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Reviews of 'The Dragon Isles'

The Dragon Isles

by Stephen D. Sullivan
Crossroads, Volume 4


Reviews of 'The Dragon Isles'

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Reviewer: Cassandra Jacobs

Rating: Stars

I hate it when a book has so much potential, but is poorly executed. This is one of those types of books. The storyline was interesting, but the characters and some of their actions were shallow and non-believable. This really detracted from the overall enjoyment of the book.

The basis of the storyline is the captain of a ship has a prophecy that will guide him to the hidden Dragon Isles. Employed by a powerful merchant who is following the prophecy as well, they plan on finding the islands and treasure contained within. Along the way Mik, the captain, adds a rescued sea elf to his group. Their travels take them to the edge of the Veil, a magical barrier that prevents outsiders from entering the islands, where they're attacked by Tempest the sea dragon, who is also attempting to break into the islands. Mik, Ula (the sea elf), Trip (Mik's kender companion), and Karista the merchant, find themselves prisoners of a sea elf community. They manage to escape when Tempest attacks the city, and acquire a bronze armoured knight named Shimmer.

With the aid of Shimmer and Ula, the party finds themselves within the Dragon Isles. They hunt down the keys they need to locate the treasure, even though several people warn them that their plans will destroy the islands and its inhabitants. They eventually acquire the keys, cause a lot of damage, have party members turn on them, then save the islands from destruction and destroy Tempest.

I think my biggest gripe about this book was the complete lack of ethics, morals, and good intentions in the so-called "heroes" of this book. Mik, the captain of the ship, is hell bent on acquiring the treasure stored in the temple which is the core of the power of the Veil. Ula, the sea elf, also has this goal in mind. The merchant is dead set on opening up trade routes between Ansalon and the islands, even though several people inform her that the inhabitants have no interest and the sea dragon is continually destroying any ships that approach the Veil. Shimmer, who appears to be a knight of Solamnia in bronze armor, is also aiding Mik and Ula, even though it is obvious that he is really a bronze dragon in disguise. I had to question what kind of morals this dragon has if he's willing to aid a group of thieves who are intent on stealing the treasure from a temple which was erected by the dragons initially.

It's only when the party is actually face to face with the protective diamond that Mik realizes that this diamond is actually powering the Veil... if it is removed or destroyed, the Veil will fall and the islands will face destruction. Hello? People were telling them this, but yet they blatantly ignored it. I felt that these people were driven by selfish desires to commit very evil acts. Even a man named Lord Kell, the head of the Order of Brass, was out to steal this treasure, but at the end of the book, states "you must protect the islands". Quite a change in goals, given his selfishness before. I really disliked this aspect of the characters.

I also found the characters to be stupid at times. In one scene, Mik and Shimmer are traveling to a library to seek one of the keys. A magical barrier is obviously evident because there are several people frozen in time, fallen victim to a magical spell. The two figure this out, but yet they still chose to push through just to see if it's that strong. Urm... hello? Given the fact that there's solid proof there in front of them, why the hell do they need to test it out? They do manage to get through, but it was a risk that most intelligent people wouldn't take.

Once they pass through this barrier, they encounter the library guardian... a copper dragon named Kopernus. He informs Mik and Shimmer that he is protecting the library and the contents within. Mik then asks the dragon if he could escort them to the library so they don't encounter trouble. The copper happily goes along with this. Now, maybe the guardian dragon felt that these two were safe because of Shimmer the bronze dragon, but the impression I got was that Mik "tricked" the dragon into allowing them to pass by appealing to his ego. I had to scratch my head about the intelligence level of this so called guardian.

I also had a lot of reservations about the dragons in general. As mentioned before, Shimmer didn't behave the way a good dragon would... he seemed to not care about looting and pillaging the treasure from a temple raised by the metallic dragons. The Order of Brass, knight like guardians who are backed by a fleet of brass dragons seemed more intent on stopping the party because they were attempting to capture the treasure for themselves. Their brass dragons also participated in battles against the bronze dragon and attacked the party of characters, with the intent to destroy them. The attitudes of these dragons were definitely not geared towards the betterment of good and their home.

Even with these problems, I did enjoy the story. Trip the kender was fun and entertaining and actually had a personality that differed from other kender. He also managed to avoid the trap of becoming a Tas clone. Ula had a lot of potential, as did Mik. I enjoyed the bronze knight Shimmer initially, although they didn't give enough of his back story which was hinted at many times. I thought the author hid the true identity of Shimmer very well at first, but once it seemed obvious what he really was, it should have been revealed. It seemed silly to keep carrying on about his hidden identity once it was very obvious as to what he was.

I'm not sure if I really care for this author. I've never read anything from him prior to this, and given his poor character portrayal, I'm not sure if I'd want to read anything again. He appears to be one of those one hit Dragonlance authors. Hopefully he'll either learn how to write better or he'll not write for Dragonlance again.

Review made December 15th, 2003.


Reviewer: Cheese

Rating: Stars

I recently read The Dragon Isles in its entirety and have to say I was disappointed. Until now, the only information that we, the audience, have received about the said Isles is that it was the homeland of the metallic good dragons. However, the story never focused upon the dragons that are actually supposed to be the masters of the land shrouded by the veil. In fact, the few dragons in the story that we do come in contact with tend to assume a subordinate role to the humans who live in the area. This contrasts sharply with the regal beings that Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman described for us in the Chronicles. In fact, the brass dragons that we meet seem incredibly petty, and while it is in their nature to acquire riches, in this novel, they seem more focused upon the treasure than in maintaining their nobility and alignment. Another thing that was only given a fleeting reference to was the fact that the gold and silver dragons seemed to be strangely absent from the Isles. Considering the fact that they are generally seen as the predominant Metallics, it was strange that they would not be seen nor portrayed as the leaders of the dragons on the Isles, regardless of whether or not they were temporarily absent.

The next snag that pestered me throughout the novel is that the kender, Tripleknot only occasionally seemed to act true to his kender nature. Kender, when others possessions find their way into a pouch, generally come up with the excuse that it must have fallen in there, or that the kender picked it up because the owner dropped it, etc. However, Trip seemed more intent on taking these possessions for his own personal gain as opposed to pure kender innocence. In fact, the whole reason Trip was with this expedition was to amass wealth. As far as I can recall, kender are incredibly curious and fond of several things including shiny objects or things that are vaguely curious. However, one of these things does not happen to be material gain. Furthermore, several times, Trip was startled or exhibited some fear, which is supposed to not even exist in his race. Perhaps one could argue that this was due to the fact that this is the Age of Mortals in which Malys has put fear into kender...

But that leads me to my next point. This prophecy that Mik follows to the Isles—it's all based upon the fact that one must navigate by the constellations including Paladine's to get to the Isles. How would this be possible considering the fact that once the Gods left, which began the Age of Mortals, so did their constellations? All of the known stars patterns were replaced with foreign ones, as were the 3 moons replaced by the cold, single, yellowish-white moon. This constellation discrepancy was too glaring of an error for me to get past.

Perhaps if there weren't so many inconsistencies with the history of Krynn and the nature of its beings, it would have been a more enjoyable read for me.


Reviewer: Darlaten

Rating: Stars

The Dragon Isles is the story about a group of adventurers seeking to establish a trade route between Jotan and the Dragon Isles. In addition to the trade route, some of these adventurers seek to find treasure that is supposedly contained with the Dragon Isles. The story is written in three parts; each part more captivating then the previous one.

Synopsis of Story (Minor Spoilers Ahead)

Part I is titled Dreams and Prophecies. In this part, the main characters of our adventure our introduced.

At the lead is Captain Mikal Vardan, a human seeking adventure and treasure yet he displays a fierce loyalty to his friends and crew. Secondly is his friend Tripleknot Shellcracker, a kender who displays all the nuances that a kender should display. He also shows fierce loyalty to his friend Mikal. Lady Karista Meinor, an aristocrat from Jotan, is funding this expedition. She has had some magical training - although her powers are failing. She is joined by her bodyguard Bok - a man not to be trifled with.

Part I begins explosively with a battle with a giant creature of the sea. From here, the ship Kingfisher sets a course towards the Dragon Isles. The crew of Kingfisher learns that Karista has a prophecy that is supposed to show the way to the Dragon Isles.

Along the way to the Northern Turbidus Ocean, the crew rescues Ula Drakenvaal, a sea elf. She is very beautiful and has knowledge of the Dragon Isles which can help assist the crew in their search. However, she is not interested in establishing a trade route; rather, she is in search of the treasure that the prophecy speaks about.

During the voyage, the Sea Dragon Tempest begins to plot against the Dragon Isles. She is infuriated that she cannot pierce the veil that protects the islands. As her anger mounts, she leads an attack against the Kingfisher and her crew.

During the vicious attack, some of the crew are captured by the Dargonesti and taken to Reeftown where Townboss Lakuda believes the crew to be commodities. In an effort to escape, a new character by the name of Shimanloreth helps rescue Mik, Trip, Karista & Ula. They make their way through the veil into the Dragon Isles. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that a dragonspawn by the name of Mog has also managed to pierce the veil. His job is to track these companions to discover how to destroy the veil thus allowing his master Tempest to invade.

Part II is titled "The Dragon Isles" and features the adventurers experiencing the Dragon Isles for the first time. Here, we meet with representatives of the Order of Brass - an order set up to protect the islands.

Benthor Kell, the human leader of the Order of the Brass captures the adventurers and intends to return them to their main island for judgment. However, things do not go the way they are supposed to. Along the way, the adventurers separate/escape - with each member trying to find keys that can be used to unlock the treasure of the prophecy.

Part II is very detailed with the story moving quickly. The adventurers travel from the undersea kingdom of Darthalla to the heights of Aurialastican. Many areas of the Dragon Isles are described in beautiful detail.

The companions visit an ancient Sea Sage and the Copper Dragon Kopernus in search of information that will help them. However, they are dogged repeatedly by Benthor Kell and the Order of Brass. Also, Mog, Tempest's dragonspawn is close behind them.

Finally, at the end of Part II, the companions meet up with a former friend of Mik's. His name is Jerrick the Red and is Captain of the Red Wake. For a share of the treasure, Jerrick agrees to help his old friend search the treasure.

In Part III which is titled "The Temple", the companions search for the keys to the prophecy comes to a close. After the keys are assembled, the action of the story moves at an extremely quick pace.

While I don't want to give away the story, I can say that the last part of the story is filled with lots of action and battles. Part III is filled with temples, dragons, magic, and traitors. In addition, the veil has weakened allowing the Sea Dragon Tempest in! Her one goal - to destroy everything and everyone within the Dragon Isles beginning with the companions.

Have the adventurers fooled themselves into thinking there is treasure - or are they responsible for the destruction of the way of life in the Dragon Isles?

What I liked about the story:

1) The characters in this story are well developed and detailed. In particular, the loyalty demonstrated between Mik and Trip is superb. Ula and Shimanloreth are also very well written. The reader gets a sense that there is a special relationship between these two characters that began prior to the story featured in the Dragon Isles. This adds depth to these characters.

2) The writing style in this book is very clear. The book moves along at a quick pace yet doesn't treat anything as unimportant. Lots of details are given throughout the book about the characters, the time, and the lands. Also, there is a huge plot twist at the end of the book that is both shocking and surprising! Read the book to find out.

3) While this book is set during the 5th age where magic has begun to fail, there are two magical items featured in this book that deserve special mentioning: (i) the Enchanted Fish Necklace belonging to Mik that allows him to breath and speak under water; and (ii) the Sea Serpent Cloak that Trip finds which allows him to breath, speak, and swim faster under water than any other object. These items are unique in the world of Dragonlance and I feel they add something special to this book.

4) Tempest, the Sea Dragon is an excellent addition to the evil Dragons of Krynn. In this book we learn: how she controls her underwater realm; how she creates dragonspawn; and how she uses leeches to influence the actions of people and creatures. Tempest is purely evil. She demonstrates a lust for power and a need for destruction and death. In a way, she is almost mad in how she wants to destroy the Dragon Isles and elevate her status as an overlord. For Tempest, it does not matter how many individuals she has to destroy (or eat) in order for her to conquer the Dragon Isles.

5) The Dragon Isles have been wrapped in a robe of mystery for quite some time. This book opens that robe and allows the reader to see the glory and splendor of the Dragon Isles. Information is given from the island where the Kenders roam to the areas under the sea that are home to the Dargonesti . We meet with brass and copper dragons while we learn that the silver and gold dragons have gone. If you want to learn more about the Dragon Isles then you must read this book.

What I didn't like about the story:

The only negative thing I would have to say regarding this book is that it is to short. I was hoping for more details regarding the nature of how our companions first met. In particular, there is a lot of history that could be delved into concerning Mik and Trip's first meeting. Also, there is a story concerning Shimmer that needs telling. (I can't say more for fear of spoiling the book. After you have read the book, you will understand). I hope to see a return of these characters in the near future!

Conclusion:

The Dragon Isles is part of the Crossroads Series of books. It also marks the debut entrance of Stephen D. Sullivan into the world of Dragonlance. I can whole-heartedly say that his writing is a welcome addition to Dragonlance.

This book has become my favorite 5th age story. It starts out explosively and ends explosively. Stephen D. Sullivan opens the door to a world that has not been thoroughly described in previous novels. In that task, he has been successful. Dragon Isles is a book that is filled with mystery, treasure, dragons, and magic. There is good, neutral, and evil characters. This is what a true Dragonlance book should be.

I hope that we, as readers, can look forward to more contributions from Stephen Sullivan to the world of Dragonlance. His writing and his characters add something unique and fresh to the world of Krynn. Definitely, read this book!


Reviewer: Richard Pierson

Rating: Stars

I don't know whom over at Wizards of the Coast, whether it was editor, publisher, or the author of this novel; but whoever plotted the Dragon Isles out came up with what I would imagine would be an extremely difficult story to write. And working on his first DL novel, Stephen D. Sullivan does an amazing job with that story. This one really surprised me with how good it was, I must admit I wasn't expecting much out of what I thought would be a boring mariner's tale.

Well it was a mariner's tale, all of this novel either takes place on a ship, under the water, or a few brief trips to port cites. However Sullivan nicely pulls this off without making it boring and does not rehash the fact that the characters are under the water, making into a central description device. Instead of tying it like an anchor around the plot-line and the story's development he uses it as a sail into the unknown.

This novel also got back to the core of fantasy and the Dragonlance shared world, with use of an ancient prophecy guiding the treasure finders, and the return of a dragon as our main villain. The sea dragon Tempest is an excellent villain, powerful, different than what we have seen before in other Dragonlance villains, and actually evil, always a plus.

The heroes are well thought out for a 300 pager like this novel as well. You have a roguish sea captain, a beautiful sea elf, a mysterious bronze armored knight, and a kender that all add something to the adventure, plus no complaining, they are always on the up. The Dragon Isles includes amazing location, some humor, plenty of action, a couple different plot-twists that are pretty good, and is even nicely broken into three labeled parts. Each part has a different tone and you can tell the action slowly increases until it is at a very high tempo in part three.

Only downside is that it was really a difficult story and sometimes it strains Sullivan. At a few points he has characters do things that would be almost impossible in water and what not, but other than that I think this is a really good first outing, I hope Wizards of the Coast has Sullivan writing plenty more Dragonlance novels.

Final Thought: Sullivan may be a squire under the sea, but with his legs set firmly upon the ground he'd be a Knight. Pick this one up for your Dragonlance fix!


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