Quag Keep – Andre Norton

Quag Keep – Andre NortonQuag Keep by Andre Norton
Published by Tor Books on May 2nd 2006
Pages: 272

Quag Keep was the first novel based on the world of Dungeons & Dragons by the legendary grand mistress of SF/Fantasy, Andre Norton.
Once, they were role-playing gamers in our world.They came from different places and different backgrounds.Now they're summoned together by some magical force...to a land that mirrors the games they used to play.Quag KeepCan they band together to unlock the secret of their summoning--and rescue from the legendary Quag Keep the person who may be able to return them home?

So much to say about this book but let’s start with the basics. It’s the first book in the two-part series set in the Dungeons and Dragons playverse. This book was first published in 1978 and was the first D&D book, the sequel Return to Quag’s Keep was published the year following Norton’s death in 2005 (published in 2006). I scribbled a few words about it in 2013. Reading this novel means I now understand the other book. As I generally read series out of order I have some skills at making sense of subsequent books before I finally get to the first book, this time I found you really need to read the first book first.

Having said that I found it really hard to find the love in this novel. I got there eventually but it took me half the book. I don’t know why that is, but the establishing bit at the beginning where we’re shown one of the characters in the real world was very short and I’m wondering if that was it. Was I expecting to actually see them playing a game before being dragged into the fantasy world? Yes, having read the sequel first I thought they were friends from the beginning but that assumption was just so wrong. I’m thinking that assumption just left me on the back foot for a very long time.

One of the things I was discussing yesterday with some friends was how to describe things in books. At uni we were taught to practice describing things to ensure we don’t use cliches and also to ensure we do it in such a way as to draw the reader in and have them understand what we’re describing. I found a sentence that made me stop and note it down.

Lichis’s size was such as to reduce all facing him to the insignificance of small children.

These people are facing a dragon, a dragon of such size and stature that they are feel very small and very young. They need to crane their necks to look up to him, just like a toddler looks up at a parent or just like a pedestrian might look up at a the top of a skyscraper. These few words are not just talking about the size of the people but also making them feel like they’re worthless because the dragon is so old. Seriously, I’ve just spent a paragraph explaining 16 words. That’s good writing, right there in one sentence…actually, I lie as this is the second half of the sentence, the first half is 19 words and tells us terms within the universe how big and old the dragon is but it’s the second half that explains it in our terms. I was just in awe.

This is a very important book in terms of its history and in terms of its writing. Andre Norton is one of the all-time greats of fantasy writing. I’m not going to put here why as I wrote about her a while ago when I was doing my Female Alphabet by Author series, there was only one choice for N.