Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Smoke of Gold is Glory, by Scott Lynch

Find this book
(Fantasy Adventure) Tarkaster Crale, a young thief down on his luck, meets up with friends who want to assault the Anvil, the mountain where the last dragon hid its hoard—and from which it dares people to try to take it. (16,850 words; Time: 56m)

Rating: ★★★★★ A Great Tale, Well-Told

"The Smoke of Gold is Glory," by (edited by Gardner Dozois), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Crale is the storyteller, but one can argue that he’s not really the protagonist, although superficially this is the story of why he gave up thieving (and adventuring in general) and became a bard. Note that he’s of little help on the way up, and takes no part in the final battle.

This is really the tale of how Brandagar, the last King of the Waves, and his faithful team fulfilled their destiny. The warrior-king, the mage, and the thief form a strong unit. Crale clearly doesn’t fit, and not only because they don’t need another thief. He continually comments on their strange philosophy.

We learn their goal at the very start:
Thus charged was a King-on-the-Waves, to hold no lands, but to slay monsters, retrieve lost treasures, lift curses, and so forth, until the and all their companions had met some horrible, beautiful fate on behalf of the Ajja people.
This they do, in spades. In their last fight, they slay the last dragon and lift from it the curse of existence, from which, after 10,000 years, it was eager to be freed. They accomplish their goal so spectacularly, leaving so little for others to do, that Crale tells us there’s not likely to be another King-of-the-Waves soon. They really have earned their places on the Field of Swords and Roses!

Glimraug the dragon has its own goals; it lured people to fight with it precisely because it wanted to make an end, but that end had to be a noble one at the hands of a worthy foe. Note how all the traps were difficult yet honorable. For example, the fire that sealed the chimney shaft could have roasted them all as they climbed, but that wouldn’t have been a fair contest. The party even remark on the unexpected fairness of the challenge.

All the way up the mountain, at each challenge the three cooperate in different, complex ways, and each makes a sacrifice. By contrast, Crale is only useful twice: once when he uses deceit to kill two heart-wraiths, and again when he plugs the hole with his butt to protect them from gas.

When they finally meet Glimraug, it knows that Crale is meant to survive, and it plays with him a bit before pushing him away. Brandagar tells the dragon, “We have come for our own sakes” (i.e. to die gloriously), “and for yours” (to end your life honorably), “And for your treasure as a last resort.” (He doesn’t expect to get the treasure.) The dragon remarks that that’s not the usual order of priorities, but, of course, these aren’t the usual visitors.

The stakes of the final battle, then, are total—not just in this world but also in the next. Note that even the destruction of the mountain was foreshadowed, when Gudrun reported that there were unnatural energies earlier when they were traversing between traps.

The conclusion is especially touching because as an old man, Crale finally understands why Glimraug wanted release and the others wanted glory rather than live too long.

Con: We wonder a bit why Brandagar trusted Crale to tell the tale, since he only knew him as a thief, not a bard.

Other Reviews: Search Web,
Scott Lynch Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

Follow RSR on Twitter, Facebook, RSS, or E-mail.

No comments (may contain spoilers):

Post a Comment (comment policy)