Elizabeth A. Lynn, |
(Tor, 2003; Berkley, 2004)
Elizabeth A. Lynn is certainly one of the writers in fantasy from whom we do not hear nearly enough. Her latest novel, Dragon's Treasure, displays her growing virtuosity as a writer and is, like her other novels, poetic, understated and tough.
This is the second installment in what one hopes will be at the very least a trilogy, a sequel to Dragon's Winter which marked the introduction of Karadur Atani, the Dragon of Dragon's Keep. The story is so simple as to be almost proof against summary: it is really the story of the growing love between Karadur and Maia diSorvino, who, after Karadur destroys her grandfather and his henchman -- and their homestead -- for banditry, becomes an herbalist living alone in the woods, toward whom Karadur displays a growing attachment. Woven into this simple tale are the stories of Treion, Maia's half brother (and, as we know from a prologue, Karadur's as well); Shem Wolfson, a changeling who early displays a talent for finding things, including people, even if they don't want to be found; Marion diSorvino, Maia's estranged father and a man of great ego and little principle, irked because the dragon has been awarded justice over Treion when diSorvino felt that justice was his; Azil Aumson, a singer and Karadur's lover of long standing; and a fully realized cast of secondary characters.
This is a deceptive book: it seems very brief, but at over 300 pages one cannot really say that. And, in spite of its understated narrative, it is very rich -- Lynn has a distinct talent for sketching in details in such a way as to paint a vivid picture with the most frugal means. Characters are equally economical in their presentation, but in spite of the distanced narrative, take on a breathing reality -- it is very easy to grow passionate about these people, and to care deeply about the events in their lives. She also manages to make characters like Karadur and Shem, with their nonhuman aspects, perfectly believable. (This extends to the universe Lynn has created; one thing that struck me is the names, which seem to derive equally from Italian, Japanese, Finnish and early Anglo-Saxon origins, and somehow Lynn weaves them all into a unified world.)
This is seemingly a loosely structured book, in a way that only the most capable writer should attempt -- while there is a narrative story line, there is also a strong element of episode, discrete minor narratives that, in spite of their seeming irrelevance to each other, all work together to paint a fascinating picture and guide the reader along in a story that one realizes has amazing depth and breadth. (I have to add that I do appreciate it when a writer leaves something for me to do, and Lynn allows plenty of room for my own imagination to come into play, subtly guided by her deftly rendered cues.)
My only complaint, and I'm not even sure it is a complaint, is that the story does not end so much as pause: there is more to come. (There had better be, or Lynn and/or her publisher can look for massive protest marches arriving on their doorsteps. ... One can only wonder if perhaps the continuation is not already written and the publisher, due to a streak of sadism, is waiting to release it.)
All I can finally say is, "What an amazing book!" It is really one of the finest fantasies I've read lately, on all levels, and if you are familiar with Lynn's work, grab the first copy you can lay hands on. If you're not familiar with her writing, I would advise reading Dragon's Winter first, not only for the background, but because that way you get twice the pleasure. (And, in case you were wondering, yes, I loved it.)