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WAR OF THE TWINS

A novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
(1986, TSR Fantasy)

Dragonlance Legends, book 2
 
 

Raistlin enters the dwarven wars, attempting to obtain the portal that will allow him to challenge the Queen. Caramon, Crysania and Tasslehoff attempt to stop him, but discover they must help him.

 
 
 
   

-- 3rd reading (paperback)
July 26th to August 10th, 2020

 
   

The authors have done a great job with this book. This book sees the most serious character development of the six original Dragonlance novels. While unfortunately the kender is barely seen, Caramon comes into his own, becoming a master strategist. But it’s Raistlin who shines here, being pure evil, and trying to be even more evil, while the temptation of love twists at him, allowing unwanted compassion to enter. The authors showed a massive struggle, and did it well. Unfortunately, Raistlin’s mistake near the end is very difficult to believe, given how much time he had to think about it -but maybe because of his arrogance he thought that once he had dealt with the immediate threat, he gave it no further thought.

Spoiler review:

The book begins in the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas, after the chaotic events that concluded the last book. Raistlin is near death, and Caramon wakes blinded by Paladine thanks to Crysania. The ghost demons begin to investigate, only kept at bay by Crysania’s faith, and the uncertainty about Raistlin. It takes a while for the three of them to band together to work at surviving there. Raistlin convinces the ghosts that he is actually Fistandantilus, though it costs him dearly. Caramon is sent through the Grove to get supplies, and Crysania tries to regain her faith.

The twist here is that the Portal, which Raistlin planned to use to challenge the gods, had been moved to a secret location, thwarting his plans. He now realizes that he is caught in a time loop -that everything Fistandantilus did in the history he remembers, he is doomed to repeat. They leave the Tower and head toward Thorbardin, just as the other evil wizard had done, except he used one of the gladiatorial slaves and the cleric Danubis instead of Caramon and Crysania.

They are attacked by bandits, as the world is in a bad state a hundred years after the Cataclysm. But Caramon kills the half-ogre leader and becomes the leader of the band, moving under the auspices of an attack on the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin. This is Caramon’s finest hour; he is more fit than ever due to his stint in the gladiatorial ring, and his mind is brought into focus by a goal, planning strategy. It’s as if he was born for this kind of work, not the mercenary work he and his brother had done over his early life.

Raistlin, meanwhile, continues his struggle with both the time loop and the physical attraction to Crysania. Several times they both come close to succumbing to the temptation, but Raistlin feels that it would undermine his ability to cross the Abyss, as it certainly would. They also feel, in a deeply rooted Christian-based way, that having a physical relationship would destroy the clerical relationship between her and Paladine. The struggle is well written, especially how it ebbs and flows, and every time Raistlin rejects her, he ends up stronger… until the next time.

The adversaries in this book are the dwarves of Thorbardin, who are preparing to defend against an attack from the human army and the hill dwarfs, early relatives of Flint Fireforge We get to meet Kharas, who created the hammer featured in Dwarven Depths, and who feels that fighting the hill dwarfs instead of negotiating them is immoral (he even shaves his beard in protest).

A difficult part of the book, which is common to all the Dragonlance books, is how the authors digress from the story to tell the history of a people, place or individual. It’s nice to get the background, but I’d rather have it in a more subtle manner, as it’s distracting.

When Caramon’s army attacks, the King refuses to discuss peace, so they attack Pax Tharkas. Eventually, due to the deal Raistlin made with the Dewar dwarves, they betray the King, who is forced back to Thorbardin.

The army, more under Raistlin’s control than Caramon’s by this point, moves out onto the plains between Pax Tharkas and Thorbardin. They find many mounds that serve as spy places for the dwarves. It’s through here that Kharas attacks Raistlin and Caramon. But I wondered immediately when Caramon is told about them, why didn’t he send some soldiers through the tunnels, as they lead directly into the enemy’s stronghold? There should have at least been a discussion about it.

Raistlin, meanwhile, is killed, or nearly so. I think it’s convenient that he was stabbed so that his wound would take days to kill him, while most -if not all- others in these books are killed even by a poorly aimed slice with a sword. This allows Crysania to use her powers to heal him. At the time, I thought it was the Queen who healed him, as his face looked at the god in shock. But it turns out it was Paladine after all.

It’s Tasslehoff who allows Raistlin to be killed in this timeline -the introduction of a time-traveling kender, as predicted by Par-Salian. Through sheer coincidence, he was protected by the magic of the secret lab and went into the Abyss with the Temple, which would eventually end up in Neraka. There he leaves, and has a very bad experience with the Abyss -it’s completely boring, the worst kind of hell for a kender. But he’s also terrified by the Queen. However, he meets a gnome who fixes the time traveling device, now allowing for more than one person.

Knowing from future history that Fistandantilus was defeated by activating the portal at the same time as a gnome activated a time-traveling device, Raistlin kills the gnome, but allows Tas to keep the device. Actually, Raistlin takes the device, but it ends up on Tas somehow anyway. Crysania heals him from the plague, but only after Raistlin tortures him for information about the Abyss.

Raistlin himself is a very interesting character here. He wants to be evil, more so than Fistandantilus. But he’s got too much compassion in him for the black robes. He is the most selfish person, but his “weakness” shows in many places, mostly when Crysania is present. He is physically attracted to her, but denies himself, thinking it will dilute his magic (why is chastity necessary?), or perhaps his ability to leave her behind in the Abyss. When she wanders to a village that has been hit by the plague, just to show her healing skills, she arrives too late, and when Raistlin and Caramon arrive, Raistlin buns the entire village, dead people, houses, all of it, to the ground. The act is a spark of selflessness and compassion that was beautiful to behold. Combine that with Raistlin’s hunt for the rabbit, and we get a character that’s really likable, even though he remains selfish.

The battle for the dwarven kingdom is well described and enjoyable, though it doesn’t take up a lot of space, because the focus is on Caramon’s realization (yet again) that his brother is too evil to redeem, and Raistlin’s last push to get to the Portal. I’m not sure how Tasslehoff got a hold of the magical device again, but Raistlin was often distracted, so he might have stolen it back. How Raistlin couldn’t connect the explosion he knew was coming with the device is the only part of the story that I think was poorly done. He associated it instead with the gnome, not the device, which seems like a na´ve mistake. In any case, the time travel device, which brings Tass and Caramon back to the present, disrupts the spell, though Raistlin gets inside the portal anyway.

I still don’t understand how the portal gets back to the Tower of High Sorcery. It should have been destroyed in the explosion. I see no evidence that it would move back there on its own, either in Fistandantilus’ time or Raistlin’s.

And so we’ll be led into the present, and the repercussions of Raistlin’s journey to challenge the gods.

 
 
 
   

-- 2nd reading (paperback)
July 7th to 9th, 1998

 
   

I still remember none of this book!  It was great.  The characters were so real, and had so much to deal with.  It was totally engrossing.  But I wonder how the Portal gets moved from the dwarf stronghold to the tower when Raistlin gets there in the future.  Ah, I've always loved Tas!

 
 
 
   

-- First reading (paperback)
July 28th to August 2nd, 1988

 
   

No review available.

 
   

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