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.
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
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
and who feels that fighting the hill dwarfs instead of negotiating them
is immoral (he even shaves his beard in protest).
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.
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
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.
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
And so we’ll be led into the present, and the
repercussions of Raistlin’s journey to challenge the gods.