogy nicely, and restores Krynn to something of a clean slate. It also sweeps the stage and sets Krynn for the next book in Weis and Hickman’s saga, a series of short stories that transitions from the original companions to their children. Reading The Second Generation will help readers connect a bit more with the characters introduced in Dragons of Summer Flame, the next book in the saga, but it’s not really necessary.

Read Test of the Twins and enjoy; the Legends trilogy isn’t nearly as good without it. But don’t expect it to compare to War of the Twins.

Bedtime

I’m going to go read more of this stuff. It’s just so good, so brainless, so relaxing. When I read books like these, I can turn my mind off. I don’t need to tell it what to think or what to imagine, because the book does that for me. All I must do is let my eyes linger on the words, wander down the page; let my hand turn the pages, feel the book between my fingers; let my heart soak it in and dream.

I’m actually currently on a book many after the one linked above, but my reviews are publishing slowly (every Tuesday and Thursday) for the next couple of weeks. Sometime in the second or third week of July you’ll get the chance to read about what I’m currently indulging in.

Goodnight friends, and thanks for stopping by. I’m off to Ansalon.

War of the Twins

And though he did not strike with the dagger, it drew blood anyway; drew blood not from flesh but from soul. Quickly and cleanly, it sliced through the last spiritual tie between the twins. Caramon winced slightly at the swift, sharp pain in his heart. But the pain did not endure. The tie was severed. Free at last, Caramon released his twin’s arm without a word.

Raistlin’s evil has been revealed in such fullness that his twin can no longer ignore it. When Caramon first traveled into the past, he had hoped to save his brother, to bring him to redemption, but by the end of Time of the Twins, he knew that such was impossible. At least, for a given value of “knew,” because not long after the beginning of War of the Twins he has changed his mind again. Hope continues to dwell in his heart, and Caramon is loathe to give up hope for his twin.

War of the Twins details the pride of the Kingpriest that resulted in the Cataclysm, the fiery mountain hurled upon Krynn that broke the land and ended with the silence of the gods. It also reveals what should have been evident to the reader all along, yet is easily overlooked: Raistlin, in traveling to the past, has not only learned from Fistandantilus, he has become Fistandantilus. And this means that Fistandantilus’s fate, to die in the Dwarfgate Wars, must become Raistlin’s own. Caught in a trap of his own making, Raistlin struggles to find an escape, but short of admitting defeat and fleeing, none seem evident.

However, there is a caveat. Tasselhoff Burfoot, the kender companion, traveled with Caramon back in time. Having been created by accident, a quark of the chaotic Graygem, kender were never supposed to travel through time because, unlike the races created by the gods, they have the ability to change history. Perhaps Raistlin’s fate is not sealed after all…

As Crysania’s love for Raistlin grows, so does Caramon’s distrust and detestation. But despite the finality of this book’s conclusion, remember there is another volume waiting. You won’t be able to take a break between them, trust me.

Fantasy Fiction Ruts

I am a big proponent of adhering to certain aspects of The Lore. There are certain facets of fantasy fiction that are established and foundational, like that elves live long lives and have pointed ears, or that dwarves like gold and gems and to mine. Once you make an elf who has a beard and prefers mining, you no longer have an elf. What DnD4 did to Tieflings annoys me quite a bit for this reason–they completely changed the race–so I try to avoid such things.

However, I also think it a bit ludicrous when fantasy races completely buy into the established stereotypes. There is a certain baseline to which we should adhere, but it shouldn’t stifle our creativity. For instance, there are two traditionally accepted and expected versions of halflings. One is Tolkein’s hobbit, which is somewhat lazy, extremely conservative, enjoys smoking and drinking ale, and dislikes adventure in the extreme. On the other end of the spectrum are Weis’s and Hickman’s kender, who are struck by wanderlust at a young age and don’t understand the concept of “personal possessions.” Halflings are known to be lucky, curious, good-natured, friendly… but usually, they fall under one of these two templates.

Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition gave me an idea back in the day, and it’s one I want to explore further in my own writing. I haven’t quite figured out how they should act, but I want to spend a lot of time with halflings. My concept is to take Tolkein’s halflings, but then place them in a location where they are nearly constantly under attack. What would halfling culture look like in a militaristic setting? How would their government be organized? How would they comport themselves?

I’m beginning to consider this, and I suspect they will develop as I go along. Perhaps, after the initial fumbling around, I’ll begin a new story arc focusing on a halfling hero where I can delve into their culture more in-depth. We’ll see. In the meantime, check out Ride of the Halflings ((Yeah, sorry, I took this blog down, so you can’t read this online anymore. I guess… too bad?)) , Arias’s first introduction to the Halfling Homeguard.

I just don’t want to get into a rut and fail to create something. There’s a certain amount of borrowing that’s unavoidable, as even Uncle Tas would admit, but there’s no excuse for lazy thinking and lazy writing. It’s important that your readers have an idea of what to expect; that there are certain rules and guidelines within which they can understand the story. But it’s boring to read the same old thing yet again. I want to take the old and make it new, different, and exciting.

Is “Just Being” good enough for you?

My family moved to Missouri right after first grade. My dad was approaching retirement from the army and was required to serve a couple of years in Korea before they would let him go, and he decided that we should live closer to family when he got out. Therefore, when he flew away to the other side of the globe, my mother and I traveled to the Midwest to begin a new life. We lived in Battlefield for a year (second grade), and I really enjoyed it there, but my dad wasn’t satisfied when he returned. Our idyllic neighbourhood and relatively new house wasn’t good enough, and we didn’t live far enough out in the country. So he found us a new (much more expensive) house and we moved again.

After this, I didn’t really have any friends. There were a couple, but between the bullies and my parents’ fighting, I dove further and further into books. My friends were Tika Waylan and Tasselhoff Burrfoot; Athos, Porthos, and Aramis; Eliminster and Storm. I read fantasy fiction to escape, and so those stories have a very special place in my memories.

I am currently re-reading the DragonLance Saga, and confronted with the character of Raistlin, have spent a great deal of time in reflection. In him, I see the darkness within myself, particularly relating to my past and the man I have become due to my background and experiences. As a youth, I found a kindred spirit in Raistlin, though I was invariably drawn to Caramon because I wanted to be more like him: strong, handsome, desired by all the girls… but I was more like Raistlin. Sickly, weak, intelligent, mocked, pitied… and now, when I look back, I wonder how much of that darkness remains. And more importantly, should I be doing anything about it? Is there anything I can do?

I was reading an old friend’s blog yesterday who wrote that she has little ambition to actually get up and do anything, to go out in the world, to work or interact with people. A commenter stated that perhaps she needs to spend time learning to appreciate the world around her and appreciate herself… and maybe that’s right, but it still struck me as too passive. I’m invariably reminded of Joey Comeau, railing against a society that doesn’t seem to understand itself and doesn’t seem to care about its own ignorance. The general principle that you must become the change, that you’re as happy as you make up your mind to be, and that you should just do it. Not because some logo tells you to, or because that’s what people do. Look around you, who actually does those things?

We don’t because we’re scared. Of losing our jobs, our spouses, our minds… but someday, we’re going to have to face the darkness within ourselves. And, more importantly, we’re going to have to face the light outside and answer why we refused to step out, step into, and live.

Time of the Twins

Raistlin is perhaps the most powerful character in the DragonLance saga, for his story is not just about the darkness in his soul and his potential for redemption. In Raistlin we see the darkness within us all, and our own journeys through this world as we seek to learn more. Time of the Twins is the first book in the Legends trilogy, which focuses heavily on the development of Caramon and Raistlin and the nuances of their relationship. Less heavy-handed than the later Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, Time of the Twins highlights Caramon’s innocence juxtaposed against Raistlin’s malfeasance. This trilogy also introduces the discusson of ultimate good versus ultimate evil, and seeks to define these.

I consider this trilogy the frontrunner for such works as the Sword of Truth series, or George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, for DragonLance was one of the first fantasy series that introduced the idea of evil being good at times, and goodness blinding itself and thereby committing great evils. As such, I do not feel that one of these books can truly be taken on its own; Time of the Twins is good, but without its compatriots, it has no lasting value.

Nevertheless, on its own, Time of the Twins is interesting. The character of Crysania, cold and stonelike, is often compared with the dark character of Raistlin, who seems to burn with some inner fire. As Raistlin seeks to go back in time and study with the great Fistandantilus, Crysania is struck near dead and sent by the Wizard’s Conclave back to the time of the Kingpriest, when such clerics walked the land who would be able to cure the curse laid upon her. Caramon travels with her, and Tasselhoff Burrfoot, the irascible kender, is able to jump into the spell at the last moment and travel as well.

Three hundred into the past they journey, to a time just before the Cataclysm that broke the land and ended in the silence of the gods. This book has some good twists, and its development of the characters, particularly of Raistlin, is worthwhile. Voices are varied and enjoyable, and as with most DragonLance novels, it is quite a page turner. Pick this one up, but don’t fail to grab volumes 2 and 3 as well. The story is just beginning.

Dragons of Spring Dawning

The final novel in the Chronicles Trilogy, Dragons of Spring Dawning, concludes both this war and the Companionship. The novel, much like the first two, leaves a great deal unsaid in an attempt to relate the story entire, and so it feels a bit rushed. A fourth book probably could have been written, spacing this one out and expanding on some of the scenes, particularly at the end. After the focus on character development in book two, this one seems to be trying to fit a great deal of story into too few pages, and so some of the characters are dropped almost entirely.

With a surprise conclusion, the novel is satisfying and certainly pulls readers into the next trilogy, which picks up about two years after Dragons of Spring Dawning, but the ending is rushed. Like too many other novels, the reader will reach a point in the book where they will notice how very much is left to be done and how very few pages remain, and they will know already that it will not be as satisfying as it might otherwise have been. Still, the insight into Tanis’s and Kitiara’s relationship, the reintroduction of Raistlin in the final hour, and the revelation of Fizban all make this a cornerstone novel to the DragonLance Saga.

Though the Chronicles trilogy were the first novels written in the DragonLance Saga, I still feel like they are more of a prelude than a beginning, and that the series does not begin in truth until the Legends trilogy. The Chronicles trilogy merely sets the stage for the world, and the play begins in full after the first battle against Takhisis is won. The war is far from over.