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Reviews of 'Pillar of Flame'

Pillar of Flame

by Ree Soesbee
Elements, Volume 1

Reviews of 'Pillar of Flame'

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Reviewer: Talinthas

Rating: Stars

So I've never been a big fan of Soesbee. Yes, she did great work with L5R continuity, but her novels in that line were consistently the weakest, and her first efforts with the YA books weren't particularly great, either.

It's fascinating, then, that with Pillar of Flame she's gone from suck to pure awesome in one blow.

Pillar is easily one of the most fun Dragonlance reads I've had in a while, really capturing the feel and flavor of the fourth age. The story doesn't expect you to have read any other YA books, though it helps to read the core 8 and the trinystir trilogy. Nonetheless, you won't find a better romp through our beloved setting than this one (though Great White Wyrm is damn good as well).

Pillar of Flame takes place immediately after the events of the Trinystir trilogy, with everyone's favorite Mary Sue, Nearra, going to Palanthas to try to go to the Tower of High Sorcery to take her test. Hey, she knows there is a Tower there, and that tests are given in a tower, right? Wrong. Obviously, shokian grove says otherwise, and Nearra finds herself in a place called the Hall of the Three Moons, a pseudo-headquarters for the wizards of Palanthas who aren't allowed to play in Raistland. She goes in there expecting to take her test, and runs into a gathering of the wizards, including Justarius and others. This book takes place a few years after Legends, so it makes sense for him to come there occasionally.

In any event, the fires in Palanthas go out, due to some magical interference, and since the big wizards are too busy keeping things under control, Nearra is sent off with a representative of the red and the black to figure out what is going on. A solid plot hook ensues.

The real fun of this story is in the characters. Loreddion, the black robe elf who accompanies Nearra, is a smarmy, sarcastic bastard of the finest caliber. He functions as a simulacrum for the readers of the YA series, mocking Nearra's adventures in a truly hilarious fashion. "You learned magic from a dead sorceress and broke a curse generations old. Oh, pardon us, Miss Wonderful. Why should you take the Test of High Sorcery at all, with that kind of power? Just jump right in! I'm certain that if you want to be in charge of the Conclave, Justarius won't mind stepping aside!"

The other great character is Koi Fearbreaker, possibly the best written kender in Dragonlance. Koi is an adventurer from Kenderhome, who has come to Palanthas to try to find out why the fires in her homeland have gone out. She is also on a life quest of sorts to try to feel fear, continually finding herself in crazy adventures trying to scare herself. She's mature, responsible, darkly humorous, sarcastic, and witty as hell, without being afflicted. In short, a kender who is truly kenderlike without being Tasslehoffian. My hat is off to you, Ree, for writing such a great character, especially when she starts bantering with Loreddion.

This story is fantastically written, and totally plausible in the grand scheme of Dragonlance, and all of the spells are legitimate (with vocabulary straight out of Towers of High Sorcery). The plot is a little cheesy, but in a fun way, and is hard to put down. Full marks and a total Tal recommendation. This book completely reinforces my belief that the best material in DL these days is coming out of the YA camp, and ignoring these books is denying yourself good reading.

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