Welcome back to the Dragonlance reread! We’re going to leave Tanis, his companions and his feelings back in the ruined forests of Silvanesti. Because now we’re into part two of Dragons of Winter Night (woo!) where we’ll follow the rest of the party. When we last saw Laurana, Tas, Sturm and Flint… it was the morning after the dream sequence… but when we last saw them properly, it was in Tarsis, when the Highlord’s attack split the group in two.
I wonder what the kids have been up to?
“Song of the Ice Reaver” and “The flight from Ice Wall.”
Being a major shifting point, we get some smokin’ hot poetry action. This is “Song of the Ice Reaver” and it spells out—rapidly—what #TeamLaurana has been doing.
Told by an ‘Ice Barbarian’ named Raggart, “Song of the Ice Reaver” is an oral history of the Companion’s attack on Ice Wall Castle, and the Dragon Highlord who ruled it.
Raggart’s story emphasises the harshness of the landscape—fittingly, it sounds like the area is suitably arctic and miserable. The party are the people from the ‘hot lands’—four knights (Sturm, and the three from Tarsis—Derek, Aran, Brian), Laurana, Flint and Tas. The poem describes how they trudge across the frozen land, sneak into a tunnel under the castle and then fight a lot of minotaurs, bears, and Thanoi until they get to Feal-thas.
The Highlord and his army of wolves prove a tough fight, and two of the knights (Aran, Brian) die. Laurana, however, saves the day and ‘opened the throat of the wolf lord’. From there, the ‘rest is short in the telling’. The party smashes all the dragon eggs and kills all the baby dragons they can find. They go through a ‘terrible larder’ (perhaps best left to the imagination) and find a dragon orb.
In short: a double victory. One fewer Highlord. One more dragon orb. Sorry about the knights though.
And now we’re back in prose…
The party (sans two knights) is on a ship to Sancrist. Flint is unhappy, because if you’ll remember, one of his three defining characteristics is ‘seasickness’ (the other two are ‘dwarf’ and ‘old’). He and Tas do a bit of a Laurel and Hardy routine as the cheerful kender tries to perk up his old/dwarf/seasick friend, but mostly winds up aggravating him. Flint eventually throws soup at him. Hijinks!
For those that didn’t read the poem, the omniscient narrator drops in with a plot summary. As Raggart told us with his sick rhymes, the party had travelled to Ice Wall (off the back of Tas’s magical book-reading skills with his magic glasses), killed Feal-thas and snaffled a dragon orb.
The prose recap adds another scene—one that Raggart left out of his narrative. The party stumbled upon an entire dragon encased in ice. A silver one, at that—and one with a knight on its back, holding a broken lance. The party, especially the Knights of Solamnia, were baffled by the sight. Was it a knight turned to evil? Tas vaguely remembers seeing something similar (remember back in Pax Tharkas? Before Fizban mind-wiped him). Sturm remembers stories of Huma (of course), and how he rode a silver dragon..
This all leads to an argument between Derek and Sturm, the latest of many, we assume. Derek huffs off down the trail, but intrigued by Tas’s deju vu, the others stay behind and investigate further. Gilthanas (he’s there?!) climbs the ice and melts it with magic. The lance is held fast, but when Sturm reaches for it, it slides out easily. (Also reminiscent of Pax Tharkas, with Tanis and the sword of Kith-Kanan.)
Derek huffs back and wonders why the party is taking so long. Laurana explains that she asked Sturm to do this for her, and Derek huffs off again. He’s a jerk, but he clearly is constrained by some respect for chivalry or rank (it is unclear if Derek is blind-sided by the fact that she’s a woman or she’s a princess, but either way, he doesn’t have a go at her).
As the non-Solamnic members of the party kvetch about Derek, Sturm confesses that his earlier trip—before the books began—to Solamnia was unpleasant. The Knighthood was ‘rife with political intrigue’. Derek, he explains, was as good as it gets—strict, proud and condescending, but basically honorable. Worse—the whole legend of Huma was being ignored and belittled. No longer seen as a savior, Huma was being repainted as a ‘rogue knight’.
Still, now they have a broken lance! Laurana’s got it tucked away alongside the sword of Kith-Kanan (Tanis dropped it in Tarsis, what with the city collapsing around him) and the new dragon orb.
Flashbacks and recaps finished, we return to the ship. The party is off the coast of Southern Ergoth, not too far from Sancrist. The captain explains that, rumors have it, the island is filled with elves. He looks at Laurana for an explanation, but she’s as baffled as he is. Gilthanas and Sturm think it might be the Silvanesti, but they don’t know. And Sturm is too lovesick to think about it more.
While island-gazing, someone spots a fast-moving cloud behind the ship. But, as we know, there are no fast-moving clouds on Krynn. Only dragons…
Monster(s) of the Week
Minotaurs, ice bears, dragon eggs, wolves, Feal-thas: …poem monsters, so they barely count.
Thanoi = “Walrus-men.” Why, why, why didn’t we get more of them?!
Dragon, silver: The plot thickens!
Dragon, white: The plot… oh, I said that. More dragons!
“The old dwarf lay dying.”—I actually like the drama of the opening line, especially since it is immediately subverted into broad comedy. But after the ceaseless, nightmarish angst of the past few chapters, this joke works really well.
‘Feal-thas—a powerful Dragonlord’—I’m going to guess that ‘Dragonlord’ and ‘Dragon Highlord’ are the same thing, and this is just a typo that’s lived through the ages. The book has actually been very… understated… about introducing the revelation that there are multiple Highlords (and not just a succession plan of singular villains). If there’s a second sort of villain going on, that’s going to be really confusing.
“I feel as if a part of me’s been cut off.”—Sturm’s being cool again. It is nice when we get good Sturm, not racist/crazy Sturm. But here he’s explaining that, well, he’s lonely. His childhood dreams are being mocked, he’s basically ridiculed by the Knights and now he’s lost half his friends/adventuring companions. (Also, but not mentioned, the love of his life is an Elven princess who he knows he’ll never see again.) Sturm’s at a crossroads of sorts—on one hand, he believes in Huma and he believes in the idea of Knighthood. But in practice, he’s discovered that ‘even Raistlin’ has done more to ‘combat evil in the world’ than the Knights that exist right now.
In one sense, Sturm is the ultimate ‘joiner’. He’s basically desperate to get onto the Krynn football team and hang out with the other cool/rich kids and their cool/rich buddies. On the other, he’s just as lonely and sad as everyone else. The ‘secretly sensitive jock’ is just as much of an archetype as Tanis’s hipster angst and Raistlin’s outsider. It has just taken a little while to land…
As with so many things Dragonlance, I don’t love the poem as much as I love the idea of the poem. A bit like Sturm and the Knighthood, really. In execution: meh. I think it is weird that only Laurana is named (until the two knights that die) and Gilthanas is absent. There’s an odd sort of anachronistic knowledge as well, as the poet oscillates between faux-barbarian ignorance and 50-cent words. I don’t love most fantasy poetry, so perhaps I’m biased, but “Ice Reaver” isn’t the one to change my mind.
But, I do like how it works within the greater narrative. In three ways, really.
First, we’ve got a two page recap of a book-long dungeon crawl. And frankly, did we miss anything out? (Checks.) No. Not really. [I think we’re cheated a tiny bit on the Thanoi (they sound awesome) and the lives/deaths of Aran and Brian are pretty emotionally vacant. Losing two red-shirt Knights isn’t all that exciting. If we’d had a whole book to get to know them,… sure.] But this is a swift and concise way of getting across an entire adventure, without leaving us feeling too cheated.
Second, using Raggart’s point of view is a way of reminding us that our Heroes are, indeed, heroes. It is reminiscent of the scene in Autumn Twilight when we saw a fight from Tika’s point of view. 90% of the time, we’re watching the party closely, and they’re… well… floundering. They’re inept, emotional, reactive and seemingly useless. But when we step back a bit and watch through a third-party, we remember that they’re actually very, very good at what they do.
Third, Raggart is a nobody. An ‘Ice Barbarian’, which, a bit like the Que-Shu, feels almost embarrassingly dated at this point. But, as he points out, he’s ‘the one who brought them back’. The party wouldn’t exist without the (literal and metaphorical) sherpas that get them from place to place, guide them, feed them, heal them, hide them, equip them, get them information and generally make sure that they don’t have to do anything besides march and fight. Sometimes, like Elistan, Tika or Gilthanas, they’re promoted to Hero status, but most of the time, these are just random, beneficial encounters.
Two quick thoughts, related to nothing:
It is funny that Gilthanas isn’t in the poem, right?
Laurana has stepped up. Over and above the narrative cues (the only named party member in the poem), she’s taken over the Tanis role as confidante and emotional anchor. Everyone seems very happy deferring to her, and frankly, even this cynical reader is a little impressed.
And finally—I think there’s a lot to be said about the Knights and the broken lance and Sturm’s dreams, but my spidey-sense says we’ll be getting much more of them as well.
I’m sorry but what’s going on? I never thought I’d say this but I kinda miss Tanis and that lot now, because this lot are just a bit tedious in these chapters. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the poem’s telescoping of the events that passed, but I kept feeling like there was just too much of a shift in perspective—is this the first time we’ve been completely away from the main gang? And if so, are we expected to relate to this lot just as easily now that we’ve only got them? Of course, having said that, I totally agree with Jared that Laurana seems to really have stepped up and it’s great—I can finally start to relate to her a bit, now that she isn’t this spoilt princess whose only defining characteristic is pining for Tanis. Sure, she still loves and misses him but now she’s growing into her Elven warrior status—look at her go, tearing wolves throats out and all! I’m so glad she’s growing.
Not so much all the others, though. Flint very much remains grouchy, Sturm very much remains sad, Tas very much remains annoying etc. Sure, there’s this orb and this lance and that’s all well and good, but hey, where’s the action? Something’s very staid here, and I feel my interest flagging. I’m hoping things pick up in the next chapter, because there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong. I mean right. Or do I mean wrong?
And yes, the merely mentioning walrus-men is an awful tease—I’d really, really like to know more about them!
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.