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Reviews of 'Dalamar the Dark'

Dalamar the Dark

by Nancy Varian Berberick
Classics, Volume 2

Reviews of 'Dalamar the Dark'

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Reviewer: Craig J. Ries

Rating: Stars

Well, overall, a good book. However, this book now needs a sequel to bring things "up to speed", as it were, in Dalamar's life. It ends with him becoming Raistlin's apprentice, but that's still 20-25 years before the Chaos War. Considering he had the Tower for 20 years by himself post-Legends, he had to have been up to something beyond the bits and pieces laid out in the short story "The Sacrifice" and references in The Puppet King.

As well, for not having taken the Test yet, his ability to master ancient rune languages is uncanny, and something I would think an untested mage would be able to do.

Another thing is that there was too much focus early on in the novel toward Alhana and Lorac and his use of the Dragon Orb. In the end, though, the use of Alhana and Porthios was nice, as was the mentions of Raistlin during the War of the Lance, as a sort of foreshadowing as to what would become of Dalamar.

As for that Ceremony of Darkness... if it gives glimpses of the future, you'd think somebody like Lorac would walk along and want to use it as well.

Again, good book, nice insight to Dalamar, but deserves a sequel. If it isn't going to get one, well, they should've had one book written spanning the whole time pre-War of the Lance to the Chaos War and beyond.

Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

The very talented Nancy Varian Berberick (henceforth NVB) was selected to tell the story of Krynn's most infamous dark elf, Dalamar the Dark. For those unfamiliar with the name of the author, her previous credits include Heroes Trilogy vol. 2, Stormblade and Chaos War Series vol. 3, Tears of the Night Sky with Linda P. Baker. She is also the authoress of several DL short stories, most recently "The Long Road Home" in Tales of the Fifth Age vol. 2, Heroes and Fools. She has proven herself time and again to be an exceptional DL author and one who never fails to capture the spirit of the world.

This book is no different. The book, as has been mentioned, chronicles the period of time from some of the earliest days of the War of the Lance through the initial stages of the Blue Lady's War. As the novel opens, Dalamar is being primed for his apprenticeship to Raistlin Majere after completing his first mission from the Conclave, a task that proves to be the climax of the tale. Dalamar recounts his life in the form of one big flashback just prior to his departure form Wayreth. From his humble beginnings as a member of House Servant, a source of constant irritation to his master, to his rise to a minor mage after convincing the Speaker of the Stars to break from tradition and use illusion magic (prohibited from practice as it is not sanctioned by Solinari's Order) to turn back the armies of Takhisis from the Silvanesti border. When the plan fails to reach complete success thanks to the dark wizard Tramd (o' the Dark), Lorac uses the dragon orb he "rescued" (read: stole) from the Tower of High Sorcery of Istar. The results we all know.

Dalamar travels to Southern Ergoth with the rest of his people. The book spends little time detailing his life here before the Silvanesti return home to begin combating the dream. Dalamar is discovered shortly after returning in his secret cave, swearing fealty to Nuitari, having realized the gods of the Silvanesti do not care enough for them. He is exiled as a dark elf and begins to travel Ansalon, accumulating magical power until he is finally summoned to Wayreth Forest. He arrives at the tower, takes his Test, and is then assigned to the destruction of Tramd o' the Dark by Ladonna herself. He and his current lover, White Robe wizardess Regene of Schallsea, travel to Karthay, and the story's culmination is found. The epilogue has us with Dalamar as he meets Raistlin Majere for the first time in the Tower of Palanthas.

This book was exquisite and, save for a few minor sticking points (see below), fits very well with what we know of Dalamar's past (not much) and the events of his time. NVB captured the elf's spirit as a character very well, and his degeneration from sardonic naysayer to full-fledged bastard is done with excellent process. Throughout the story, however, he remains the antihero he was meant to be, and at no time does the reader ever lose interest in him, which is the mark of an excellent story. The detail of the story is also done to a "T," as we get a good feel as to what Silvanesti forest is like, including all memories Dalamar has of it that we share in. In comparison, the description of the Nightmare Kingdom becomes stellar and paints a vivid picture.

Another excellent tidbit was during Dalamar's Circle of Darkness (trial to see if he must be cast out). During the time he spends in an enchanted room, events from his future flash before him, including his last known (to us) whereabouts, in the Rift, where he comes face-to-face with Chaos Himself! This adds a cool spin on one of Krynn's greatest mysteries at this point. Kudos to NVB on this one!

In all, the book plays out great as a telling of the elf's life story (or the significant portion thereof), and the reader is always kept guessing as to what's going on. If I were in Kirkus Reviews (which I'm not), I'd give it 4 stars (out of 5), for the magic of it. That missed star comes from a combination of factors already mentioned and the fact that, even though it is a great book and one in great demand, it is a story that had a known outcome. It was told very well, though. Good job Nance!

Now, the little flaws I picked up on. There weren't many, and I'm not talking grammatical stuff (of which there was very little, a vast improvement from the state of affairs to be seen in The Siege of Mt. Nevermind), but some concrete stuff that NVB was a bit off on:

1. The sole perpetrator of the attack on Silvanesti in DtD was the Red Wing. In actuality it was a combination of the Red and Green Dragonarmies.

2. The Red Dragon Highlord was always Verminaard, until his death at the hands of the Companions in 352 AC, at which point Ariakas seized control. Phair Caron would have worked better as the Green Dragon Highlord, as we have no idea who held the position prior to Toede.

3. A lot of attention was paid to Paladine (E'li) by the Silvanesti elves and, while he is an important god among their people, I think this is a bit much. The highest of all elven gods (at least among the "civilized elves") is Astarin (Branchala). His name should have been tossed around more frequently than E'li's.

4. Blade, Tramd's blue dragon, is slain by lightning bolts. Blue dragons, no matter where you go, are immune to electricity in all forms.

I may have missed one thing, but I don't think so. Cool connections I noticed:

1. Dalamar's trip to Southern Ergoth - this ties in to his possible cameo in the DL 15th.

2. The mentioning of the actual locations of the 5 towers- very cool.

3. Lord Konnal being Lord Garan's assistant - his brief appearances do justice to what we know about him.

Finally, here's some stuff I think would have been cool to see/could have been improved, IMO:

1. E'li and a couple other Silvanesti names for gods were used. However, I think if every god had been referenced by his/her Silvanesti name, it would have added a feel of culture to the book that would have been awesome.

2. Phair Caron's vendetta seemed kind of petty when it boiled right down to it. Because one elf had sneered at her when she was a child she hated the entire race and wanted to destroy them? Kind of sketchy.

3. Little to no mention of the sudden breaking of the treaty by the dragonarmies appeared. In the timeline, the armies are "flushed from victory" and turn south, skirmishing with the Silvanesti border before the all-out attack. This isn't mentioned, where it would have been really nice to see.

That's about it. All in all, as I said, 4/5 stars. Thanks Nancy!

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