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Reviews of 'The Silver Stair'

The Silver Stair

by Jean Rabe
Bridges of Time, Volume 3

Reviews of 'The Silver Stair'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of The Silver Stair. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.

Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

My expectations for this novel were not very high, I must admit. Jean Rabe has disappointed me in the past, with Maquesta Kar-Thon and The Eve of the Maelstrom, but provided some good entertainment with The Dawning of a New Age and The Day of the Tempest. But the Chaos War and Bridges of Time series have held very high standards so far, except for the relatively large cheese factor in the otherwise very entertaining The Last Thane. And this one hasn't gotten very good reviews.

Contradictions abound. Mentioning the Knights of Takhisis as building the Sentinel in the War of the Lance is typical of one kind of mistake. Another is Gair (when he was a good elf) willing to kill a gnoll on sight after capture, despite the fact that elves revere all life. At the very least his willingness to kill should be commented upon as "unusual for elves" or something like that.

Much more common are the inconsistencies with Citadel of Light, the boxed set with a relatively detailed description of the Citadel's history and locations. The worst thing is it wouldn't have interfered much with the story if Jean Rabe had gotten these things straight. All that would have been needed is some minor tweaking. The only central plot point in the novel which interferes with Citadel of Light is the fact that the Citadel, according to Citadel of Light, had peace around the period where The Silver Stair is set.

OK, while the Bridges of Time series should tell a good story (and the two first did), I am also concerned about how the series introduces the Fifth Age. While the first two books did that quite well, The Silver Stair is not nearly as successful. It seems the author takes too much for granted that many readers may not. For both us readers and the people of Krynn, the loss of the gods and magic was devastating. Yet, although she tries to explain the nature of mysticism by describing how it is done and through Camilla's views that this new healing without gods is blasphemous, she writes like it is the most natural thing in the world. It is not. It is something new and hopeful in a world devoid, until now, of gods and magic.

The main character of this book, as I see it, is Gair. There is a rather interesting (if not wholly original) potential in his story, about the elf with existentialist troubles, you know, thinking about the possible existence after death and so on, and so he contacts the spirits of his family, whose death he partly blames himself for. He gets more obsessed with death and the dead, and ultimately calls upon lots of beings and summons wraiths and all that.

This could open up for some great characterization of a good guy's descent into darkness, but it was all wasted. First off, the premise could have been made more interesting if Gair was a former cleric of some god who started wondering about life after death in a world without gods. That would have made a more interesting character with existentialist problems than a guy who had his family slaughtered, and a twist to the philosophical problems clerics have been faced with in the aftermath of the Chaos War. It would also capture some of the questions we readers have about Fifth Age Krynn, and would present the new magic to novel readers in an interesting fashion with Gair discovering and using mysticism, then later trying to get in touch with the realm of the dead.

Also, Gair is in the novel described as a relatively good guy who is too fascinated with the dead to cease his attempts at contacting them, even though he knows Goldmoon disapproves. That was a good approach. However, the story took a ridiculous turn, ceasing all that seemed like real character development. Not only can't I believe that Gair actually thought that "Goldmoon would be glad" if he brought back Riverwind (how would she be glad when she disapproves of such actions?), but Gair undergoes this sudden transformation. One moment he is a fancily dressed, rich, basically good elf who is a bit too fascinated with the dead, and then I turn the page and he suddenly is the most evil of necromancers dressed in rags, planning to kill Goldmoon, destroy the Silver Stair and make all of Schallsea Island into a land of the dead. Simply by turning a page, a fairly interesting character suddenly had transformed into the most clichéd of fantasy bad guys. Worse, sometimes after this sudden personality change, he apparently "came to his senses" in a couple of glimpses, reflecting on all the evil he'd done. It was like he had been possessed by an evil soul, even though it was his own actions (but influenced by others, though.) Because of that it didn't make sense that he suddenly would be good for a moment or two.

Another thing that bugged me in this book was Orvago. Now why on Krynn was this character in the book? He didn't add anything useful that any other character couldn't have filled, it seemed to me that Jean Rabe wanted to put him in for no other reason than to go out of her way to introduce a rare creature we don't see much of in Dragonlance. He seemed out of place, and her keeping his race secret in the first chapter wasn't exciting. Another thing I didn't like was Jasper's flash-forward to The Dawn of a New Age at the top of the Silver Stair.

Ultimately, this book fails to achieve what the other Chaos War and Bridges of Time books have managed. It fails to introduce the Fifth Age, it fails to stay (for the most part) consistent with other Dragonlance material, it fails to present interesting and believable characters and it fails to tell a good story. That's too bad.

Review made on Friday June 18th, 1999 on the newsgroup

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