*Warning* some spoilers ahead if you haven't read all DragonLance up to Fifth Age*
Book by Margaret Weis
& Tracy Hickman
, first in the series War of Souls
, set in world of DragonLance
after the Fifth Age
The book begins in rather a bleak world. Magic has all but died out, requiring weeks' rest after the simplest spells. The greater dragons (sp?) have split Ansalon into dominions and rule them with iron hand, with help from the Knights of Neraka (formerly known as Knights of Takhisis, renamed after it became apparent Takhisis wasn't coming back after Chaos banished her, in a way). They have conquered even Qualinosti, while Silvanesti has erected a magical barrier to shield themselves from the outside world. Alhana and Porthios, who were supposed to unite the separated elven kingdoms, are now exiled, denounced as dark elves and hunted by elven assassins (which would've been an oxymoron not a long time ago). And, worst of all, kenders aren't all cheerful any longer! This, personally, I found to be the most shocking development of all. Malystryx decided to fry a couple hundred kenders and wreck their homes, which shocked some kenders so bad they're almost like humans now.
So much for facts. Personally, the first feeling was it was pretty much darker (whether in "good" sense or not, I'll leave to the read). Compared to the "seasons" trilogy which was a jolly picnic, in this first book everything was wrong. Evil, for change, had actually managed in taking over the world, and even our favourite good version of Raistlin, Palin, had turned evil after certain events which curiously resemble Raistlin's history. But beyond that, the storyline itself felt weird. The good guys would sneak up behind enemy lines to collaborate with freedom fighters, and right in the next chapter they'd get betrayed to the evil guys by a traitor. I know it's not a new development (ie. Eben), but this time it's different; it actually works, to an extent.
Well, that was the first impression. As I read further, it felt more and more like the good old DragonLance. At first so Raistlin-ish Palin would cheer up, the evil overlords would soften up or even switch sides and even the evil knights didn't seem so evil any longer. Nevertheless, there was, finally, some ambiguity on the good/evil scale at times; for example, one of the main characters of the book did some very good things and acted all nice, but there was the nagging feeling that in the end, she wasn't up to any good.
In short, I found it a worthy sequel, which frankly was a bit surprising. According to wharfinger's law of diminishing sequels, the, let me think, some 15th-20th book in DragonLance written by Margaret Weis herself (sometimes with help, sometimes not) should be worth less than its weight in toilet paper, but strangely, I didn't think so. It might be just I'm gullible and easy money milk cow (as witnessed by my liking of The Wheel of Time...), but it felt good. Fresh, with almost no magic and effect of gods limited to a single person, with the slightly less prevalent good prevails attitude.