Sunday, June 10, 2001

Review: "Dragons of a Lost Star" by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Like the fabled gods of Krynn, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman - the creators of the Dragonlance universe - left for a while. Concentrating on other projects, they only occasionally checked in with the world they created. In their absence, Krynn floundered, losing the momentum Weis and Hickman had lended to the early days of the saga.

Now they've returned to set things right - at least an old Dragonlance fan hopes so.

One thing's for sure: When Weis and Hickman return to Krynn, things change. The last time the duo combined for a Dragonlance tale, it ended with the gods abandoning the world and taking magic with them. Now it appears that at least one god is taking an interest again.

"Dragons of a Lost Star" (Wizards of the Coast), the second in Weis and Hickman's "War of Souls" trilogy, continues the tale of Mina, the mysterious warrior-cleric who appeared the night of a vicious storm and began spreading the word of the One True God. Along the path, she's won a number of great victories, drawing to her a loyal following of the Dark Knights of Neraka.

Now, having conquered the elven kingdom of Silvanost, Mina and her army have turned their attention to Solanthus, the stronghold of the Knights of Solamnia. Meanwhile, the great green dragon Beryl has focused her attention on the Qualinesti elves. And everyone seems to be interested in the Time-Journeying Device carried by Hero of the Lance Tasslehoff Burrfoot and the wizard Palin Majere.

Palin and Dalamar believe the only way to set the world right is to send Tasslehoff back to die in the Chaos War, as he should have. Instead Tas used the Time-Journeying Device to escape his fate. Now the spirits of the dead are unable to leave Krynn, and they're feeding on what little magic is left in the world. For the wizards, the implication is clear.

At the same time, the healer Goldmoon has been restored to her youth, and she's not happy about it. She's following a call steadily toward Nightlund and the Tower of High Sorcery for a confrontation with Mina and the unveiling of the identity of the One True God.

I was disappointed by one facet of the story (WARNING: Small spoiler in this paragraph.): Though I already suspected the real identity, I had been hoping the One True God would turn out to be Raistlin Majere. I've missed my favorite mage since his sacrifice, and the chaos on Krynn seemed to me to be the perfect time for him to re-enter the world. Alas, I was disappointed, but there's still hope for his return in the third book.

The most remarkable thing about this series is the way that the world of Krynn has evolved. In the "Chronicles" and "Legends" days, there were very few shades of gray. With the notable exception of Raistlin, the lines between hero and villain were clear. Now, in the aftermath of the Chaos War, the world's just a little bit grittier, and the lines of good and evil have blurred. In short, Krynn has become a lot more like our own world.

Mina herself is a perfect example. Deep down, the reader knows she's evil, but at times she seems almost kind and reasonable.

Even the adventurous kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot has undergone a tremendous change. The mischievous halfling that provided comic relief for the early books is more somber and reserved here. Though he exhibits the traditional kender characteristics, they're tempered with an edge of something never before seen in the race of halflings - fear.

The first book in the series, "Dragons of a Fallen Sun," suffered from an overabundance of information dumped on the reader in huge chunks. Thankfully, that happens rarely in "Dragons of a Lost Star." The book flows much smoother than its predecessor and sets up some interesting scenarios for the endgame.

It's tough to top the originals, and in the world of Dragonlance, the "Chronicles" and "Legends" series will probably never be surpassed for most fans. But "War of Souls" is shaping up to be the best thing to happen to Krynn since those early novels.

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