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Reviews of 'The Citadel'

The Citadel

by Richard A. Knaak
Classics, Volume 3

Reviews of 'The Citadel'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

True to Richard Knaak style, The Citadel is jam packed full of action, battle, drama and hardcore war. There's flying citadels, mages and magic, warriors and steel, dragons, a bit of romance, a kender, and tears. Surprisingly, there's no minotaurs or knights. Nothing overly complicated about this storyline and where it's going, if you're looking for a straight up, fascinating adventure with a lot of concentration in the battles and action, this is definitely the book for you.

There's not much negative stuff to say about this book. For those who are canon-lawyers, I couldn't see anything contradictory in it, although I'm not up to par on geography or history much. In other words, there were no glaring inconsistencies that I could see.

The plotline is simple and straightforward. Evil mage creates the grand poobah of flying citadels, powered by the magic within other wizards. Good cleric is searching for her lost mage, supposedly kidnapped by the evil mage, but finds out he wasn't kidnapped... her lost love is the mage that created the citadel. This was pretty obvious as soon as I read about her mission. I'm not sure if there was a way to make it less than obvious, but it was pretty see-through for me. A neutral wizard, warrior and kender join the cleric to see the citadel destroyed.

A few things had me going for a bit though... I was halfway through the book and every good guy had been captured and imprisoned. The power this evil mage wielded was extraordinary. He could've kicked Raistlin's butt anytime he wanted to. I was seriously starting to doubt that anyone would successfully defeat him without it being a deus ex machine concept. Fortunately, it was pulled off very well. I think it may have been a little more realistic if more than just the kender died out of the group, but considering all of the extra men fighting with Bakal (the warrior) died, and Stone the gargoyle, who eventually allied himself with the party also died, it was a fair enough trade off.

Something I noticed in this book that's typical with every other Dragonlance book... why is it, all the bad guys die? Cadrio (the dragon highlord), Valkyn (the evil mage), Zander (the guy serving under Cadrio), Crag (the gargoyle) and the two black dragons all wound up dying by the end. The good guys still had Bakal, Serene, Tyros, and Sunfire (the gold dragon). Sure the good side took heavy losses (Sunfire's mate died during one of the battles, Rapp the kender and Stone the gargoyle were killed by Valkyn), but why does everyone die for the bad side? Interesting note.

The concept of this new citadel was amazing. Wow. This uber citadel would have been every highlord's dream. Powered by magic within mages though, the conclave would have eventually destroyed it, since any mage doing such a thing would have to be renegade.

Review made July 28th, 2001.

Reviewer: George Miles

Rating: Stars

I stopped in a used book store about a week ago and i really didn't plan on buying anything but i went over to the fantasy section to see what they had. I heard about the dragonlance books before and i started lookin at all the different ones they had, and finally i decided i would buy one since they were 35% off. I soon found one called the Citadel that looked interesting so i took it home with me. After i started the book, i couldnt put it down, i finished the day after i bought it.

The storyline caught my attention from the very beginning, i had expected it to start off slow while all the introductions were made like so many other books i have read in the past. but to my surprise the action started pretty much right away. as the book went on, the adventure never got dull. I particularly liked that the story wasnt set on one thing the whole time. Once you got to the 10th chapter, it seamed like the young wizard tyros had reached his goal and the story was only a couple pages from completion(at least from my experiance with other books) but the book continued on for 10 more chapters after that and offered a very surprising twist. I know i am being very vague, but any more information than that would spoil some of the surprises in the story.

I really liked the book, every part of it, in fact i really cant find anything bad to put in this review. I just bought 2 more dragonlance books online and i am waiting for them to get here, if they are at least half as good as the book i just read (and im sure they are), ill probably be just as hooked onto them.

Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

The Citadel was a great book, highlighted by the fact that, despite being in the 4th Age, it didn't do any of the following:

  • Have Heroes of the Lance or any relatives/hangers-on running through it.
  • Traipse around Solace, Solamnia, or any other oft-visited locales in the DL series.
  • Feature clerics of Paladine OR Mishakal.

Short list, but big deviations from the norm all! The folks in The Citadel were all originals, bona fide, tried, and true. The only thing close to a Heroes of the Lance or previously-created character was Rapp (the quintessential kender) who seemed, at times, a Tas clone. Not as well-written as Delbin was, but that's okay since Rapp won't be coming back (though his griffons were an excellent touch; very cool and inventive).

The bulk of the story was set in the Citadel itself, Castle Atriun, a Solamnic castle originally located near Lemish (a pretty new place for Dragonlance literature to touch upon), but also had large parts of the book in Northern Ergoth!

And there were two clerics in the book, one of Takhisis (who bought it early), the other of Branchala! All in all, we received a LOT of good story elements that were also sources of new information!

Continuity errors? None that I could see. However, there was one little minor detail that Mr. Knaak didn't think about. I don't fault him for it, because he is obviously now adjusting to the 5th Age mindset. Anyway, to clear up the vagaries, there is a reference to, and I quote, the "First Cataclysm." (Sorry, can't recall the page number.) Now, I'm sure a lot of people out there are wondering why that was a problem. It isn't... save for the fact that in the 4th Age, there had only been ONE Cataclysm, so people called it simply the Cataclysm... no one expected a second. Little minor detail, not enough to sweat over, just thought I'd mention it.

As far as typos, it was much the same as The Clandestine Circle before it, where there were typos, but none of them being spelling that I could see. A couple missing words, but mostly punctuation (extra quotation marks mainly).

Anyway, the story is simple enough: a Red Robed wizard named Valkyn has discovered a way to raise a flying citadel more powerful and more "streamlined" than previous models. However, the grotesqueness of the procedure clearly marks him as psychotic. He is backing a high-up officer in the former Black Dragonarmy, who is attempting to carve out a niche similar to that of The Blue Lady. General Cadrio (the officer) has his sights set on Gwynned, but after his first attempt fails, he agrees to the wizard's new citadel (he had two of the old variety, but lost one in the battle and the other is falling apart). The defenders of Gwynned repair their city, but one wizard (Red Robed Tyros) is not willing to allow Cadrio to get away scott-free. See, Valkyn's gargoyle servants (the gargoyles were another cool touch; I really liked the way they were used) "magenapped" two wizardly defenders, one of which was Tyros's good friend. He intends to give chase, but has no idea how until a cleric of Branchala named Serene, who seeks Cadrio to rescue her lost love, another kidnapped wizard, joins forces with him and introduces him to Rapp and his griffon flock (whom he raised from cubs). Along with the warrior Bakal, one of the Ergothian captains, and some hand-picked men, they go after Cadrio, who is on his way to Valkyn's rendezvous point, the province of Atriun near Lemish....

I won't go into further detail other than to say that the story is great and there a lot of twists and turns, some predictable, some surprisingly unanticipated. Knaak scores again with The Citadel and I, for one, would love to see a return to the lives of its (surviving) characters, esp. the things hinted at for Tyros and Serene. Every little detail of the book was masterfully crafted and MADE SENSE, which was fantastic. Of course, with Knaak, he rarely ever goes ahead with the "random encounter table" method of writing a book that some authors have used in the past to mixed success. In short, The Citadel was another great addition to the Dragonlance world by Knaak and works well as a "Classic" Dragonlance novel without doing retreads.

The only problem I had was the fact that the back cover said the wizard was opposed by the wizard, the cleric, the kender and, "an ancient warrior," which I assumed hinted at some secret we'd discover about Bakal... but nothing came of it. I think the marketing people need to read the books they promo. Other than that, the cover art looked great (Dragons of Desolation, I think, but redone). Good job Richard and Wizards of the Coast!

Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

The Citadel is part of the Classics series, a series of stand-alone novels set before the Chaos War. I believed that this book would be set during the War of the Lance, and I liked that, because precious few stories not involving the Heroes of the Lance are set during this period. In fact, the vast majority of Dragonlance books are set either before the War of the Lance or after the Chaos War. There's nothing on the time in between. The Classics series seems to be intent on exploring this period; The Citadel turned out to be set right after the fall of Takhisis in Neraka, and the war is practically over. This period is my favorite one; it has clerics and gods, mages and three moons in the sky, and more stories should be set there, as long as the present is also followed up, of course.

The Citadel promises to be classic Dragonlance without following too close in the footsteps of earlier work. There are mages of red, white and black, and a cleric of Branchala. There is even a kender. So, if you miss this period, then I would recommend this book, if only because it is the only alternative currently.

To be honest, the story is pretty simple, and the novel reads like a straight-to-video actioner. Dragonarmy general Cadrio and evil mage Valkyn enters a very uneasy alliance; the mage has created a flying citadel that is the mother of all flying citadels. They move towards Gwynned, the capital of Northern Ergoth Cadrio failed to sack at the end of the war. Red Robe Tyros, cleric of Branchala, the kender Rapp (with griffons) and captain of the Gwynned guards Bakal (with men) enter the citadel to stop him, helped by Valkyn's rebel gargoyles. It sounds like an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons session, and in some respects reads like one also. This is not necessarily a bad thing (Dragons of Autumn did that well), but I don't feel like it's working in this book. The characters are rather bland, I think, and whatever potential they have is not utilized. Valkyn is a campy and stupid (despite his intelligence) villain, whose overdone evilness hinders good development of other characters. For example, Tyros goes to the citadel to rescue his White Robe friend Leot, but he's also interested in flying citadels and how they work. There are hints that these goals might be conflicting, but Valkyn is so evil and has such terrible goals (and done such terrible things) Tyros quickly decides to fight Valkyn and the citadel with all he's got. Serene also has potential, the good cleric's in for a shock when she finds out that the lover she sat out to rescue turned out to be the evil mastermind. She quickly realizes his evil, though. I'm glad she did, if there is one thing that really irritates me, in real life and fiction, it is nice women stupidly clinging on to abusive and asshole men. However, her emotional turmoil could have been explained more. The plot twist is not even close to having the same impact as the Tanis/Kitara one in Dragons of Winter Night.

Other characters are also shallow, Rapp is a kender with a unique background, but that's it. Bakal doesn't have much personality either. Serene should also have been given a better background. This is just after the War of the Lance, and the gods are just coming back. Branchala wasn't of the first good gods to return, so Serene's divine powers must be recently acquired. In the book, it is said that her family always worshiped Branchala, then one day she got clerical powers. First off, it fits rather badly with what we know of Krynn (people before the war who knew of the gods, let alone worshiped them, were very rare and special cases indeed), but it would also made Serene a more interesting character if she acquired her faith through less convenient circumstances. Perhaps her faith could be a bit fragile and she had to come to terms with it during the book, or perhaps the story of her becoming a cleric could be intertwined with her past relationship to Valkyn.

Other quibbles I have is on how the book fits into the Dragonlance setting. While there is an explanation Valkyn casting all sorts of spells all the time, little of the magic is recognizable as the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons style magic that dominated the Fourth Age. Also, Richard Knaak invents a mountain chain outside of Gwynned (Bakal mentions it isn't on any of the maps, indeed it is not even on the detailed one in Heroes of Defiance) and introduces an island in the New Sea with a city, Norwych, the size of Gwynned. Such a big city (among Ansalon's 10 biggest) on small island in the New Sea and not marked on any of the maps is hardly believable. I am not saying that one should never invent new places, of course, but I think one should draw the line at mountain chains and cities almost the size of Palanthas. Mary H. Herbert is the master to learn from here, how she manages to seamlessly fit her stories on the map of Ansalon is awesome.

Although the story is simple and clichés abound, the book did hold my interest, and it is an improvement over Reavers of the Blodd Sea. The action sequences were well written, even if there was an overdose of them, especially at the end. The book also included a number of twists (rebellion among the evil forces) that were interesting, but that weren't original enough to lift the book. Kudos, however, to Richard for daring to kill of the kender. And I guess it is a sign the characterization wasn't all bad when I felt a slight twinge of emotion when that happened (something also tugged when Stone died). I also liked the fact that there was no "save-the-world" plot, the insane renegade would no doubt have fallen to a force that would have included Ergothians, Solamnics, good dragons and the Conclave. The question was how many would die before that happened. (However, I do find it strange that the Citadel wasn't noticed and even attacked by other forces on its journey from Norwych to Gwynned).

So, this book doesn't have all going against it. But if Chronicles is The Godfather, The Citadel is a Van Damme movie. And while I enjoy to occassionally watch Van Damme kick ass, I also know how shallow the movies are. The Citadel is pulp fantasy that is easy to read and easy to forget. If you really miss the Fourth Age, then read this book. If you're OK with the Fifth Age, there are much better alternatives among most of the recent Dragonlance novels.

Review made Friday September 1st, 2000 on the newsgroup.

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