This is a part of my favorite fantasy
series, the Death Gate Cycle
by Tracy Hickman
and Margaret Weis
The setting of the death gate cycle is extremely complex. To understand the characters and setting, you must understand the unique history of the fantasy world where the story takes place.
Many years after our days, technology destroyed itself in a great war. After the war, certain people gained great power called “Rune Magic” and thought themselves to be gods. Those were called Sartan and Patryns.
The Sartan thought themselves to be the force of light, and the Patryns were thought to be the force of darkness. When the Patryns started to gain power, the Sartan were in fear. They would never admit that they did anything for themselves: They claimed that our world was in horrible chaos and had to be reborn. So they sundered the world into 4 realms: air, fire, stone and water. They put the Patryns in another world: The Labyrinth and fell into magical sleep.
After many decades, the Patryns escaped the Labyrinth. Their Lord sent Haplo on a quest, to learn about the four worlds and bring them to chaos, so that the lord of the nexus will be able to control them. At first Haplo was sent to Arianus, the world of air, and discovered the Sartan died in their sleep. All but one named Alfred. The second world he visited was Pryan, world of fire, and in it’s endless jungles he discovers that the creation of the Sartan went wrong, and that the worlds aren’t functioning as intended.
The third world, where the novel takes place, is the world of stone: Abarrach. As Haplo soon discovers, the world of stone is the world of the dead. The Elves, Humans and dwarves have long ago died and the only ones that are left are something that resembles the Sartan. But those seem dark and practice an art that was long ago forbidden: Necromancy. After any of them dies, they bring his dead corpse back to life. Only that this life is only a fake imitation of real life: The soul flies behind the body, able to watch but unable to react, and the body walks as if in a dream. Those dead can perform their old job, as they did in life, but without learning and reacting.
In this grim setting, Haplo and Alfred arrive at Abarach to explore the dead world. Along with the main heroes’ adventures, many characters who live in the world of stone also play an important part at the plot, and have their own exciting stories. One is Balthazar, the Necromancer: He is intelligent and cares about his people, but a little pessimistic. The King of Cairn Telest is an old man that realised that the present is not worth living in, and lives only by his memories. Another important side character is Jonathan; He is a young and careless necromancer who brought a horrible curse on the world by bringing his dead wife to life too soon. All of those and many more play an important part in the plot and many chapters are presented from their points of view.
The main characters have been very much developed throughout the novel. In the previous Death Gate novels, Haplo and Alfred were very one sided, and didn’t see one another's point of view about life. At the beginning of Fire Sea, Haplo wanted to send Alfred to the lord of the Nexus but by the end he changes his mind and lets him go. The other characters in the novel; Balthazar the necromancer; The young duke Jonathan; The prince of Cairn Telest and Kliteus, the king of Necropolis, have also developed a lot.
The characters have developed throughout external and internal conflict. There have been many conflicts, some were different for different characters.
Haplo: Haplo’s plan starts to fall apart. Being a Patryn, he feels very uncomfortable with his weakness and is very afraid to face the Lord of the Nexus and tell him that the plan is going wrong. He is facing external conflict of person vs. person (His lord, Alfred,) and person Vs. Society (Patryns, people of Abarrach.)
Alfred: Alfred is facing even more conflicts. The main conflict is against the society of Abarrach; he is afraid of them but more than everything he is afraid that he, too, can become like them. That leads to an internal conflict. He is also facing Person vs. person conflict where he has to face Haplo.
Jonathan: Was not facing any conflicts at all until the middle of the novel, when his wife dies and he brings her back to life too soon. She becomes a horrible combination of living and dead and brings a new war to Abarrach: The dead against the living. Jonathan was responsible for all of this and he is facing a very strong internal conflict. Later, with Haplo and Alfred, he finds “The chamber of the Damned” where he sees a small part of the meaning of life. This changed him and he goes to a war, all by himself, against the armies of the dead. That conflict was not resolved in Fire Sea.
The authors of the novel did not use many literary devices. That is because the novel doesn’t need any direct metaphors and Similes to deliver its message. And those devices are not fitting well because the novel is written, even though not in first person, from he points of view of the characters and the Patryns and people of Abarrach don’t think in metaphoric language. However, many things throughout the novel have a relation to our lives and are, even if not directly, related to us.
The authors use lots of images, and after reading a description of a place, you can see it in your mind very clearly. After a few pages, the reader immediately gets into the feeling of the world of stone.
One of the most important devices used, is different points of view.
Even though the book is in third person, many opinions and thoughts are presented. Different chapters are written from different points of view. For example:
Chapters 1-7 are in first person from the necromancer Balthazar.
Chapters 7-15 are from Haplo’s point of view and present his one sided opinions
Chapters 22-23 are from the dynast’s points of view.
Chapter 27-28 is from Alfred’s point of view.
In one of the other deathgate books, there is even a chapter written from a dog’s point of view.
These different points of view make the reader understand the situation on his own. In novels where only one Point of view is presented, the reader never sees the other points of view. Where there is no point of view, and the book is neutral, it is harder to relate to it and have opinions. By seeing the different points of view the reader also learns to respect people who are different from him, because they all have the same values.
The thoughts of the characters are often presented and a few chapters include no dialogs at all but only thoughts and minor actions. This, too, helps the reader see different points of view.
(This is a presentation I did quite a long time ago, in grade 10 when I was just learning English - that explains some of the mistakes and also some of the useless information and the tone.)