Dragons Of A Fallen Sun
Book One of The War Of Souls
by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, fantasy (2001)
Wizards Of The Coast, $7.99, ISBN 0-7869-1807-1

Purist fantasy readers and critics may sneer at Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis ("hack game authors of brainless, clumsy fantasies!"), but I always have a soft spot for them. Their Rose Of The Prophet trilogy still ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Yes, these two authors can be really clumsy and obvious in their pretentious philosophical ramblings, but they are the rare fantasy authors that actually care to make their characters feel and do mushy things like love. In their worlds, romance and fantasy coexist peacefully.

While I confess I skipped these authors' science-fiction books (what's with that Starshield thingie anyway?) and I found their last Darksword and Dragonlance books disappointing beyond belief, I have no problems plunking $7.99 for this 627-paged epic combo. It took me six hours of non-stop reading (and complete overriding of my scheduled programs of the day), but dang, Dragons Of A Fallen Sun is worth the eye-strain.

Yes, it's still not up to par with, say, the War Of The Twins trilogy, but it's still very readable stuff. The setting is on the world of Krynn, where dragons rule over humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and other humanoid and not-so-humanoid beasties. Danger arise when a waifish girl called Mina starts healing the blind and mobilizing the crippled (yes, this is a very obvious attempt at not-too-subtle philosophical pretensions from the authors), thus commanding an army of fanatical zealots to what seems like a plan to rule the world under the religion of The One True God (don't groan, please - I already did enough of that).

Meanwhile, the whiny elves are bickering - again - and the silly fools of Silvanesti are being tricked into killing themselves, but Silvanoshei (Alhana and Porthios' brat) is here to save the day. Or rather, as best as his whiny incapacitated buffoony self could. At the other end, Qualinesti, the whiny and equally tedious Gilthas (the late Tanis Half-Elven's son) has to deal with politics.

Palin Majere is very whiny because he is losing his magic, thus alienating his lacklustre and very dull wife Usha. I'm still wondering how these authors think Usha capable of carrying off Dragons of Summer Flame when she has the constitution of a brown cow.

A human Solamnic Knight called Gerard is assigned to escort a kender named Tasslehoff Burrfoot (yes, he's back from the dead) to Dalamar the Dark (who's supposed to be dead). Naturally, he's not happy with this.

All these four stories - and many other substories - collide in one epic finale in Silvanesti. The world is in danger once again, ho-ho-ho!

The main thing that struck me is how uninteresting the main characters are, apart from Mina and Gerard and of course, the incorrigible Tas. The elves are still so whiny and stupid I still say the now-departed Gods did Krynn a big disfavor by not causing the Cataclysm to burst open in one genocidal nuclear explosion in the two Elven kingdoms. The authors are trying to make Palin some sort of Raistlin figure, but trust me, Palin has the charisma of a dry shrivelled pea. And most unforgivable is the way the authors reduce Laurana and Goldmoon (former strong warrior women) into useless, weak symbols of marytrhood. It is one thing to be old, but old doesn't mean a complete loss of dignity, does it?

Still, the second half of this story burst into vivid technicolors of life when the plot moves away from the characters' self-absorbed whininess and things actually get moving into action and war territory. Here, the authors demonstrate that they still haven't lost their touch when it comes to bringing out the best in their characters, both good and evil, in times of turmoil. Loyalty, courage, and unforeseen nobility - traditional themes Weis and Hickman always excel at. And yes, as always, I am delighted at the way these authors blur the lines between good and evil, even if this time around they do it with the subtlety of an elephant falling down from the sky through my roof.

I confess I find the Biblical pretensions and the elves very, very annoying, but when I find myself closing the book with this eager anticipation for book two, Dragons Of A Lost Star, I know this book has gotten to me despite all my reservations about the premise and forgettable main characters. It's going to be a long wait to 2002.

Yes, I do miss the rich relationship dynamics these authors used to write - Raistlin and Caramon's complicated codependency still bring a tear to my eye everytime I reread the last chapter of Test Of The Twins - but there's no denying Dragons Of A Fallen Sun can still pack a punch when it wants to. A weakened punch, but still, a punch nonetheless.

Rating: 80

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