Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last week our party secured passage on a ship, but before they could leave town, Tannis found himself in some trouble thanks to his Highlord disguise. Luckily, Kitiara made a timely entrance and saved the day!
“Tanis captured.” and “The High Clerist’s Tower. The knighting.”
Well, that’s a turn of events!
We pick up right after the close of last week’s chapters. Kitiara, having just saved Tanis from enskewering, thinks the situation is hilarious. Kit (mind if I call her Kit? I feel we can be friends) laughs about needing to review her troops a bit more often, and leads through town.
Tanis is a hot mess. He’s half caught in the past—remembering all the things that they did together (winkity nudge)—and half caught in the present, leering at her legs. Kit’s enjoying his discomfort, giving him a bit of a wink, and even going in for a kiss—in the middle of the street.
Tanis says no to the PDA, which peeves Kit, but she marches them to the finest inn in town and parks them in her room. Tanis is way out of his depth, and has no idea what to do, but his, um, body does. While Kit chats at him (trying to catch up?), he ignores her and continues leering. He knows this is a really, really bad idea, but,… whatever.
CURTAIN (snarky aside from innkeeper about how Kit’s had three men in three days. GO KIT, is what I say. Don’t you slut-shame my favourite highlord!)
Post-bliss, there’s a bit of chit-chat:
Kit likes Tanis’ beard (eh).
Tanis tells some lies about being separated from the others, and captured—and converted—by the Highlord forces.
Kit says Raistlin won’t last long as a Red Robe; he’s too ambitious.
Kit mentions the Green Gemstone Man (Berem, remember?) and Tanis, being Krynn’s worst liar, is like “ZOMG I KNOW HIM”. Kit is all over him like ‘hot and moist’ glue, telling him that if he knows where Berem is, they could be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams. Rule the world, be together, ‘beautiful… desirable…’, etc. etc. etc.
He resists the urge to turn traitor right there, and convinces Kit to wait until the morning. With…
Meanwhile, in Solamnia, people aren’t having sex.
In fact, they’re not having fun at all. The Highlord’s armies are on the verge of taking the entirety of the region. The only thing guarding the “soft” capital city of Palanthas is the Tower of the High Clerist. The Tower blocks on the only pass in the mountains ringing the city, and right now, the Tower is full of knights.
And around the Tower? Lots and lots of bad guys. The Highlord—“The Dark Lady”—is off on a mysterious errand to the East (hmm, I wonder who she is?). Her young commander, Bakaris, sits in command instead. And he followers her orders: not to attack the Knights, but to cut them off, and watch them starve.
The Knights aren’t doing well. Derek and Sturm don’t get along at all. Derek’s arrogance alienated the (already twitchy) people of Palanthas. Meanwhile, Sturm’s own men are becoming fanatically loyal—and Sturm is incapable of not arguing with Derek. As a result, the Knights are basically a camp of two factions. With little food, a lot of enemies, and some seriously fraying tempers.
The third commander (remember Lord Alfred? He’s kind of forgettable) tries to make peace between the two factions, but fears it is too late. He’s also afraid that Derek is going insane—but there’s nothing he can do, because the Measure prohibits it. Lord Alfred presides over Sturm’s Knighthood ceremony, but, to his horror, Derek doesn’t even bother turning up. Still, it goes well. Alfred shares that Sturm has been vindicated (yay!), and he’s escorted down the aisle (so to speak) by his friends Laurana, Flint and Tasslehoff.
Laurana’s glad to be there—not just to help Sturm, but because she’s brought a wagon of dragonlances and a stack of supplies from Palanthas. But the journey to the Tower was hard, and winter has now come. Laurana’s supplies are the last that the Knights will receive. The lances, Lord Alfred points out, are meaningless—they won’t be fighting dragons; the Highlord can merely starve them out.
We end these chapters with the rather evocative image of the Dragonlances: neglected in the courtyard, being slowly covered in snow.
“The gleaming night-blue dragon-scale armor of the Highlords suited her well, Tanis caught himself thinking. It was tight-fitting, emphasizing the curves of her long legs.”
WORST. ARMOR. EVER.
“He had forgotten how lovely she was, how sensual, inviting.” Etc. etc.
Oh give me a break.
“Besides Sturm walked an elven woman, her beauty shining in the bleakness of the day like the sun dawning in the spring.”
Ok, if intentional, that’s a heavy-handed metaphor (pls see title of book). If unintentional, good lord. I’m so tired of beautiful women that I may have cheered when Bakaris was described as “handsome” twice in a single paragraph.
“The dragonlances lay in the courtyard, unused, forgotten, their bright silver buried beneath the snow.”
This chapter doesn’t have the best writing (repetition, argh), but this final line is brutal. What have we been fighting for, if not for the chance these weapons give us? And yet,… all for naught. NADIR!
Monster(s) of the Week
A cameo by Skie, Kitiara’s blue dragon. (Remember him from the hot springs?)
Troops of draconians, goblins, hobgoblins and ogres—all in the dragonarmies.
That’s quite fun! Fun-fact, the ogres of Krynn are super-complex. Well, for ogres. There are good ogres (the Irda, who are sort of a combination of super-elf and shape-changing fey) and the bad ogres (these).
Ok, easy bit first—the Knights!
This is tense, right? I’m a huge fan of siegeporn in all of its many forms—I like a tale of struggling, overwhelmed defenders, heroically stemming the vast tide of evil. And this is shaping up to be a good one—they’re starved, surrounded, divided and overwhelmed. Yet we can also see tiny, tiny glimmers of hope. What if Palanthas gets its act in gear and helps out? What if Derek recovers (or, you know, disappears)? What about the Dragonlances? Plus, Kit’s left her army in the hands of a young, ambitious commander—so who knows what this second-tier evil might do in her absence. OR maybe she comes back and saves the day herself? Etc. etc. etc.
But all those glimmers aside, things really are very, very bleak. Pretty much what you’d expect at the 85% point of the middle book in a trilogy, right?
And… enough about everyone that’s not Kitiara. Let’s talk about her, shall we? And, boy, this is going to be awkward.
First, in a book where everyone is &$%^ing beautiful, she’s the only one that’s overtly sexualised. Tika flirts, she dances (sigh), she stirs Caramon’s manly fires—but she’s also very much a virgin (thanks to one of the book’s most awkward conversations), to be protected. Goldmoon is the most beautiful woman that the world has ever known; will ever know; etc, but she’s completely remote (possibly because she doesn’t get lines). Laurana’s still coming of age, and is still described as a ‘girl’ half the time. If, you know, beautiful.
Whereas Kitiara… here we’ve got someone that’s sweaty, smoothing her hair, taking her boots off (!?), ‘sensual’, ‘inviting’, ‘warm and womanly’, etc. etc. She’s also identified immediately as someone that has had sex. Tanis has all sorts of explicitly feisty memories of their times together—unlike, say, the innocent flirtation of his youth (Laurana).
On one hand, holy bucket of awesome, Kit! No wonder pre-teens (and teens)—boys and girls—stumbling into fantasy find her to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. She’s got a different man every night! She’s got ladyparts! She does things with boys! She does things with Tanis (which means we can all hope, right?)! She’s on the side of evil, but in a sort of… badass, carefree way. She may be bad news, but we’ve got to have her.
On the other hand, we’re still in 1980s fantasy, and it is easy to see how her sexual freedom is frowned upon by the greater narrative. She’s slut-shamed by the innkeeper who rolls his NPC eyes at her antics.The narrative isn’t any kinder, implying that she’s promoted her second-in-command, Bakaris, solely because he’s handsome. (And makes the same offer to Tanis.) Tanis gets into bed as a moment of weakness, of ‘human longing’—Kit’s the one that really wants it. She’s “man-crazy”, and talks about how she’d kill anyone who dared to refuse her appetites. She may be the greatest of all the Dark Queen’s Highlords, but she’s really ruled by her hormones. Silly rabbit.
Ultimately, the truth of Kitiara is somewhere in the middle, and that’s what makes her the book’s best character. Even in a single chapter, we can see that her appetites—lust, greed, ambition—and implied, corresponding lack of loyalty or morality—are what define her. She’s not involved in this celestial Game of Thrones, she’s out solely for herself, getting the things that she wants, for her. And, for good or evil, she’s confident, exciting and fun—happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way. She’s utterly devoid of the angst or self-doubt that riddles all the other characters, and, even if she’s on Team Evil, I’m on #TeamKit.
Another recap and another week of me wanting to just shout ‘Ditto! Ditto!’ at all of Jared’s thoughts. Of course, since everything’s coming up Kitiara, I’m sure I can manage a few raves of my own.
How amazing is Kitiara?! Makes me wonder why I was every #TeamRaistlin when his older sister is just clearly so, so much cooler. I was probably just as confused by her and in awe of her as anyone else was as a teenager—do we want to be her bffs? Do we want to be her? Do we just want her?! It’s so confusing. She is, though, fierce in every way and of course turning her lovelight on—what’s Tanis supposed to do to keep from going under?
(Okay, that said and done, my god, once more with feeling: why is every woman in these books drop dead gorgeous? Where are all the average women, getting facials so they can be as glowy as Kit? I want a word with them. I’m pretty sure they could help with those ignored dragonlances, for one. Take them in out of the cold or get the men to pay attention to them, maybe?)
Regardless, Jared’s spot on about Kit’s sexualisation—or shall we say fetishisation? And yes, it’s all left somewhere in the middle—she’s not one of the good guys, but we know she’s not one of the bad ones either. She compares herself to her power-hungry brother Raistlin and we know Raistlin is shady, right? Anyway, what we’re seeing as pretty great right now (her having all this sexual agency, her sheer disregard for societal propriety, her utter joy in everything she’s doing, whether it be leading draconians, having sex, flying on dragons), and have you noticed how much she laughs? When was the last time someone—especially a woman—laughed so freely, so joyously? Honestly, I’m half in love with Kit all over again just because she’s not sad all the time. Sometimes that’s enough.
Also, she wears blue silken hose under the boots. I don’t know how on earth she sources hose in this terrible time of war (and wow—they have hose?), but hey, girlfriend’s got game.
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.