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Reviews of 'The Odyssey of Gilthanas'

The Odyssey of Gilthanas

by Douglas Niles, Steve Miller, Steven 'Stan!' Brown
Reader's Companion, Volume 1


Reviews of 'The Odyssey of Gilthanas'

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Reviewer: Anarchangelic

Rating: Stars

After reading other reviews of this book I was skeptical. While Gilthanas was one of my favourite characters in the original chronicles, I didn't want to waste my time reading a book that was sub-par when there are so many dragonlance novels out there. Fortunately, I got myself a copy of this book anyway, and I must now tell others that it is worthwhile in many respects. When reading this book one must first understand that it is a little like reading a Tales book or a Dragons collection in the way that each chapter is almost its own story. That being said, the pacing of the book is wonderfully direct, leaving no room for long winded introductions to plots. It is exciting very quickly and stays that way. Another blessing of this book is the fact that the action doesnt take place in only three or four locales, but at least a dozen, giving readers a chance to see how life and conditions have passed in many places throughout Ansalon following the Chaos War. Because Gilthanas travels to many places we also get a chance to see many different new characters, aswell as a few established ones such as Linsha Majere and Revered Daughter Chrysania. Another unique aspect is the varying narrations. At certain times in can get a little confusing but not as to be problematic, and with this we get to see into the minds of many people instead of most books where we only understand the events through a few peoples eyes. That's not to say i would want all my books to be written this way of course, but it is a refreshing change. One of the only problems for me was a seeming lack of climax, although it was understandable because this book was more meant to be a transitional novel. Something to help establish the fifth age in preparation for the war of souls. Also, it ends a little too short. I guess there could have been a bit more story in certain parts to add a bit more to it, but this perhaps may have made it too long winded for the type of book it is trying to be. Another interesting thing is the collection of descriptions in the appendix section. Basically, it describes in further detail the histories of all the places in Gilthanas' travels and also provides some ideas for setting a game campaign in these areas. I found these to be quite interesting, because even simple references to the people in the towns gave the cities a sense of realism. I feel that i know Ansalon better than i ever have after reading this book, in the sense of understanding different peoples lifestyles given their environments and upbringings. In conclusion, i found this book to be a very unique style, and while it may not prove to be one of the most memorable favourites, i believe it excels at giving readers a variety of locales, characters, and narrations to present a time period that is in between two warring periods: namely the Chaos War and the War Of Souls.


Reviewer: Darlaten

Rating: Stars

The Odyssey of Gilthanas is the story of Gilthanas's quest to find his lost love Silvara, the Silver Dragon. The novel begins shortly after Gilthanas's stay as governor of Kalaman (Chronicals Trilogy) and carries through to his imprisonment in Khellendros's prision camp (Dragons of a New Age Trilogy). It was written by Douglas Niles, Steve Miller, and Stan!

Synopsis of Story (Minor Spoilers Ahead)

Gilthanas has realized that the one person on the face of Krynn that he loves is Silvara. However, his treatment of her has caused her to leave. Realizing that his life is not complete without her, his quest starts. Initially, Gilthanas must break free of his imprisonment from Konnal and the Silvanesti. This event takes place just prior to the establishing of the shield that will surround Silvanesti through much of the Age of Mortals.

Upon his escape, Gilthanas searchers for clues as to where Silvara might be. These clues take him to all corners of the globe - from The Missing City and The Ancient City of Purstal to Stone Rose. At each location, he encounters a variety of people and creatures; some of which are helpful while others are not. When Gilthanas arrives at Elian Wilds, he is treated with great respect and nobility. However, all is not what it seems. Malystryx, the Red Dragon Overlord controls the Elian Wilds. Her emissary orders Solov and other Masters of Rank to go after Gilthanas and kill him. If Silvara is also found, she is to be killed! Not only must Gilthanas find Silvara but he must be on guard for his would-be assassins.

Eventually, Gilthanas makes his way to the Peak of the Clouds where he works as an apprentice with a kyrie named Keelak. It is here that Gilthanas learns the ways of the new magic. Elsewhere, Solov has been joined by a representative of Khellendros, a female elf by the name of Stalker. Her job is to assist Solov in tracking down Gilthanas and Silvara. Gilthanas eventually makes his way to Winston's Tower where he rescues an elf by the name of Lethagas of Qualinesti. This elf joins Gilthanas for the rest of his adventure. While in the tower, Gilthanas is poisoned and ends up on the edge of insanity. However, a chance meeting in the Valley of Crystal with Linsha Majere provides clues as to possible places where a cure might be found: Godshome and the River of Healing.

Upon leaving the Port City of Horstal, Gilthanas is attacked by Solov. What follows is an emotional battle with both characters reflecting on the choices they have made in their lives. Due to delays and attacks from would-be assassins, the trail for Silvara has grown cold. As such, Gilthanas heads to Qualinesti to search from help from none other than Porthios. With assistance from Porthios and with a new female elf named Alla in tow, Gilthanas and his party head to Whitestone Glade to see the Knights.

At Whitestone Glade, Gilthanas meets with the Reverend Daughter Crysania to seek advice and help. However, while setting out for Raekel's Pit, Gilthanas and his party are captured and imprisoned by the Dark Knights and Stalker. It is here where the story of the quest of Gilthanas comes to an end.

The final chapter is very sad and disheartening. Silvara has now turned herself into a human female by the name of Lady Arlena, Knight of Solomnia, Order of the Rose. She no longer feels the burning in her soul she once felt when she desired Gilthanas. Is this the end of their tragic love story? Only future books will tell the tale.

What did I like about this book?

1) This book includes a number of races that have not received a lot of press time in other Dragonlance books, e.g., the thanoi, the kyrie. and the huldrefolk. While there are not a lot of details provided, it is nice to see other races being mentioned.

2) The inclusion of a chapter regarding Linsha Majere and her role in the clandestine circle in the city of Sanction was very well done. Linsha's thoughts on her actions within the city of Sanction and how she may or may not be living up to the code of the Knights was well written and thought provoking. This chapter is an excellent introduction to her character. Readers should read "The Clandestine Circle" by Mary Herbert to find out how Linsha discovers the true nature of Hogan Bight and the city of Sanction.

3) The inclusion of a chapter that deals with Porthios was a great surprise. While not very long (only 6 pages), readers finally have confirmation that in 28 SC, Porthios is alive and living as an outlaw in the depths of the Qualinesti forest. The description of how disfigured he is was very graphic.

4) While the main dragon overlords are mentioned, i.e., Malystryx and Khellendros, the authors also mention the other "lesser" dragon overlords: Red Fenalysten in the deserts of the south; Black Mohrlex who rules Nordmarr's swamp; and Green Lorrrinar who is remaking the Woods of Lahue. The authors also inform us that Silvara, the Silver Dragon, is aiding the Knights at Castle Eastwatch to oppose Gellidus, the White Overlord. While there is not a lot of new information given out regarding these other overlords, it is nice to see that they haven't been forgotten.

5) The Appendix and the Dragon War's Card Game. This book is unique in that it contains an appendix that has extensive details regarding the various places that Gilthanas visited during his quest. For each location, the authors provide the readers with historical notes on the place; secrets of the place that could be used by DM's; a look at the place in the present 5th age setting; and finally an adventure seed for those looking to start a game or quest. Even if you do not role-play, the background information on these locations will be very useful as a reference.

What I didn't like about this book?

1) The way in which this book is written is very confusing! The story is convoluted and unclear at times. Many of the chapters are written in the first person point of view. Often, however, the reader is not told who is telling the story until the last sentence of the chapter. This makes the flow of the story difficult to grasp. For example, in one chapter the story is told by Gilthanas in first person. In the next chapter, the story is still told in the first person point of view; however, instead of that person being Gilthanas, it ends up being Solov. This style of writing is awkward and distracting.

2) While the inclusion of an appendix is a welcome addition, it causes the story of Gilthanas's quest to be shortened to 230 pages. Because of this, there is not a lot of time to develop key points. In many parts of the story, there are only cursory explanations of what is going on. As a reader, I felt like I was missing out on the "meat and potatoes" of what was really happening.

3) The story jumps around through time. For example, one chapter might be in the year 28SC, while the next one is in the year 21SC. If readers do not pay attention to the time that each chapter takes place in, the story will be difficult to understand.

4) The appearance, or lack thereof, of Silvara. While this story is about Gilthanas, it would have been nice of Silvara played a bigger role. As such, she only appears in the final chapter of the book and when she does appear, it is unclear of whether or not she still loves Gilthanas. If readers are looking for more information regarding Silvara's activities, this book will not be of any help.

Conclusion

I was looking very forward to reading this story. Unfortunately, this book did not meet my expectations. Instead of an eventful story filled with mystery, intrigue, and action, we get a travel log of places that Gilthanas has been to. Combine this with a writing style that is not only confusing but also lacking in details, and you get a book that is extremely poor.

From the novel's own cover; it says this format was an experiment by TSR to join the worlds or role-playing games and novels together. This may be a worthwhile goal; however, this book does not reach it. While the Appendix and the Dragon Wars Card Games is an excellent addition to the role-playing world, the story, for those who only read the novels, is lacking.


Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

The Odyssey of Gilthanas by Douglas Niles, Steve Miller, and Steven "Stan!" Brown is a rather unique product. It follows Gilthanas as he travels across Ansalon in search of his lost love Silvara. The journey is presented as various connected (more or less) short stories, each story set at one particular location. The time period is between the Chaos War and ca. 29 SC, with some flashback to the time between the War of the Lance and the Chaos War. For each short story, there is also source material describing the location in each book, with a brief description, history, secrets and adventure hooks (called "Adventure Seeds") which can be read by anyone, and used by the DM. The locations ranged from rather familiar ones like Kalaman and Whitestone Glade, to more obscure ones which have been introduced in modules (Winston's Tower and Valley of Crystal), and some have never before been anything but a spot on a map, like Purstal and Stone Rose.

So this book attempts not only be a cross between a novel and an anthology, but also a cross between fiction and sourcebook. A bold and interesting experiment, certainly, but to put it in simplistic terms; I must admit that I think that in trying to be everything it ends up having not enough of anything.

The short stories are of a quality that's very uneven. There are basically two kinds of short stories, there are those where Gilthanas is the central character, and these are written in third person. While the first story is very good (especially since it connects with The Puppet King and The Sylvan Veil, which I recently read), the later stories seem pointless and meaningless, with not any plot beyond giving Gilthanas some items he uses later; some encounter, and/or giving him a lead about where to go next. They are presented as short stories, but they aren't. They are only chapters in a novel that isn't there. Except for one or two, I didn't care much for those stories.

The other kind of short-stories is the short stories where Gilthanas is not the main character; the story is instead centered around another character who encounters Gilthanas. These stories are always told in first-person, either as a usual "I"-story, a "talking to the camera" approach akin to that Stan! used in some chapters in Palanthas (an approach I don't care much for, to be honest, it feels too artificial), or through diaries and journals. While these stories are better because they actually have a point, these are of uneven quality as well. I also think that they overdid the first person approach; some of the short stories would have been just as good, if not better, with an omniscient approach, since they didn't go much into the narrator's head. My favorites included a story about Linsha Majere, and Whitestone Glade (a story which would've been better with omniscient narration).

The source material connected well to the short stories, without repeating the story. But this was also of un-even quality. I loved the material on Kharolis, it was the best in the book, but there was also a huldrefolk legacy and history which I find as unwelcome as the Spelljammer port in Palanthas and the drow colony in Wild Elves. The source material did for the most part not contradict other material, but in some cases it stretched it so much that it did go into the realm of changing instead of adding. And I think that the three authors, Steve Miller, Steven "Stan!" Brown and Douglas Niles are more capable of ideas than this book would suggest, too many times they have resorted to rather questionable races like huldrefolk, scions and flying ghost kyrie (!) instead of providing interesting and mysterious past mysteries within the borders of Krynnishness.

So, I find this book very uneven and unfocused, but it is also very useful, and has some interesting stories in it. It does follow a couple of threads from The Puppet King, and characters and places from Heroes of Defiance (like Linsha and, to a small extent, Northern Ergoth) are very welcome.

But ultimately this books try to do too many things at the same time. There is source material on so many places that each place is handled very superficially. And they should have decided if this was supposed to be a novel or a short story collection. A hybrid might seem like a good idea, but it just didn't work here.

I like the idea of mixing fiction and game material, and I don't think that should be given up. I liked the appendix about the Knights of Takhisis in Second Generation, for example. But Second Generation knew that it should concentrate on the Knights of Takhisis, it did not have source material on Solace, Wayreth, the Tower of Palanthas, the Conclave, Irda, the Graygem, the Isle of Gargath, Solanthus and Qualinesti, despite the fact that all those places were in the fiction, choosing instead to adequately present the Knights of Takhisis. Write more in-depth about fewer things is my suggestion.

So, interesting idea, some good stories and source material, some not so good. The verdict, sad to say, is uneven and unfocused, but certainly worth reading.

Review made Wednesday July 21st, 1999 on the alt.fan.dragonlance newsgroup.


Reviewer: Paul Record

Rating: Stars

Written by Douglas Niles, Steve Miller, and Stan, The Odyssey of Gilthanas attempts to please both readers and game fans of the setting by combining a collection of stories and a large appendix with gaming information.

The Odyssey is about Prince Gilthanas Kanan, brother to Laurana and Porthios of Qualinost. Based on the main character of the story, I was hesitant to read the book. Here was a character I barely recalled reading about in the Chronicles. All that I could remember of Gilthanas was the beef he had with Tanis over Laurana. I had forgotten his involvement with Silvara, Icewall, and the Draconians. The Legend of Huma changed that. After reading about Huma's Sacrifice, I needed a fix. I looked at my stack of unread novels and The Odyssey was on top. "What the hell," I thought; I would try it regardless of what I had read in reviews. I was hooked after the first page.

The Odyssey is a "What is Eating Gilthanas?" type tale. A story of a bizarre life, the opening pages really set the tone for me. Here was a noble elf, stripped of everything, his freedom, and his possessions but not broken. When he began to recount his tale, I was drawn into his story. The author(s) did their job here by pulling back the layers of Gilthanas life and taking the reader to a point in time that was both interesting and a great starting point: Prison, again, but by elves. Very cool indeed.

The story unfolds with Gilthanas a prisoner of Konnal, Military Governor of Silvanesti. Before long, he escapes his captors, rescued by griffons. This is a start of an epic journey for Gilthanas, one that will take him from one of Ansalon to another. Along the way, the readers are introduced to myriad forms of creatures, beings, and places, both mundane and exotic.

In places like Ruined Purstal, Gilthanas befriends the cockroaches of Dragonlance, Gully Dwarves, and leaves gifted with more than filth, actual treasures.

From there, Gilthanas struggles with his soul and mind as he tries to reconcile duty and love. These two forces tear at our elven prince and it is not until he reaches a place of firm beauty and fairy tale weather that he makes up his mind to chase after his True Heart: Silvara, The Silver Dragon. It is here that the tone of the story changes from just a simple mans' story to one of an epic journey that encompasses all emotions. Love and hate.

The book fails on some parts for me though. While I liked the Appendix, I think it could have used stats for all the characters Gilthanas encounters through out his Odyssey. Peak of Clouds was another issue for me. Here was a place supposedly steeped in magical energies and yet we get nothing. Just fluff. Do the magical energies provide bonuses; enhance spells of certain schools or what?

As for the novel side of things, I really disliked the Linsha story. It was not very interesting and still to this day I have problems with a clandestine Solamnic Knight. Perhaps my feelings are coloring my perspective on this story.

Over all the authors did an amazing job relating to the reader what Gilthanas is going through and what he was up to until his appearance in Dragons of a New Age. While the book has its faults, it does not deserve the stigma it has received. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


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