Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DRAGONS OF THE HOURGLASS MAGE by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage is a 2009 Dragonlance novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It is Volume III of the Lost Chronicles series, and it relates what Raistlin was up to during the events of Dragons of Spring Dawning (1985). Raistlin travels to Neraka, where he pits various factions against each other to create intrigue and make himself a major player.

Just like the other novels in the Lost Chronicles series, this story is unnecessary. And it doesn’t give us enough to justify its existence. Nothing happens here that we didn’t know about and also need to know about. We don’t get a good exploration of Raistlin himself (trying to get inside his head, which this book doesn’t do a good job of anyway, just takes away from his mystique). Early, there’s what appears to be some clarification about the relationship between Raistlin and Fistandantilus, but by the end, it’s more muddled than when it began.

The book’s flaws are extensive. Supporting characters might as well have “supporting character” stamped on their foreheads. We get some truly ridiculous expository monologues from a number of characters. And quite a bit here breaks with events of older, better novels. As usual for a Wizards of the Coast book, the editing is sub-par. And the novel features an inexplicable epidemic of inappropriately used semicolons. But all that said, Dragons of the Hourglass Mage is still an enjoyable read, mostly because it’s just nice to see Raistlin again.

In a book full of “evil” characters, none of them seem particularly evil, and it feels like Raistlin is choosing not between the lesser of evils, but between “good” evil and “bad” evil, and that works about as well as it sounds. Raistlin himself is uncharacteristically good-natured here (while remaining somewhat abrasive). Throughout the Dragonlance books, Weis accomplished the difficult task of making an unapologetically self-serving and ruthless character sympathetic. But here, even with his political machinations, Raistlin is genuinely making friends and playing nice. That’s not the Raistlin people paid to see.

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage manages to be simultaneously enjoyable and disappointing (because Raistlin is such a great character – at least in other books), and it’s definitely for Dragonlance fans only.