Thursday, October 1, 2009

"The Silver Dragon" by Elizabeth A. Lynn

"The Silver Dragon" reads a lot like an except from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. It's really more of a legend from the fantasy world Lynn has, and much less of a coherent story in itself. It overtly chronicles the life of "Iyadur Atani," the titular "Silver Dragon," who was a powerful lord in Lynn's world and a changeling that could take the form of a dragon, although the true locus of the story is Iyadur's wife, Joanna Torneo Atani. It follows the trials and tribulations of the couple over the years, and hits many of the stereotypical high fantasy plot points. For example, Johanna grows up strong-willed and learns sword fighting instead of traditional "womanly" pursuits. She pretends to be a messenger to get close to Iyadur, and tells him at their first meeting that they will marry. Later, when Joanna is kidnapped, Iyadur , must make a deal with a sorcerer to get her back, not realizing the true cost of his deal, etc, etc. . .

Now, I don't have problems with an author using standard fantasy plot points. Many of these kinds of points have been around since fantasy was called "romance" in the middle ages, or, even earlier, in the days of what we've come to call "epics" (back in their day, I'm sure they were just called "stories), which, to me, means that they have some sort of resonance with people. But it bothers me that Lynn doesn't really do anything original or interesting with these plot points. I basically knew where each one was going from the moment it began. Also the "chronicle" feel of the story makes it so that many or the characters seem very flat and uninteresting and two-dimensional. The "good guys" are good, the "bad guys" are bad, and everyone acts exactly as you'd expect. In the end, I just couldn't bring myself to care about anyone in the story or anything that happened to them.

You know what really bothers me, though, is that I can't kick the feeling that some of the characters in this story, if they had been given space to breathe and grow, could easily have been compelling. In the end, this short story feels like it should have been a novella or even a novel, if only to give the author more time to develop her characters so you cared about what happened to them.* As it is, it feels to me like I was only getting a sketch of the overall story. To me, this story could have been so much more.

*After a bit or research on Lynn's work, it does appear that the world this story is set in is the same world she uses for her most recent series of novels, which doesn't surprise me at all.

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