I really wanted to like Song of the Dragon by Tracy Hickman. I was a big fan of the Dragonlance series and I was excited to read it, but I was terribly disappointed.
Drakis returns from the War of the Nineth Throne — the last of the great dwarven wars — with a prize for his elven master: a strange dwarven bard and a stone which the dwarf claims to be the greatest treasure of all the kingdoms. He hopes that this prize will win him his hearts desire: pairing with his beloved Mala, a human female slave in their master’s household.
But the dwarf tells Drakis that his life is a lie: that the elven devotions held each night hide from his mind every bad thing that happened to him during the day … and keeping him a contented slave forever. When Drakis is nearly beaten to death by his master and then suffers even worse abuse by his daughter — all predicted with horrifying accuracy by the dwarf — Drakis begins to question the very devotions that are at the heart of elven life. But it is only when the dwarf destroys the well of house magic that the spell collapses…
…And suddenly every slave in the household — from lowest cook to the trained warriors of the household cohort — suddenly REMEMBERS.
Thus begins the odyssey of Drakis, an escaped slave, who discovers that his name is at the heart of a prophesy that threatens the existence of the oppressive Rhonas Empire itself. Yet as destiny seems to close in on Drakis from every turn, he himself tries desperately to avoid fate.
In Song of the Dragon, the first 7 chapters are a running fight in the dark. There are a lot of strange names that are hard to pronounce, let alone keep straight. There is a lot of “Elven Hierarchical Structure” and Military Structure that is attempted to be explained. It doesn’t really make sense until you’re seeing it in action. There is a lot of flowery descriptions, but the story just drags until you get to points of conflict resolution. Nothing really happens until 1/4 of the way through, and even that just starts off another running fight. There is a lot of running. Things don’t get really interesting until people start questioning who this guy is and is he really the legendary hero, or does it even matter? Sadly that doesn’t actually come (outside of the Elven chapters) until almost 1/2 way through the book. By that point, I spent so much time and energy trying to get through this book, I was either going to pitch it in the fireplace or finish it. I’m really stubborn, but it did get set down, a lot. In my opinion, something I read on George R.R. Martin’s Not A Blog, about how working on scripts in Hollywood made him a better writer, could really help Hickman:
I hated to lose any good stuff — scenes, dialogue exchanges, bits of action — so instead I would go through the script trimming and tightening line by line and word by word, cutting out the fat and leaving the muscle.
I seriously think that if Hickman would do that to Song of the Dragon, he could cut down on the number of pages and have a better story.
The characters are fairly interesting. I like that Drakis doesn’t believe he’s the one the stories foretold, but somehow he keeps falling into the path. The others in his misfit band of not so merry men get confusing. I wish the names wouldn’t be so strange so I could keep them straight. The shapeshifter kept confusing me as to which character was which, as did the Lyric who didn’t know who she was. Mala was good. Well, she is all screwed up in the head, but that’s to be expected. Jugar was ok (I’d still like a name I could pronounce easily), but the dwarf was pretty much awesome. I enjoyed the twists at the “end”. I just wish the hook for the book was in the first 3 chapters, and not some long winded demonstration of why Elves are horrible and why he was running from them. I thought they could do that with a flashback or something.
In short, Song of the Dragon is too wordy, however the plot is interesting but slow. As for the next book in the series, I’ll be passing. I just wasn’t left with that “need to find out what happens next” that I’ve gotten in other series. I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn’t. So I decided that at the end of the journey, everything works out just fine: Drakis becomes king of the world, Mala gets the psycho therapy she needs, the Elves just give up and say we’re sorry, and Soen, the Elf hunting Drakis, goes into gardening instead.