Sunday, July 28, 2002

Review: "Dragons of a Vanished Moon" by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

With "Dragons of a Vanished Moon" ($27.95, Wizards of the Coast), Dragonlance creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman bring their "War of Souls" trilogy to a close. They also effectively bring to an end the world's Fifth Age story arc, one that was unpopular with some fans.

As the book opens, Takhisis has revealed herself as the One God who has guided Mina's hand. Her Knights of Neraka continue their relentless march across Ansalon, conquering their enemies and leaving destruction in their wake.

The elven nation of Qualinesti has been destroyed and the Silvanesti are under siege.

The kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot, who may be responsible for the current situation because he used a time-travel device to escape his fate at the end of the Chaos War, is still bouncing through time. If he dies anywhere other than where he was meant to, the course of Krynn's history may be altered forever.

But behind it all is an even more sinister plot. Takhisis has planned her return for a long time, and it's no accident that the other gods are nowhere to be found.

Many fans feel that the Dragonlance series has floundered in recent years, and I have to admit that I was one of them. I had high hopes when Weis and Hickman returned to their realm. They didn't disappoint me.

With the "War of Souls" trilogy, Weis and Hickman have put the Dragonlance world back on an even keel. "Dragons of a Vanished Moon" closes at yet another critical juncture for the world of Krynn with great potential for new storylines. It leaves dozens of questions in readers' minds, each with the possibility of an intriguing tale yet to come.

Weis and Hickman have also given the Dragonlance world something it's needed for a while, an infusion of new blood. While some fans may be reluctant to let go of the original companions, characters like Mina, Galdar, Gerard and Gilthas (the authors seem to have an affection for the letter G), are worthy successors to the original heroes and villains of Krynn.

Readers also get a fresh look at old favorites Palin and Dalamar. Each has his own challenges to overcome in this new world.

"War of Souls" manages to blend some of the best aspects of the original "Chronicles" and "Legends" trilogies. It begins with the same sense of adventure as "Chronicles" and ends in the dark and somber tones of "Legends." While it doesn't quite live up to those two stories - when it comes to RPG-based tales, those are tough to top - it is easily the best Dragonlance set since.

After several disappointing years, the creators of the Dragonlance world have returned to set things right. In the process, they've breathed new life into the series and left Krynn a much more interesting place.

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