As far as novels go, this is a pretty significant one. This is the biggest Dragonlance book released to date; even the last Dragonlance hardcover is smaller. Still, this book needs all the space it can get; and even then, it’s only the first book in the new War of Souls trilogy.
Some brief back story for folks unfamiliar with the world of Krynn-and its major continent, Ansalon. A few hundred years ago, the high priest of Paladine, the greatest god of good, attempted to wipe out all evil on Krynn, and beseeched the gods to help him do it; since the gods tend to prefer balance in the world, they were offended enough to remove their presence from the world (but not before chucking a fiery mountain at Ansalon to shut him up). For a long time, the continent fell into…well, not exactly savagery, but certainly not as well off as before. Then the gods came back-slowly, and it started with the Queen of Darkness, who woke up the dragons of myth, and set them to conquering the world for her. Heroes who would become the Heroes of the Lance rose against them, bringing back the good deities and dragons to fight them, and the Queen of Darkness was forced back (all this was chronicled in the original Dragonlance Chronicles). Things settled down for several years (not including a power-mad archmage who came within a heartbeat of destroying a god in order to become one-chronicled in Dragonlance Legends), before the Queen of Darkness attempted to use her enemies methods for her own; for example creating the Knights of Takhisis to fight against the Knights of Solamnia. Before things could really get going, though, the father of the gods was freed from a magical prison, and nearly destroyed Krynn in Chaos before being imprisoned again. With his imprisonment, though, the gods felt compelled to leave their world again, and took all the magic of the world with them…or so it was thought (this is chronicled in Dragons of Summer Flame, the previous hardcover mentioned).
Since then, things have been kind of tough for Ansalon. Magic has been found to replace the magic lost, but not as strong or prevalent as it had been. The elves of Silvanesti isolated themselves behind a magical shield. The elves of Qualinesti submitted to a puppet rule by the son of two of the Heroes of the Lance, who was in truth under the forced command of the Knights of Takhisis. And new dragons showed up, grew much larger and more powerful than any dragon ever before, who decided that they were much better rulers than any puny mortals could be-and none of these dragons could be considered benevolent. Thus, all the races of Ansalon live under the sufferance of the dragons.
This is brings us to the new Dragonlance book, Dragons of a Fallen Sun.
This book follows three major plotlines, although there are enough minor plotlines that will undoubtedly get bigger in the next book. All of these plots get kicked off, in one way or another, by one of the most massive storms that has ever struck Ansalon-a storm which seems to have no trouble hitting from one coast to the other. One of these follows the Silvanesti elf prince, Silvanoshei Caladon, son of the exiled elven rulers Porthios of Qualinesti and Alhana Starbreeze of Silvanesti. I call him a Silvanesti elf because that’s what his mother is trying to do-get through the shield around Silvanesti, and reclaim her heritage. Things go wrong during the storm, when a band of ogres attack, and Silvanoshei finds himself in a very unexpected predicament.
The second plotline concerns the Solamnic Knight, Gerard uth Mondar, a guardian of the Tomb of Last Heroes, where the heroes of the war against Chaos have been laid to rest. His story gets kicked off when something inside the tomb decides it wants to get out. That extremely unexpected inhabitant-in combination with the death of a character longtime readers will probably anguished about-puts the Knight on a quest that will take him into the heart of Qualinesti, and the lands of one of the great dragons.
The third plotline, however, is the most fascinating. For the night of the storm heralds the arrival of Mina, a young girl who professes to the the servant of the One True God. And apparently, this god hasn’t much use for scruples-the song quoted above should be a good idea to start with, and one of her earliest actions demonstrates a nature for treachery. Yet she possesses the abilities that have been lost since the gods departed-including miraculous healing. To be honest, Hickman and Weis have done a great job with Mina; she just reeks of messianic fervor, and is a mix of strange compassion to…well, evil isn’t really the word I’d want to use here, but it sure isn’t good. There are also hints (at least, I think they’re hints) of who Mina was before she took up the service of the One God; I’m not going to give out my guess on a review, however: first, I may be wrong (hey! It’s happened before!), and second, I don’t want to spoil it if I’m right. If anyone wants to know my guess and reasons that badly, email me. It’s always good to see if anyone keeps track of this site, given how infrequently I update it!
All this occurs while magic seems to be running out; the reasons for this only begin to come to light in this book (it is a trilogy, after all). Longtime readers of the Dragonlance saga will be pleased to see some characters again, some of whom are rather unexpected. In addition, there’s a significant number of supporting cast that are worth following. I don’t know what it says about me that I find myself liking two characters on the side of evil (although perhaps not as strongly as one might wish)-Galdar a maimed minotaur, who is one of the first who encounters Mina, and is given a gift that cements his loyalty to her. He seems like a pretty rational fellow for a minotaur, who have a bad reputation on Krynn. I don’t tend to like mindless characters, so he’s pretty refreshing. The other is Marshal Medan, a Knight of Takhisis who is the man behind the military forces in Qualinesti. Unlike most of the Dark Knights of this time, he has a code of honor as strong as any of the Solamnic knights, and he’s come to love the land of the elves. This makes for a rather interesting balancing act between keeping it under control with an iron fist, and protecting its people from the wrath of dragons.
It’s a refreshing change to be reviewing the first book of a trilogy for a change, and even better to give this a high recommendation to any fantasy reader. There’s enough background information that won’t scare away new readers, and enough plot and story to satisfy continuing readers. I’ll admit that I’ve only really considered the Hickman and Weis books to be the best of Dragonlance, and they continue to amaze. The only thing I really hated is the realization that I’ll probably have to wait a year before the next book comes out!!
I’ll be first in line when the next one is released, though.