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Reviews of 'The Forest King'

The Forest King

by Paul B. Thompson
Tracy Hickman Presents The Anvil of Time, Volume 4


Reviews of 'The Forest King'

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Reviewer: Weldon Chen

Rating: Stars

I have to say I was pleased with the book; out of 5 Dragonlances I'll give it a 3. Just so everyone has an understanding of my scale, Chronicles and Legends is a solid 5, and Dark Queen is basically splintered Dragonlance burned and buried in acidic dragon poodoo. Hedrick the Theocrat, would be a 0.

I liked the roving adventure, and a group of mismatched characters working toward a common quest. The story is told in the eyes of Mathi, who witnesses the exploits of Balif as he struggles through Silvanesti intrigue, machinations from Vedvedsica, and defining he role in securing the safety of Silvanesti as he goes forth to the East the threat of a new race.

I also really appreciate the work of keeping the continuity of Dragonlance. Paul makes great references to many books, both in the Barbarian Nations trilogy, Karada, Kender. The Hesti, and Vedvedsica are connected. There is even hints to the origin of kender tunnels running everywhere in Kendermore that we see in Spirit of the Wind by Chris Pierson. And of course, the ultimate fate and history of what happened to Balif the Kender, and Balif the Elf that was so non-continuous in many different Dragonlance sources. I will, however, childishly thumb my nose at certain fans, because I like Paul's explanation of that continuity.

However, there are certain things I will critique about the book. I thought the structure of the story was not well defined. The book isn't your classic story of a compelling hero vs. a compelling villain like Laurana & Tanis vs Ariakas & Kitiara, or Caramon vs. Raistlin, or Heroes vs. Takhisis, or Karada vs. Sthenn, or even Mina. In trying to define the conflict, I didn't see Man vs. himself, Man vs. nature, or man vs. society or man vs in any solid form. and in the story plot there was compelling potential everywhere in Balif's character.

Because it was told in the view of Mathi, I felt there was certainly less about her own feelings. She was conflicted, but it seemed to me there should have been more examples of her confusion, more examples of Balif's redeeming qualities, and ultimately her examination of her feeling about Balif, and ultimately what becomes her growth transformation.

Paul, I hope you don't mind comparisons, but your story reminded me of a paler version of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, where we first see Mara Jade. Mara *HATES* Luke Skywalker and with reason. It's blatantly told. Other characters see it's very obvious. And Luke's notices this and his response is to ask, "What did I do to hurt you. I'm sorry." It took 4+ books, but ultimately, we see Mara and Luke fall in love, and married. That contrast from beginning to end, was compelling. In Mathi, I didn't see it. And likewise, I didn't see enough description about Balif that would have have made me reach the appropriate emotional conclusion I should have had with Mathi and Balif.

It felt rushed, as a solid meaty dish, but not enough spice and marinade to make it mindboggling tasty.


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