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Reviews of 'Death March'

Death March

by Jean Rabe
The Stonetellers, Volume 2

Reviews of 'Death March'

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Reviewer: BeezerMN

Rating: Stars

Death March by Jean Rabe is the second novel in the Stonetellers trilogy set in the Dragonlance universe. The first novel is titled The Rebellion and the third, and final novel, is titled Goblin Nation and is scheduled for release in August, 2009. I have long been a fan of Ms. Rabe's writing, however, when I read The Rebellion I thought it was below Ms. Rabe's normally high writing standards. Here are my thoughts on this novel.

The plot picks right up where the first book left off. That being the goblin horde is marching toward it's ultimate destination, the Qualinesti forest where they can begin a new life out of slavery. On the surface the actual 'main' plot of this book, the march, is very linear. As a result of this linear plot, at times, it is hard to really get into the plot and story of what the goblins are going through. Ms. Rabe attempts to insert several sub plots that are more character focused. This mixture of plot and sub plots seems unbalanced and, at times, the overall presentation of the novel suffers for it. To me, there seemed to be a disconnect between the action of the novel and all the little sub plots. With the amount of action in the first novel, I was expecting more action than what is present. Some of the sub plots are decent such as; Mudwort's delving into the earth, the political infighting among a few of the goblins, and the combining of magic to enhance spells. However, in the grand scheme of the plot – these sub plots don't add much depth to the overall story. While each piece is decent, taken as a whole it never really grabbed my entire interest forcing me to keep wanting to read the next page.

The characters are largely the same as the first book with, of course, the addition of several others. Some of the returning characters are; Grallik, Kenosh, and Horace from the Dark Knights; Direfang, Mudwort, Saro-Saro, amd Graytoes from the goblins. Unlike the first novel, I found I had an easier time connection with the characters in this novel. While I by no means think they are the most memorable characters I have ever read, there were things about them that drew me in. Hopefully, this trend continues in the third book and I like the characters more and more. There were things such as Direfang's internal struggle, Graytoe's depression and sorrow, and Grallik's questioning of his god. There is also a decent amount of character development sprinkled in. It was nice to see Direfang's struggles, Grallik's flaws and doubts, and the Graytoe's angle was a refreshing deviation from the 'normal' sub plots fantasy readers often see. However, the scenes involving Bera seemed out of place in the novel. They just never worked for me. Overall, for me, the characters were decent but they still don't quite reach the level I was expecting from Ms. Rabe, especially after the Dhamon saga.

Some criticisms about this novel:

1 – While this is a book about goblins, there seem to be few cues during the book to remind the reader it is about goblins. What I mean by this is the last book I reviewed, Doom of Kings, is also about goblins and the author of that one has goblin's ears twitching at times to show emotions. That level of writing is just not present in this book.

2 – The lack of action. I understand that this book is about a march to freedom so to speak, but that plot arc can only remain interesting for so long. I would have liked to see it changed up a little more.

3 – At times there seemed to be a lack of descriptions. Some scenes I had no trouble at all visualizing what Ms. Rabe wanted me to see, yet there were other scenes where I had a little difficulty understanding where things were and what they looked like.

Some positives about this novel:

1 – I enjoyed the characters more in this novel than I did in the previous novel. There was more of a 'real' element to them and they didn't feel as though they were being dragged through the story. They felt more involved in the pieces of the story.

2 – I also like how Ms. Rabe blurs the lines of magic in this novel. Perceptive readers will see that the spells being worked are a mixture of clerical, druid, and magic. It's interesting to try and pinpoint who is casting what and just what ramifications that means to the character.

3 – I like how Ms. Rabe handles the 'incident' that the goblins find themselves in after the dwarven village. Sorry I can't be more specific on that, but it would be a huge spoiler. Suffice it to say that I thought it was an interesting wrench to throw into their plans and I liked how it was handled throughout the novel.

This has been a hard book for me to rate. On one hand, I enjoyed it more than I did the first novel. However, after reading Doom of Kings (another goblin novel) I can see where there are some things missing that don't give it the depth of the other novel. In the end I would say this book garners a three start rating. I think the third book in the trilogy will have a great deal of culmination in it and many questions will be answered, but in the end this is just an average novel for me. I do think fans of the Dragonlance universe should most certainly read it because of the things that will likely transpire in the next novel. The more I think about it, the more interested I am in the next novel. We'll see where it ends up though. All in all, a decent novel with a few minor flaws.

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