DRAGONS OF SUMMER FLAMEA novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
(1995, TSR Fantasy)
Dragonlance Sequels, book 2
The Knights of Takhisis begin to invade the world, while Chaos, father of the gods, is released into heaven, with the purpose of destroying it.
-- First reading (paperback)
I think the authors tried to make the world too complex. Or they knew the complex world, but wanted to show every aspect of it. The end of the book was good, and unexpected. But most of the book was complicated (I like complex, but not this), and many things were just way too convenient.Spoiler review:
I didn't like the way that some of the things that were set up in the short story collection were ignored or proved wrong. We were set up for some interesting politics between the elves, of which we barely heard anything. And Raistlin's child had so much potential that was wasted. I like it when some of the characters know what's going on, and are manipulating others. But here, nobody knew what was going on. They simply reacted. Most of the book seemed so unnecessary. After the great Chronicles and Legends, and a terrific setup in the short stories, this was more of a letdown.
The world has changed. Once again, the people of Ansalon expect peace to last forever. Tanis warned the Knights of Solamnia that there were even more dangerous knights, allied with darkness, but with their type of honor, and that they would attack when the time was ripe. But the good knights ignored his warnings, and so when it came time to fight, it was the evil knights who had the advantage.
Palin's two brothers were killed in a fight with the Knights of Takhisis, and Palin was captured. As ransom, the evil ones want the wizards to open the portal to the Abyss, so that the Dark Queen can enter. Steel Brightblade, the subject of a terrific short story in The Second Generation, son of Sturm and Kitiria (which makes him Palin's cousin), owes Tanis a debt, so he takes Palin back to his kin. Their adventures are not worth mentioning, though their philosophical discussions are very interesting. Burying Caramon and Tika's children, Palin and Steel then make their way to Palanthas, hoping to gain access to the portal where Raistlin entered from so many years ago. They enter the tower, through the graces of their gods and of Raistlin's spirit, and Palin and Tasslehoff get to enter the abyss.
There, they eavesdrop on a council of the gods. It turns out that Chaos, father of the gods, is loose, and is very angry. He wages war on the world, and plans to destroy all that the gods begot - in other words, everything. He calls forth shadow demons and all sorts of things that the world has never seen. The only way to defeat him is to gather all of the peoples of Ansalon together in an alliance, and there is no way that old racial hatreds can do this. So they yield to Takhisis, whose knights already control most of the world, and they have all of their troops surrender to her knights, who are, interestingly, honor-bound.
Palin and Tass reenter the world with Raistlin, to warn the others. The council and the gods reach decisions of their own, and find a way that might defeat Chaos. Through the rift that Chaos created in the world, the remaining knights of Takhisis and Solamnia ride their dragons. Palin uses a spell to hold Chaos at bay, distracting him, and Steel slices the god with his sword. It is all in vain, however, because the drop of blood that they draw splatters across the floor of the abyss, unusable.
Tasslehoff gets an honorable death -at least a death worthy of a kender, who would only expect a most interesting way to go about it: he gets stepped on by the giant Chaos. Being flattened must have interested him immensely! But before he dies, he stabs Chaos in the toe, drawing the blood that they need. Usha captures the blood in the Greygem, and this gives the gods power over Chaos. It is blackmail in a way, but they all agree to make up and leave, if Chaos stops his destruction. For even though they have captured his essence (I don't know how this is done with only a single drop of blood), they apparently don't have complete control over him.
And the book ends with no magic left in the world -at least none that the people have access to. The gods have left, and there is only a single star visible in the heavens, which is made from the fire that Flint and Tass stoke while telling stories back and forth, watching over the world. It took me a while to accept this, as it looks like the authors are doing what they did to the Darksword trilogy -made it into a history of our own world, so that magic does not exist, and people will grow into the ones that we know of in our history. And I hate that idea. But I suppose that there are still stories to tell before that happens.
Utterly wasted was Usha, the one who legend has it was Raistlin's daughter, but it turns out that she wasn't. The legend, however, helps her out in certain situations. All the time spent in the Thieves Guild was boring, so much that I couldn't wait for those parts to be over. And what kind of guardians are those shadow-wights if they can be so distracted by Tasslehoff that they don't notice Usha sneaking in to steal the Greygem? There were more than one of them -why did they all attack one person?
The elves were mentioned, but other than that, the story from The Second Generation involving Tanis' son might as well not exist. The elves won't allow anybody in, including other elves, but they sign a non-aggression treaty with the Knights of Takhisis. What happened then?
There was another death of a hero of the lance: Tanis dies in a dishonorable attack, worthlessly and to no purpose. I know that the walls of the Abyss were being ruptured at the end, when all sorts of dead people could escape it (for some reason, we only heard of heroes -good and bad- escaping to lead their people), but why were Sturm, Raistlin and Kitiria able to influence the world all throughout the story?
The best character in the book was Tasslehoff. He was just as funny as in the rest of the novels, talking endlessly (and thus giving us a little history without it feeling like exposition), constantly "acquiring and finding" things that were not his, but which became very useful at some points, and becoming obsessed with the Spoon of Turning, which was actually just normal tableware, but which appeared to turn ghosts and spirits away! Raistlin also has a dry wit, at one point saying that he would surely be kept from a restful afterlife is he taught magic to a kender! And after he hears about his supposed "child", he remarks that it would be just his luck to make love to a beautiful woman and not remember it!
I did enjoy reading about the battles that took place, the movement of troops, and once the knights of Solamnia got organized, their fights to defend their city. But the Knights of Takhisis were ultimately more interesting. That they could hold onto an honorable conduct while obeying an evil Queen is a startling idea, and that makes them a very dangerous group, because they won't betray each other! Their wizards, however, were under no such honorable code, and that is part of what fragmented them at the end, and nearly got Steel killed. As it was, he lived long enough to see Chaos captured. It seems that for now, all the Knights are dead -every good and evil knight, as well as most of the dragons. Now who will vie for control of the world?
The book as a whole was way too long. I think I would have preferred another trilogy, one in which we were able to see the battles, first between good and evil, and then between the remainder and the forces of Chaos, but also some of the politics, like that within the borders of the elven forests. I think three books would have given us a much better story. This one book tried to do too much, which made a lot of it distracting, and a lot more of it quite boring. I like long books, and I like complex stories, but this was was complicated, which is not at all the same thing. I see there is another trilogy on the horizon. I can only hope that they see the problems with overreaching, and correct them.
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