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Reviews of 'Dezra's Quest'

Dezra's Quest

by Chris Pierson
Bridges of Time, Volume 5

Reviews of 'Dezra's Quest'

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Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

Originally posted on the Dragonlance-L mailing list.

Chris Pierson revealed himself to be one of the best Dragonlance authors with Spirit of the Wind, just like his previous short stories in The Dragons at War and Dragons of Chaos had indicated. Not only is his storytelling and his writing style superb, but his characters are good and, both in overall tone and in all the details, a Dragonlance atmosphere permeates his work much more than any author other than Weis and Hickman. Spirit of the Wind really bound the 4th Age together with the 5th Age, because it was the first time the feeling of the original DL work made it that well into a 5th Age product. Where Chris Pierson differs from Weis and Hickman is in his realism and sometimes cynical violence. The mundane, such as hard winters, diseases, piss and sex is referred to in such a way that it makes the world real, in some ways even more real than when Weis and Hickman portrays it, since they focus much more on the fantastic aspects instead of the mundane ones. But that doesn't mean that Chris Pierson's version of Krynn is mundane, on the contrary it is very real, and he achieves that even the fantastic elements are so much more convincing. Also, Chris Pierson has a knack of slaughtering, in bloody detail, innocent kender without remorse, perhaps even with glee. Is it just me, or is Chris a Tarantino fan?

So, I like Chris Pierson very much. I have already stated (on the Dragonlance-L mailing list) some misgivings about Dezra's Quest, due to the fact that it focuses on Caramon and Dezra, and gives a damn about what the Bridges of Time series really should be about; bringing us up to date on the events of the 5th Age up to the Dragons of a New Age trilogy.

I still have those misgiving, but they are almost the only ones I have. Chris's new book is just as Dragonlancy as Spirit of the Wind, and he makes things we DL and AD&D fans know much about, such as centaurs and sprites, mysterious and intriguing by making them unfamiliar and stuff of legend to the characters in the book, even though we readers nod in recognition as the sprites turn invisible and shoot poisoned arrows. Darken Wood and especially the fearie realm is vividly described as the most magical of places. Also, creatures that are very rare in the Dragonlance saga, such as dryads, are written seamlessly into the DL universe. Any other author introducing a "new" or "rare" creature to Krynn could easily fall into the trap of making it seem un-Krynnish. It has happened many times, but it did not happen to Chris. His AD&D background is evident in the sub-plot about the quest for the axe, and the golem that guards. But unlike books like Flint the King and Maquesta Kar-Thon, the AD&D aspect isn't so annoyingly AD&D, and its presence does not sacrifice any realism. On the contrary, it adds to the Krynnishness.

Instead of innocent kender dying by the hundreds, good-guy centaurs are dying by the hundreds in this book. And now I get to the other serious objection I have towards this book besides the Heroes of the Lance focus. The conflict that lies as the basis of this book, the conflict between the centaurs and the Skorenoi, just isn't that engaging. While the beginning of the book seemed promising, with a centaur faction rebelling against the Forestmaster for reason that are entirely understandable, the centaurs are quickly turned into mindless servants of evil by a tree that is a legacy of Chaos. Their quarrel with their brethren is no longer engaging since they are just fighting them because they are evil. If they had had a good reason for fighting each other (like the elves do in Puppet King), the "emotional impact" of the book would have been so much greater.

So the centaur war and the Heroes of the Lance focus (which seem to be connected somehow), and the fact that the book is also set in the same area as Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and hardly goes beyond there, are what detracts from the book. That Caramon pulled a Goldmoon near the end of the book wasn't all that necessary, either. (You know how sensitive some us are when it comes to that stuff, Chris! :)

I must say that I have pretty much the same feelings towards Dezra's Quest as I have towards the remake of Psycho. Both are very good, but both also just repeats what is old. Gus Van Sant, Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn are all very talented people who I would have liked to see spend their valuable time making movies that are great and offer something more to us, not just movies that are great but do not offer much more than we've already seen. The very same thing can be said about Chris Pierson and Dezra's Quest. Extremely good, but I hate to see his talent wasted on treading old paths when he could have cleared new, exciting ones.

It seems to me that TSR's long-term planning for the Dragonlance line is seriously lacking. Chris Pierson is obviously so popular, and so good at capturing the spirit of what is Dragonlance, that it would have been a good idea to give him the task of breaking some new ground. That way, maybe readers could move beyond the Heroes of the Lance, and appreciate the other facets of the saga. That is necessary for the DL line to survive in the long run.

But, despite this criticism, this book was very enjoyable. Chris, I hope you'll write much more Dragonlance, and I hope you write about concepts that are better than the one for Dezra's Quest. One thing is sure though, the flawed concept couldn't possibly have been used better than it was in this novel.

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