Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DRAGONS OF THE HOURGLASS MAGE by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage is a 2009 Dragonlance novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It is Volume III of the Lost Chronicles series, and it relates what Raistlin was up to during the events of Dragons of Spring Dawning (1985). Raistlin travels to Neraka, where he pits various factions against each other to create intrigue and make himself a major player.

Just like the other novels in the Lost Chronicles series, this story is unnecessary. And it doesn’t give us enough to justify its existence. Nothing happens here that we didn’t know about and also need to know about. We don’t get a good exploration of Raistlin himself (trying to get inside his head, which this book doesn’t do a good job of anyway, just takes away from his mystique). Early, there’s what appears to be some clarification about the relationship between Raistlin and Fistandantilus, but by the end, it’s more muddled than when it began.

The book’s flaws are extensive. Supporting characters might as well have “supporting character” stamped on their foreheads. We get some truly ridiculous expository monologues from a number of characters. And quite a bit here breaks with events of older, better novels. As usual for a Wizards of the Coast book, the editing is sub-par. And the novel features an inexplicable epidemic of inappropriately used semicolons. But all that said, Dragons of the Hourglass Mage is still an enjoyable read, mostly because it’s just nice to see Raistlin again.

In a book full of “evil” characters, none of them seem particularly evil, and it feels like Raistlin is choosing not between the lesser of evils, but between “good” evil and “bad” evil, and that works about as well as it sounds. Raistlin himself is uncharacteristically good-natured here (while remaining somewhat abrasive). Throughout the Dragonlance books, Weis accomplished the difficult task of making an unapologetically self-serving and ruthless character sympathetic. But here, even with his political machinations, Raistlin is genuinely making friends and playing nice. That’s not the Raistlin people paid to see.

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage manages to be simultaneously enjoyable and disappointing (because Raistlin is such a great character – at least in other books), and it’s definitely for Dragonlance fans only.



Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a 2007 children’s illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney, and the first in the eponymous series. Greg Heffley, an awkward seventh grader, struggles to adapt to middle school and life in general. The book is presented as his journal.

Kinney’s illustrations, which appear on just about every page, are what make the book work. The characters are barely more than stick figures, but each is distinctly distinguishable from the rest. The pictures flesh out the book to a necessary degree, and contain much of the book’s humor.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is never particularly funny, although it’s just about always amusing enough to keep the pages turning. The book’s appeal to kids and adults comes primarily from its easy relatability. Just about everyone has experienced some of the awkward family, school and adolescent moments that Greg has.

Much has been made of how Diary of a Wimpy Kid is “realistic fiction.” And at its most realistic, the book is quite enjoyable. Yet Kinney often stretches beyond what could conceivably called realism in repeated attempts to make scenes funnier. This typically has the opposite effect – events are obviously contrived, the reader can no longer relate, and in these moments, the book falls flat (although this probably won’t bother kids much). In any event, the book is such a fast, disposable read that its flaws don’t matter a whole lot.

On the whole, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is mildly amusing for both kids and adults, and it’s something most anyone can relate to, at least a little bit.