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Reviews of 'Conundrum'

Conundrum

by Jeff Crook
Age of Mortals, Volume 1


Reviews of 'Conundrum'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

This book follows a group of about 20 gnomes and a kender as they launch Krynn's first "submarine" in an attempt to find out why large rocks float (ie, why the continents float in the ocean). Working partially for the Knights of Neraka (who have taken over Mount Nevermind), they take on a Thorn Knight, whose ulterior motive is to take control of the ship and pilot it into the portal to the Abyss within the Blood Sea of Istar.

If you haven't freaked out yet about a story about 20 gnomes and a kender, then you'll probably be interested in reading this book.

One of the things that I noticed in this book (and in other Dragonlance books) is the lack of female tinker gnomes. There's mention of them, but I've yet to see any that create inventions the way the male gnomes do.

What I really appreciated about this book is the fact that the gnomes created several inventions that worked. It's nice to see stories centered on a gnomish invention like this. It was plagued with typical gnomish issues, such as lack of a reverse gear, no windows, and it sunk twice before finally working, but these features added character to the submarine, and allowed the gnomes to work in solutions for them.

There were some interesting creatures and concepts introduced, but not fully explained, which I found a little disconcerting. The badger king in the forest, along with his followers was a little... strange. The lack of identification of the mistress the Knight of the Thorn was serving, even at the end of the book, kind of left me mystified. I'd really like to know who he was serving. Also, it would have been interesting to see if the portal to the Abyss still existed. This scenario was never resolved, as the gnomes refused to go into the portal and the Knight failed at taking over the ship.

Also, what I found a little troubling was the number of gnomes that died, and how quickly it happened. The first landing the gnomes took after leaving Mt Nevermind resulted in the death of one crew member, and the gully dwarf oilier. The rest dropped like flies over the course of the book. Some of the deaths were pretty gruesome as well... the first gnome that died was eaten by a Chaos monster, the kender was eaten by a dragon, etc.

I understand that the point of the book was to tell the story of how Conundrum wound up on the island of Sancrist, and he ends up there as a result of the failure of the mission and the death of all the crew, but I guess I was just a little unprepared for the nastiness of the dying gnomes.

Oh, and the kender started to irritate me. I like kender and all, but I really dislike how their curiosity makes them appear reckless and stupid. I give them the recklessness, but sometimes it seems a little unreal. It winds up looking more like disobedience, since this kender wound up going against the gnome's orders so he could explore.

Overall though, it's a great book, and quite funny through most of it. Conundrum has a habit of getting out of some really troublesome spots... probably the reason why he's the only survivor at the end of the book.

Review made June 24th, 2002.


Reviewer: Darlaten

Rating: Stars

Conundrum, a book by Jeff Crook, is the story of a group of gnomes who are attempting to sub-navigate the continent of Ansalon.

The crew of the MNS Indestructible is comprised of a group of gnomes, a kender, and (eventually) a Thorn Knight. Each of the gnomes are trying to fulfill a life quest - ranging from trying to find a cure for hiccoughs to seeing why do large rocks float to slaying a dragon. Conundrum, who we met from the War of Souls Triology, joins the crew of the MNS Indestructible after meeting and learning that his cousin Snork is the navigator of the MNS Indestructible. Conundrum is trying to fulfill his life quest as well; namely, to solve an unsolvable puzzle - to create the world's most unsolvable puzzle.

From these beginnings, the MNS Indestructible sets sail from the port city of Pax to Flotsam, Kalaman, and eventually the Abyss itself! On its way, there are encounters with Chaos monsters, Minotaur Pirates, Dragons, and Giants!. There's treachry and betryal. There are hidden plots - just what is Sir Tanar intentions and who is he taking orders from?

This book is part of the Age Of Mortals series, a series which is designed to look at the early lives of the key characters in the War of Souls. I enjoyed this book immensely. I laughted and was sadded by some of the events.

However, two criticisms I have regarding this book is: (1) it's not a book about Conundrum. I would argue that the main character is Commodore Brigg, the captain of the MNS Indestructible. In many ways, the entire story centres around him. Conundrum seems to play the part of an observer; a charcter who is there in the background without contributing anything to the main story; and (2) the book ends on a rather sudden jolt. I can not say more without giving away the story. People who have read this book may understand. In essence, you are going around trying to figure out how will problems be solved and then "wham", you are at the last chapter. In my opinion, this book could have more chapters devoted to it at the end to bring the story to a better resoultion.

Having said that, I am pleased with the book overall. I found the writing to be clear. The story was interesting and unpredictable. Despite the negative press I have seen about this book on other discussion groups, I recommend people read it. I think you will be pleased. Just don't expect any earth-shattering revelations about Conundrum, one of the hero's from the War of Souls.


Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

The plotline is basically thus: a team of gnomes wishes to travel to the other side of Ansalon, to the Blood Sea of Istar (sans Maelstrom) and find a rumored underwater pathway beneath the Khalkist mountains, so someone can sail right to the New Sea, dive, and come up in the Blood Sea. To accomplish this goal, they have built a submersible, the MNS Indestructible. The ruling Knights of Takhisis in Mount Nevermind, however, wish that they bring one of their own along they are to pick up in Flotsam. The gnomes get the launch right on the third try and are off for adventure and merry mayhem...

I'll leave the rest as a surprise, since I think this book is well worth the read. This is Crook's master work in DL, thus far, bar none. It was a fun read, made sense, and, best of all, didn't feature Conundrum saving the world. Actually, Conundrum didn't even come into the story until a few chapters in and was hardly the main character. In fact, if he was, he shared the duty with several others, among them Knight of the Thorn Sir Tanar Lobcrow, Dr. Bothy, Snork, Razmous Pinchpocket, the indomitable Commodore Brigg, Professor Hap-Troggensbottle, and the gnome who wants to be the first of his kind to achieve Solamnic Knighthood, Sir Grumdish.

As you can see, it's quite a list, and I don't have the time or the space to look at each character in depth. Suffice it to say that Crook did an excellent job on the gnomes, making each of them gnomish to a fault, but also with their own mannerisms and quirks and, best of all, their own Life Quests. Conundrum was well done, I feel, and if he comes off as a little addled in the War of Souls books, this one surely explains why.

Razmous Pinchpocket is a typical kender, but is not a Tas clone! Another pleasant surprise, I thought, and a testament to Mr. Crook's progressing ability in this series. Sir Tanar was exactly what a Knight of Neraka should be like now that they have abandoned honor and fallen into basic brigandry.

The book left me with quite a few questions, which is a good thing. I think the biggest one I had regards the mysterious Voice of the Night that Sir Tanar is in contact with frequently. However, that may be a story for another day. I heavily recommend Conundrum, as it is a really fun read, with enough gnomish humor, some really tense scenes, and well done plot twists and the like.


Reviewer: Michael Coene

Rating: Stars

Conundrum is the first book of the 'Age of Mortals' Dragonlance series. However, this is not what originally attracted me to it. The fact that it's a tale about gnomes, the most underrated race in all of Krynn, is what caught my eye.

Jeff Crook, the author, introduces us to some very animated, believable little bearded fellows. Sir Grumdish and Navigator Snork were two of my personal favorites. And watching all of these gnomes interact as they encounter such perils as talking two-headed hedgehogs, minotaur pirates, and red dragons is certainly a delight to be experienced.

The thing that keeps Conundrum from being an above-average read is the ending. For spoilers sake, I won't say anything about what happens, but allow me to just say that you will be very dissapointed.

Utilization of an underdog race and fun, lively characters mixed with a lackluster ending earns Conundrum a 3. Pick it up if you like gnomes, or if you're looking for something a little light-hearted.


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