[DWJ] Dragonhaven

Ros rosgross at bigpond.net.au
Wed Dec 24 07:51:56 EST 2008

I recently read _Dragonhaven_ and had something of a love-hate relationship
with it. 

What I loved: the portrayal of the baby dragon, the attempt to come to grips
with the alien species concept, the communication and whole dragon language

What annoyed me: the voice of the protagonist, which didn't always ring true
to me as that of a teenage boy and which sometimes just plain irritated me. 
McKinley seems to be too obviously reaching for that voice somehow. I guess
I liked the ideas behind the book, and the concreteness of vividness of the
recounted - it had a strong emotional punch and some scenes have stayed with
me - but I didn't always enjoy the reading of it. Hard to explain. 
I guess it isn't *really* a love-hate relationship - I loved parts of it and
aspects of it but 'hate' would be far too strong to express my reservations
- but the 
experience of reading it was somewhat ambivalent. I didn't have that
reaction at all with _Sunshine_, which I loved. 

My Best of 2008 list will be coming soon...


-----Original Message-----
From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net] On Behalf Of
Elizabeth Parks
Sent: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 5:50 AM
To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion
Subject: Re: [DWJ] Best of 2008

I, too, enjoyed Dragonhaven, though I can easily understand why people
would be disappointed.  I wasn't really expecting to enjoy it, as I
disliked _Sunshine_ intensely, because it was frenetic and
self-occupied and I disliked the narrator as a person, thought there
was little to the vampire character, was frustrated by all the
unanswered questions, and was also frustrated by my inability to argue
back.  Dragonhaven had the same frenetic, overdetailed tone to it, but
somehow the flaws in it, for the most part, seemed like the
character's flaws to me.  This was someone who didn't know how to tell
this story, someone who was kind of isolated and didn't like people or
talking, who lived in a world that was cut off from nearly everything
else, was totally self-obsessed and knew it.  There are a lot of
things I would have liked to be different in Dragonhaven, but I
enjoyed it.  And then tried to read Sunshine again, and couldn't
finish it (I've started it at least three times, and finished it only
once.  But then, I don't really like vampire fiction, so. . . ).

Too, there is a strange lack of visual elements to McKinley's work,
especially in first person.  I noticed this in Dragonhaven when Jake
is discussing dragon language, and describes the word "rock" as kind
of a red feeling in your feet (iirc), which incidentally is not where
"rock" is in my body sense of it.  McKinley uses more feeling than
vision--think Con in Sunshine's description of vampires being able to
sense people based on changes in the environment rather than distance.
 I come out of her (first person) books with a visual sense of her
worlds that is closer to infared than normal vision.  She could write
a book about a blind character and I would not notice any particular
difference in the feel of the book.  I do think part of it could be
summarized as showing vs. telling: Chalice, while feeling brief, also
just felt better thought out in some ways than Dragonhaven.  It was
calmer, and more distant, and the characters were more complete, as
opposed to having one very developed character and half a dozen
characters who the reader only kind of knows.

On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 11:09 AM,  <jenne at fiedlerfamily.net> wrote:

>> I loved Spindles End and liked Sunshine even though the narrator does
>> to carry on a bit, but the narrator of Dragonhaven is incredibly verbose
>> and
>> mostly has nothing to say. The problem that drives the plot is extremely
>> farfetched AND badly explained, and each plot development is visible
>> chapters away. In the end I felt I was wading through words that meant
>> nothing.
> As usual, I feel like I'm the only one who actually liked this book. Which
> is ok. Part of it may be that the narrator's voice is very much like
> McKinley's blog voice, which I'd already been reading for a while. I felt
> like I was being shown Jake's state of mind through his narration; but
> perhaps only a few people could feel connected to that alleged state of
> mind. The legal/political problem that drives the plot is all too
> believable to me, but then I've worked in Non-Profits, as a librarian, in
> the US, for years.  There are definitely three endings, and they do feel--
> odd. I thought they were supposed to; but I can see how it would be
> maddening. I don't think I liked the last ending, it has an "alternative
> ending for Podkayne of Mars" feel to it. (Then again, I just re-read
> _Spellcoats_, OBDWJ, and I find that ending, in the context of the other
> books in that world, frustrating in a completely different way.)
> By comparison, Chalice felt light and fluffy, a return to _Beauty_ but
> with less plot substance.
> --
> -- Jenne Heise / Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
> jenne at fiedlerfamily.net
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