Welcome back to our read of Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland where we look at a terrific story for the fun of it and learn what we can from a skilled author. When last we left Chris Redston, the man who can cross worlds, Mactalde declares that Lael’s people give him Chris or he’ll kill their king, who kneels at his feet.
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Chris races forward to give his life for the king’s, but Allara’s uncle informs Mactalde that they will not surrender the Gifted. It’s too late. Mactalde is in no mood to bargain. He beheads the king before Chris can demand he take his life instead. As far as Chris is concerned, it’s all his fault. No good comes from his life, and all the horrid things are happening because of him. Orias and Eroll challenge him to accept his fate and lead. To stop reacting and act with patience and wisdom and be the strength Allara needs. So he goes to Allara and holds and rocks her until her uncontrolled grief subsides a little. In the snow and night, with practically no hope, she clings to him and looks for him to define the future.
Reader Comments: Oh, this chapter breaks my heart. It is so beautiful and tragic. It will remain amongst my favorites, even rivaling some of the chapters in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which is my favorite book and gorgeously written. Weiland combines such emotion and lovely descriptions. When she described the falling snow around Chris and Allara as ghosts dancing a dirge--You’ll have to read it, for my words do not do her justice--I was utterly captivated.
Writer Comments: There is so much excellence in this chapter: description, emotion, events. I can’t pick one thing to focus on, so I will briefly cover what I think are the most significant for learning purposes.
1. Weiland kills the king. Who would do that? What twisted, sadistic author would do that to her heroine, her other characters, her hero, her readers? A skilled and shrewd author is who. The king’s death serves many purposes which Weiland embraces without flinching, at least as far as the writing suggests. It drives Allara truly to her knees and shatters her emotional shell. It forces Chris into the leadership position he’s been avoiding since the beginning. It demonstrates just how mad and deadly Mactalde really is, and much more. If the story needs something, do not flinch, even if it makes your chest clench with grief for a beloved character.
2. Descriptions containing contrasting elements, especially in a scene with intense emotions, can be quite impactful. Add to it poetry and it becomes gripping. Weiland does this especially well with her descriptions of snow in this chapter, which essentially becomes a character in the scene. She describes it at one point as “wet lace,” at another as waltzing and dancing a dirge. The contrasts of loveliness and darkness, words suggesting joy and those heavy with sorrow, make for narration that heightens emotion.
3. For a protagonist to truly become an epic hero, he must plunge to a depth where it seems he could fail. Everything is against Chris and Allara. They are outnumbered, Mactalde holds every strategic position, their king is dead, they have nothing but the clothes on their back and a tangle of desperate refugees, and they have no idea how they will survive, much less win. Yet, when Chris finally pulls them all through it, he will become more memorable and satisfying to us readers for it. To forge a great sword or beautiful jewelry, you must first melt it and cleanse it of impurities, much as you must drag a protagonist through hell to magnify his greatness. To exactly what form that will take for Chris, I don’t know, but I have high hopes it will be grand.
In Chicago and throughout the Midwest, the power is out, and it’s snowing in August. Chris returns to his dad’s house where he hid Harrison Garnett. Harrison insists that Chris knows far less than the thinks and Mactalde is not the thing throwing the worlds out of balance. He gives Chris all his notebooks with his secrets inside. Then Flores, one of Mactalde’s hit men in our world, bursts in and starts shooting. Harrison dies before he finishes explaining, and Chris, Mike, and Chris’s dad take down Flores. Chris combs through the notebooks before going to sleep and finds a reference to subterranean caverns at Reon Couteau.
Reader Comments: I knew Harrison was going to die. It was the only logical thing, and well, you can’t give the hero the answer too easily. Further, I’m hopeful for Chris’s dad. Good things should happen to Chris by the end of this, and I hope an improved relationship with Paul counts among them.
Writer Comments: The notebooks are Chekov’s gun. It is the seemingly unimportant thing at the beginning of the story that becomes significant and necessary before the end. Make every element of a story significant.
Chris leads the remnant of Lael’s people in flight to the caverns beneath Reon Couteau, but Mactalde comes close enough to make demands again, insisting they turn over the Gifted. The people are on the verge of giving Chris to him to spare their own lives, and Chris understands all too well that, if he continues in his present course, they will die. Mactalde gives them time to consider, so Chris uses that time to go with Orias to the Cherazii for help. The Cherazii nearly kill him, but their leader determines that Chris is the only one who can stop the worlds from breaking so lets him go. Orias, on the other hand, bows his head to Cherazii justice for betraying his people. But Chris insists they release Orias because he needs him. To their surprise, the Cherazii leader agrees, and Chris and Orias walk away without the Cherazii aid. At least, though, Chris now has a plan to blow up Reon Couteau via the underground caverns beneath it.
Reader Comments: It appears a friendship may be developing between Orias and Chris, but then, after everything that has happened, they have a mutual understanding of each other that no one else can grasp. They both know what it’s like to betray and feel awful for it. They both know what it’s like to be trapped and used. And they both know the quest and need for redemption.
Writer Comments: People as a general group react based on emotions, and fear is a powerful emotion that can make them react foolishly. Weiland knows this and uses it. Even though the Laelers have seen Mactalda’s ruthlessness, they have no hope left and are terrified for their lives. It makes sense that they would waver when the easy thing would be to turn over the Searcher and Gifted, to believe the lies shouted at them. Remember to have people in groups and as individuals react in the ways people do, else your story will feel unnatural.