Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Test of the Twins By Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman

The Test of the Twins
Vol. 3 of Dragonlance Legends
By Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
Copyright 1986

The third volume of the Dragonlance Legends trilogy opens with Tasslehoff Burfoot and Caramon Majere landing in the future of Krynn after they attempted to travel back to their own time. It is a bleak future where the world is barren ash and all is dead. They find Caramon’s wife’s grave and Caramon’s grave. They learn that Raistlin was successful in drawing the Dark Queen into their world and defeating her. The cost was life on Krynn.

They resolve to travel back to their own time and prevent Raistlin’s success. In their own time, they find a world preparing once again for war. This time the aggressor is Kitiara, Caramon and Raistlin’s half sister who, with her Draconian henchmen and dragons, is traveling to the city of Palanthas in a flying citadel to attack the High Clerists Tower.

Raistlin and Crysannia are in the Abyss. Raistlin is tormented by magical illusions – scenes of great pain from his life. Crysannia also witnesses these torments and tries to protect Raistlin. The attacks turn to her and she is blinded and crippled with injury. Raistlin is able to free himself and moves toward his goal of confronting the Dark Queen, leaving Crysannia behind to fend for herself.

Tanis is in Palanthas, helping the Knights of Solomnia and the other defenders of the city prepare for battle. Caramon and Tasslehoff arrive there with a book given to them by the historian, Astinus, that shows that Tanis dies in the battle. Caramon and Tanis go to the Clerists Tower to aid in the defense. Tasslehoff decides to board the flying citadel to take over. There, he enlists the aid of a gully dwarf and seizes control.

Tanis and Caramon, accompanied by Tas, take control of the citadel. They then discover from the book that Dalamar is prevented from stopping Raistlin when he is killed by Kitiara. Kitiara gets into the Tower and injures Dalamar, who lethally wounded her. Caramon and Tanis soon arrive. Dalamar is too weak to battle Raistlin. Caramon enters the Abyss, as he is the only one who can stop Raistlin. Soth comes to claim Kitiara's body. Raistlin encounters Caramon and is told of his inevitable failure; he gives the Staff of Magius to Caramon that he might close the Portal and stop Takhisis. Raistlin is attacked by the Queen, but he is said to fall into a dreamless sleep, protected from her. Caramon comes out and closes the Portal, having retrieved Crysania, who is still alive.

The battle for Palanthas is won by the people of Palanthas at the cost of most of their city. Crysania, now back to health but blind, becomes head of the church of Paladine. Dalamar seals the laboratory where the Portal is for all time. Caramon goes to his wife, Tika, and they are overjoyed to be reunited. Tasslehoff finds a spot on the map he's never been to and teleports off with the aid of the magical time traveling device.

The Test of the Twins involves several timelines, settings, and characters and weaves a complex tale. In it, we can see the full maturity of Weiss and Hickman as storytellers.

The third book in the trilogy is a textbook example of how a third installment should read. It was all fast paced, with the first two volumes leading to a volume long climax where all of the plot lines converge. No new characters are introduced. No new subplots are brought in. All of the events, subplots, and plot are brought to fruition and neatly wrapped up with nothing left unresolved.

My chief criticism of this book specifically was it felt a little rushed. In the first two installments, the plot slowed occasionally to allow contemplation and introspection by the characters. In the third installment, there was little of that. Of the three books, this one read most like an installment of the first trilogy.

What made Legends better than Chronicles was Weiss and Hickman’s dedication to developing their characters beyond Dungeons and Dragons action heroes. Just a little more introspection and contemplation – especially at the end of the book as the action was winding down – would have been a nice cap on a wonderful trilogy.

Nobody is ever going to confuse any of the Dragonlance novels with Lord of the Rings or the Thomas Covenant series at the pantheon of great fantasy fiction. However, they are great fun to read. They are well plotted and have great characters. No fan of fantasy should look down his nose at these wonderful books.

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