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 Dragonwall - Question for you scribes
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 29 Jun 2011 :  19:34:03  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I just finished Dragonwall for the first time.

A decent book, but I had a problem with the plot that maybe I missed and is explained and you guys know the answer to, so help a fellow Empire Trilogy lover out.

***SPOILER***


For all we know of the Tuigian leader, he hates spies. He loves warfare and honor. He didn't until just before the events of Dragonwall have any idea the Shou Lung Emperor wanted him dead, nor any particular beef with Shou Lung. He does not speak the Shou language, and the Dragonwall has been up to this point impossible to breach for hundreds of years.

And yet, suddenly, quite early in Dragonwall, he has a very high ranking spy as a Mandarin in the Imperial Court, that is loyal to him risking her death and high ranking great life in the Summer Palace. Now we are told she is "ambitious" but is it ambitious to throw your loyalty and life away (which she did) to an unwashed barbarian leader risking everything to do so?

Was there a passage explaining how/why she made contact with the horde and offered to be the spy??? And how they spoke to her? How many of the horde spoke Shou besides Koja, anyway?

To me, it was just contrivance that was never explained in order to kill Wu so that Batu would defect and be available to participate in the 3rd book, which was already planned.

I didn't care for that at all, and it doesn't make sense to me. I hate contrivance.

BUT---please let me know, because I could have missed out on where in the book all this was explained.




GMWestermeyer
Learned Scribe

USA
215 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2011 :  04:40:59  Show Profile  Visit GMWestermeyer's Homepage Send GMWestermeyer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I just finished Dragonwall for the first time.

A decent book, but I had a problem with the plot that maybe I missed and is explained and you guys know the answer to, so help a fellow Empire Trilogy lover out.

***SPOILER***


For all we know of the Tuigian leader, he hates spies. He loves warfare and honor. He didn't until just before the events of Dragonwall have any idea the Shou Lung Emperor wanted him dead, nor any particular beef with Shou Lung. He does not speak the Shou language, and the Dragonwall has been up to this point impossible to breach for hundreds of years.

And yet, suddenly, quite early in Dragonwall, he has a very high ranking spy as a Mandarin in the Imperial Court, that is loyal to him risking her death and high ranking great life in the Summer Palace. Now we are told she is "ambitious" but is it ambitious to throw your loyalty and life away (which she did) to an unwashed barbarian leader risking everything to do so?

Was there a passage explaining how/why she made contact with the horde and offered to be the spy??? And how they spoke to her? How many of the horde spoke Shou besides Koja, anyway?

To me, it was just contrivance that was never explained in order to kill Wu so that Batu would defect and be available to participate in the 3rd book, which was already planned.

I didn't care for that at all, and it doesn't make sense to me. I hate contrivance.

BUT---please let me know, because I could have missed out on where in the book all this was explained.




I like that book quite a bit, it's the only FR book by that author that is worth much of a damn, IIRC, but its been years since I read it.

But, I think she wasn't a spy for the Horde rather, she was part of a faction that included several other Mandarins that intended to use the Horde to advance thier own, internal politics. Which is in fact pretty accurate to Chinese internal politics at the time, I believe.

"Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that is even remotely true."
Homer Simpson, _The Simspons_
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Lord Karsus
Great Reader

USA
3230 Posts

Posted - 30 Jun 2011 :  18:08:37  Show Profile  Send Lord Karsus an AOL message Send Lord Karsus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GMWestermeyer

But, I think she wasn't a spy for the Horde rather, she was part of a faction that included several other Mandarins that intended to use the Horde to advance thier own, internal politics. Which is in fact pretty accurate to Chinese internal politics at the time, I believe.


-Exactly this. Mandarins, stereotypically, are supposed to be shady bastards who outwardly serve the Emperor while advancing their own hidden agendas. In this case, the Ministers who betrayed the Emperor of Shou Lung were not doing so because they had any particular allegiance to Yamun, but because they felt they would benefit politically from the arrangement.

-As for speaking Shou, we can look to actual Mongolian history. The Mongols, as they swept through Inner Asia and the Middle East, took plenty of "hostages". Muslim merchants were particularly known to have been of use to them, because they were merchants who knew the land, the people, and the language. Getting back to Abeir-Toril, it would make sense that the Horde utilized the more educated people of Khazari- many of whom, it is likely, had a passing knowledge of the Shou language, given Khazari's important place on the Golden Way- to serve as translators, culturally and linguistically, among other things.

(A Tri-Partite Arcanist Who Has Forgotten More Than Most Will Ever Know)

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 05 Jul 2011 :  22:36:49  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks for your answers guys.

I don't buy it tho. I agree that both the Mandarins are shifty, sneaky and trying to get ahead AND that the Tuigian would capture and try to use Khazari to learn Shou (especially with Koja's urging as he did when they captured Manass to not just destroy Khazari but to govern it).

Those points are fine and I agree.

What I don't agree with are 1) that the shifty Manadarins would try to get power by siding with the Barbarians. And the woman (name escapes me) was actively sending Yamun information and trying to give him the location of the armies, which would make the Shou lose the war.

It would make sense if the evil general (with the regeneration magic) and the woman who kiled Wu would plot together against the Emperor so that they could become Emperor...but they don't know the Barbarian leader from a hole in the ground and would have no real way to know if he would be receptive to spies or anything (he wouldn't). Why would they want to work with the barbarians given their upbringing as Shou royalty? I get wanting to overthrow the Emperor and gain more of their own power in the court, but destroying Shou Lung in the process is not understandable by anyone but a nihilist..which these characters are not.

EVEN given that however, 2) the more baffling thing is that the Yamun DETESTS spies and traitors and treachery and values honor above all else. There is no way he would deal with someone defecting to his side while spying/pretending to be loyal to the enemy from within from all his actions in both books 1 and 2. It makes no sense to me and the author didn't even TRY to explain this.

I was hoping he tried and I just missed the passage, but I see he did not.

Edited by - Seravin on 05 Jul 2011 22:45:33
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Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3085 Posts

Posted - 24 Aug 2011 :  20:35:25  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wow its been about 15 years since i read the Empire Trilogy, but this thread makes me want to read it again :)

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 24 Aug 2011 :  23:45:13  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You should! They are an amazing trilogy! Very well written all three books!
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Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3085 Posts

Posted - 24 Aug 2011 :  23:59:31  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

You should! They are an amazing trilogy! Very well written all three books!



I probably will, but i just got back into reading the Realms books again and want to catch up on some of the newer trilogies. I am reading The Haunted Land trilogy now and i love it.

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

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Dark Wizard
Senior Scribe

USA
830 Posts

Posted - 28 Aug 2011 :  01:48:09  Show Profile Send Dark Wizard a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Spoiler alert, but minor because these books are over twenty years old.

I liked the trilogy for what it was. The first book I felt was the strongest, especially in terms of plots and characters. It was a good introduction of Koja and Yamun. His traitorous friend was a suitable and logical threat. Good conflict and tension all around.

The second did its job. It was a fun read with a few good moments, but overall the plot was weaker. A few things did bother me, like the villains motivation and the bland, often stereotyped characters. I watch a lot of imported period dramas, imperial court intrigue is a fascinating plot thread. Usually ministers would scheme together against another faction of ministers, sometimes the groups are aligned with various alternate heirs (sons, brothers or uncles of the emperor), the dowager empress, the crowned empress, and various concubines and eunuchs. Foreign help is used as another tool. The ultimate goal is ascension of one faction's leader or puppet to the throne. The barbarians winning is never the goal, unless the sitting dynasty is an utter failure and society is on the verge of collapse (that has happened). In Dragonwall, the mandarins seemed to scheme for the sake of scheming.

I also didn't like how they overdid the callous imperial vibe of the empire and the emperor himself. The whole affair seemed like it took place in Tu Lung instead with a blind stooge on the throne and comically excessively corrupt ministers. Honestly, Batu having nothing left in Shou Lung (not to mention betray at an imperial level) and finding new employ with Yamun should have led the Tuigan back with reinforcements to finish what they started. Nothing in Shou Lung could have stopped them, since Batu was the only competent general they had.

Book 3 also did it's job, but felt rushed or too short to accomplish what it tried to do. The whole subplot with Razor John was rather pointless. That character needed development (which might have been there, but felt edited out). Yamun as the villain was underutilized, as were the Thayvians. Batu committing suicide felt out of place. If he should have considered suicide, it would have been soon after hearing of the death of his entire family. This is another stereotype of random suicidal tendencies in pseudo-Oriental fantasy characters. The portions with Azoun, Vanderdahast, and Alusair were good.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
975 Posts

Posted - 28 Aug 2011 :  04:45:35  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good review, Dark Wizard. I like your POV.

There's a supplement from 2nd Edition that talks a lot of how Rasheman fought back the Horde and dealt them massive defeats (and Thay) that isn't really touched on in the 3rd book, and it is sort of important I think.

I did like Azoun, Vangy, Alusair and their storyline best too I think. After playing Curse of the Azure Bonds as a kid I always wanted to know what happened to the run away princess.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
32468 Posts

Posted - 28 Aug 2011 :  21:54:06  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dark Wizard

The whole subplot with Razor John was rather pointless.


I actually liked that subplot -- to me, it made the story feel more realistic, by having the man-on-the-ground perspective in addition to the view from the top.

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Dark Wizard
Senior Scribe

USA
830 Posts

Posted - 29 Aug 2011 :  00:33:44  Show Profile Send Dark Wizard a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I understood the purpose of the character's sub-plot and definitely agree it was useful and even necessary for the book. I just didn't personally connect with that particular story component and that type of sub-plot thrives on the reader connecting with it. Don't get me wrong, I like what I read of the character, I just felt there should have been more scenes and focus on Razor John since the book invested a decent amount of pages to him.

The length of the book was likely preset and it was either more of Razor John or more of Azoun/Alusair. In which case, the author made the best balance given the space allotted.
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Artemas Entreri
Great Reader

USA
3085 Posts

Posted - 29 Aug 2011 :  14:10:12  Show Profile Send Artemas Entreri a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Dark Wizard

I understood the purpose of the character's sub-plot and definitely agree it was useful and even necessary for the book. I just didn't personally connect with that particular story component and that type of sub-plot thrives on the reader connecting with it. Don't get me wrong, I like what I read of the character, I just felt there should have been more scenes and focus on Razor John since the book invested a decent amount of pages to him.

The length of the book was likely preset and it was either more of Razor John or more of Azoun/Alusair. In which case, the author made the best balance given the space allotted.



You are probably correct on this. I think 95% of the Realms books back then fell between 300-315 pages long.

Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way. -Steve Martin

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