Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Dragonstone Chapter 16

You know, if I were Dennis McKiernan's editor, this book would lose at least a third of its bulk. It is so padded you would think it was a training bra.

So we're told that it's July, meaning that probably all the Baeron are off speed-dating. Arin and her friends don't see any Baeron… and they don't see any Hidden Ones… which makes me wonder why we've even been told about the Baeron. It's almost like we're being pelted with filler material until we lapse into comas.

Hence only woodland birds and forest animals saw them passing through—or so it seemed—as they picked their way among the trees


So a week later, they end up on the plains of Riamon. And then it rains. And they spend more days riding along the mountains. And two more weeks pass. And I'm so bored my brains are officially melting. Why can't McKiernan just say that days passed and they ended up passing through forests and plains and mountains?!

And another fifteen days elapsed ere they came in mid of day to the village of Bridgeton, there where the Landover Road crossed over the Ironwater River.

Right across the valley from the Underhill Path That Isn't Quite A Road, and exactly two miles from the River Nobody Has Named Yet Because They Ran Out Of Cool Names.

all the way to Rhondor, a city in the foothills above the great basin known as Hèl's Crucible.

Wow, how much would it suck to live right next to a place called "Hel's Crucible"?

So for some reason Hel's Crucible is hot, dry and completely lifeless… even though it's a hundred MILES long and right up against the ocean. And no, it's not explained WHAT this place is or why it's such a hellhole. I guess we're just supposed to assume that the sites of Significant Ancient Battles must always be nasty.

Arin and her companions put up in the Red Goose in Bridgeton, in this traders' town, and rested the remainder of that day and all the next, replenishing their diminished supplies and enjoying as well hot baths and hot meals and cool ale and rich red wine . . . and sleeping on soft featherbeds.

… why the ellipses? Is it somehow surprising that they're going to enjoy sleeping on real beds?

And since Elves always have superhumanly awesome voices, they put on little musical shows at the inn.

it was well known that Elven songs and Elven singers were the best of them all... or so it was said.

… so is he implying that somebody better is out there? SACRILEGE!

I also sort of wonder how Elves are concentrated in this world. They apparently don't live anywhere except a small cluster of countries in the European region, instead of being pretty evenly spread across the planet. Everybody seems to have heard of them, but seeing them seems to be pretty rare. How many are there? Why are they European-only? I WOULD LIKE SOME ANSWERS, DAMMIT.

the tavern was packed to overflowing when the news spread that "Elves, real Elves, are singing in the Goose."

"And they brought Keebler cookies!"

And because I love you and McKiernan's editor doesn't, I'll skip most of the endless travelling details. There's a lot of geography in places that we can't really envision and don't care about. Also, the elves have been traveling for almost TWO MONTHS and are nowhere near Darda Vrka… which, I'll remind you, they're going to because the guy MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT have some answers for them. They're wasting a lot of time in a very tenuous "maybe."

she had had her vision on the first day of July, and now it was nearing September. She chafed at the pace she and her comrades maintained, yet they could go no faster for they had to spare the horses and mules.

Okay, I am going to be the soul of generosity here, and say that it's nice that unlike some other authors, McKiernan is aware that it takes more than a few days to go places, and that your horses can't go continuously all the time. It's a good piece of realism.

But it's also BORING. And it totally undermines the "apocalypse could literally start anytime now!" vibe he's going for. Couldn't he introduce a magical elf wormhole generator or something to keep us from dying of boredom? I know that's sort of a cheap plot device, and I made fun of that sort of thing in Dragonspell, but if the alternative is spending MONTHS riding at a leisurely pace across a whole continent, to have a conversation for a guy who may know absolutely nothing...

Actually, we don't even need an elf Stargate. McKiernan even points out that, Surely we could have reached Rwn ere now, but for the rovers' blockade. Damn the Kistani pirates! So basically he introduced a plot point to make his characters take the longest and least interesting route to wherever, instead of taking a quicker route. He's deliberately making this journey as long and boring as possible.


And just when we're about to lapse into comas because NOTHING IS GOING ON, McKiernan finally introduces us to the real reason for this otherwise-pointless chapter.

It was during these same two weeks that the autumnal equinox came and went,

FOR FUCK'S SAKE. That's another MONTH they've been traveling. The autumnal equinox comes in late September! TWO MONTHS of traveling just to quiz a guy who never leaves his woods about whether he knows the apocalypse is coming!

So what is so speshul about the equinox? Well, on the solstices and equinoxes, the Elves do a sort of line-dance to celebrate it, or something like that.

the Dylvana and Silverleaf solemnly paced out the Elven rite celebrating the harvest and the turning of the seasons.

First, they put on the clown shoes and hopped on one foot...

No, they basically walk around, singing.

Step... pause... shift... pause... turn... pause... step. Slowly, slowly, move and pause. Voices rising. Voices falling. Liquid notes,from the dawn of time. Harmony. Euphony. Step ... pause . . . step. Arin turning. Rissa turning. Darai passing. Alori pausing. Counterpoint. Descant. Step ... pause . . . step....

You know that quote about how "writing about music is like dancing about architecture"? That's what this scene makes me think of. Writing about some sort of ethereal ritual that involves… walking and singing… it just doesn't work. I'm just getting a string of words telling me what's going on, not a description that makes me FEEL anything.

The motif of the pattern they had paced had not been random, but had had a specific design, had had a specific purpose, yet what that purpose was and is, only the Elves could say.

… and which the author is never going to tell us.

So then Arin starts thinking about how much time they've spent going from Point A to Point B. And about two weeks later, they finally get to the Skög, which is… NOT THE FUCKING FOREST THEY'RE GOING TO. I'm sorry, weren't they supposed to be in a HURRY?! They ride for another week, and they FINALLY get to where they're going.

Led by Rissa, they had reached the Wolfwood at last, and somewhere within they hoped to find Dalavar the Mage.

HOPED to find. Yeah, they traveled for two months to POSSIBLY talk to a man who MIGHT know something about the apocalypse that MIGHT be coming… but on the other hand, he might not. And the world might end.

Can the plot please start now?

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