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Reviews of 'The Puppet King'

The Puppet King

by Douglas Niles
Chaos War, Volume 3

Reviews of 'The Puppet King'

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Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

I did expect something of this book. I found the short story The Sacrifice from Second Generation extremely good, and the political intrigues of the elven nations are very... intriguing. So that boded well. The author is Douglas Niles, and I don't know what to make of him.

And this book does deliver, for the most part. There is a lot of political intrigue here (as I had expected and hoped), but also a lot of action. In fact, because of the political intrigue the action is more exciting and involving, because here you really feel that the outcome matters, it's not just a fight against the Evil Enemy.

Let's take Babylon 5 as an example. The space station Babylon 5 and its captain declared independence from Earth after Earth's fascist regime had done a lot of horrible things towards its citizens. The Earth forces attacked Babylon 5, but Babylon 5 fought back in an episode I consider the very best of the series. The battle meant something, and there was story behind it. It is the same in The Puppet King. As I read the book I got mad at Konnal and Rashas, and I had genuine, sympathetic feelings for Gilthas and Porthios. This made all the action they was involved with more..not just a battle but something that mattered.

However, towards the end, as the Chaos creatures attacked, the book lost itself somewhat. Now everything was just a matter of fighting for your life, with much of the emotional "oomph" of the action gone. I also think that the damage done to Qualinost should have been toned down. I think that things that were touched upon during the attack of the forces of Chaos (how the bickering elves and Knights of Takhisis reacted to the new threat, a clash of wills between Gilthas and Rashas on how to deal with the new threat, etc.) should have been explored more. So the book did not deliver completely during the last 60 pages or so, which is a shame, but this part was still good. It did not ruin the book like the end of Legacy of Steel or The Last Thane did.

I love political intrigue, and in this book the bad guys had much of the upper hand. However, I dislike books where the bad guys are manipulating the good guys every step of the way. Fortunately, Niles allows the heroes some victories, so this is not a problem at all.

The consistency level seems relatively high, with characters and events from The Sylvan Veil and Tree Lords being present in the book. Some small inconsistency issues there are of course but those are forgivable. But there was one rather significant inconsistency, and that is the time of the birth of Silvanoshei. In The Sacrifice, Alhana went to Silvanesti after she escaped Rashas. In The Puppet King, Tanis goes instead, because Alhana is almost pregnant. In Dragons of Summer Flame, Silvanoshei is born during the Summer of Chaos, and with Porthios, Alhana and Samar being in Solace at that time. In The Puppet King, Silvanoshei is born well before the Summer of Chaos, and at no point in time are Porthios, Alhana and Sama in Solace.

Also, it seems to me that how Dragons of Summer Flame described the Qualinesti treachery when the Knights of Takhisis arrived there was not how The Puppet King depicted it.

Anyway, other than the material meshed well with a lot of other material. Having just read The Sylvan Veil, it seems to me that they have worked rather hard to get consistency straight, with characters and stories weaving into each other despite the various stories being by different authors.

There were some stretches of credibility in this novel, unfortunately. I find it hard to believe that elves would march in a straight line through a wood when going to war, as they did when Rashas sent a group to attack Porthios's band. I also find it very hard to believe that Qualinost/Qualinesti does not have a standing army. They had practically no soldiers available when the Knights of Takhisis came. It would have been better if there had been an army, but Rashas had chosen not to use it. And I also think Samar is a fool to risk the life of the prince who is the only hope of the elven nations by dragging him in front of a dragon.

Oh well, at any rate the emotions and the excitement makes this easily Niles's best Dragonlance book (perhaps next to The Kinslayer War). It should have been longer. And this is more than just escapist reading too because individuals thinking like Konnal and Rashas exist in the real world and there are too many people supporting leaders like that.

Review made Monday July 5th, 1999 on the newsgroup.

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