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Reviews of 'Amber and Ashes'

Amber and Ashes

by Margaret Weis
The Dark Disciple, Volume 1

Reviews of 'Amber and Ashes'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of Amber and Ashes. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.

Reviewer: Clarion

Rating: Stars

This is easily the best Dragonlance novel Margaret Weis has written in years - a real page-turner. The setup and ideas, and the direction she took Mina in order to put her at the forefront of the story are all really well conceived. All of the characters - and I mean all of them - have something worth caring about, which I think is a rarity in a DL book.

Mina herself is wiser and more sly than during the War of Souls, exploring aspects of herself that were left untapped under Takhisis' yoke, and creating a pretty seductive protagonist in the process (in more ways than one). Rhys, who was in danger of coming through as a token nod to the changes that D&D has wrought on the Krynnish landscape, is actually very well realised. In particular, the chapter where he is introduced (which frankly comes too late into the book) captures the essence of the 'diamond soul' perfectly... perhaps too well, as it happens, since his decision to leave the monastery and abandon Majere seems hasty, even under the circumstances which surround it. Giving him a truly awesome dog as a companion is the icing on the cake, though. :) Nightshade is a kender, and I've always loved the way Margaret writes kender, so there isn't much more to say about that; she always captures their innocence so beautifully that you can't help but like them. He really shines towards the end of the book, though.

The gods themselves really stand out as my favourite characters; flawed, and on occasion even more impotent than the mortals they are manipulating. Chemosh and Zeboim in particular are great characters, pathetic and terrifying in equal measure, and downright hilarious in some passages. Their interplay, their thoughts on the rest of the Pantheon and their followers, and their actions, really add depth to a side of the DL coin which, at least for me, has always felt a little under-exploited. For most of Amber and Ashes, the gods are no more or less important that the mortals, and that's exactly what the book needed to do to be effective. That Chemosh, of all gods, could be undone by his love for living mortal flesh is a great twist.

In many ways the characters do exceed the plot, which seems to be pretty straightforward at this juncture but with the promise of complications to come. One characteristic of many DL novels, and this one in particular, is the linear narrative, and I think this is where the book stumbles a little. There is basically one course through the book. We don't even hear of Rhys until Mina's actions bring his family to the monastery, and the situation seems contrived and uncomfortable even then. I can certainly see the difficulty the author would have faced in bringing a monk, essentially a totally reclusive character, into the story more quickly than circumstances would dictate, but I wish she had found a way. The introduction of such an important character no less than a third of the way through the novel jars considerably. The very same problem then rears its head again with Nightshade, whose introduction is superficial even by Dragonlance standards.

This kind of pyramidal entry of characters certainly keeps the pages turning but is always in danger of leaving certain members of the cast under-developed. In Amber and Ashes' case, the author rescues Rhys with a brilliant first chapter (and some exceptional prose, I have to say), and relies on twenty years of DL games and novels to rescue Nightshade (which works, to some extent). Still, this is not my favourite style of writing and there was certainly room in the novel for an entirely separate protagonist to parallel Mina's journey through the first third of the book.

To round everything off you get a bunch of gaming stuff at the back by Jamie Chambers, which came as quite a shock when the book finished about 20 pages before I expected it to! I'm glad to see this trend being continued, though, and hope that the characters described therein become integral to the storyline in the subsequent volumes, and that the plot therefore branches in a few more directions than it has already. There's no question that I await the next book with baited breath.

To summarise: go get it, and set aside a night or two because I doubt you'll be able to put it down.

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