October 08, 2011
Dragon's Winter by Elizabeth Lynn
Two brothers are born in an event that will kill their mother. They are not any brothers though, but rather Dragon-born. One is a direct dragon, born to be able to shape shift into a dragon at will when he grows. The other, is normal. We aren't given much of their childhood and instead come to the future where Tenjiro Atani, the brother without the dragon shifting, is now a mage and arguing with his brother Karadur. In a well concealed plan, he steals his brother's talisman and takes off with it to the north, leaving Karadur unable to transfer into his dragon's form. Three years later, a new man comes to town. His name is Wolf and he is also a shapeshifter (guess what into) and he meets and marries a local woman and has a son. Over time, he becomes acquaintances with Karadur and is there when his brother starts creating war in the North. Wargs, hideous beasts who like to kill, come to the land and start slaughtering. Karadur becomes determined to kill his brother and stop the havoc that is being strewn about his land. The return of his lover Azil (who was kidnapped and tortured by Tenjiro) only further sets his mind to the path.
The characters in this book could have had potential but never were really fully described. The best of them in terms of detail, Wolf and his wife, didn't get to stick around long and so did not keep adding to the story. The rest of the characters there is never a connection or motivation behind their actions. Yes, we are told that Tenjiro is evil, but background would have helped us understand him more. The same applies to all of the other characters.
The writing was deplorable. It's as if Lynn had a bunch of ideas and just tossed them into a blender and made this book. It bounces around, changes ideas, and never finishes a thought before rushing on to the next. Those parts that do start to make sense are rushed and feel incomplete. There are technically five parts and an epilogue, but the fifth part and the epilogue were next to useless and felt like a short story added on to what should have been a completed novel. The most grievous thing of all to me was the language. I was incredulous when fifty pages to the end of the book, Karadur stops talking normally (as he does throughout the book) and starts using language like thee, thou, art and other old forms. This would normally be ok, but it needs to be consistent! People don't start talking different without good reason.
I can't say I'll be looking to read any of Lynn's work in the future. The fact that such a neat idea for a book was translated into this just made me a bit sad.