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Reviews of 'Amber and Iron'

Amber and Iron

by Margaret Weis
The Dark Disciple, Volume 2

Reviews of 'Amber and Iron'

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Reviewer: BeezerMN

Rating: Stars

Amber and Iron by Margaret Weis is the second book the Dark Disciple trilogy set in the Dragonlance world. I have mixed feelings about this book, some of which I will discuss below.

I need to first say that I am a big fan of Weis's Dragonlance work. I have read everything from the original Dragonlance Chronicles on. In fact, the Chronicles are the first fantasy books I ever read, and I haven't stopped reading since.

Now, the plot of Amber and Ashes centers on the character Mina from the War of Souls trilogy. The plot focuses on Mina's relationship with various gods and what she does to further their causes. The plot isn't 'bad' in this book, but one of the things I had the most trouble with was the direct impact the gods played. It is such a big leap from the Chronicles and other Dragonlance books to see the god directly influencing the affairs of the mortals. I personally like the 'old' way of Dragonlance where the gods grant spells and work through dreams etc, versus directly appearing and talking to mortals. When they do that they 'lose' something of being a 'god' in my view. If you can get past that aspect this plot does advance the story of Mina quite a bit, in particular the last twenty pages. Weis continues to be one of the masters at having the reader end a book with a fantastic cliffhanger.

This book is clearly character driven. There are many elements of two characters that Weis needed to get in, at times at the expense of a better plot. Rhys and Mina are the two central characters and are really beginning to be more fleshed out within this book. In particular Rhys's character development is just fantastic. He progresses in leaps and bounds from the start of book on. Mina as well has very good character development, but the main twist for her happens, as I said earlier, in the last 20 pages of the book. In fact the last page of the book leaves the reader just wanting to jump right into the next book to find out what's going on.

I am having a hard time rating this book. There are some things I really liked about this book (the character development for one) but, there are things I didn't like at all (the gods' direct influence). It seems to me that this book is starting to seem like a major event is happening, which is surprising in a way since the War of Souls was just completed not too long ago. I think in the end I will give it a 4 out of 5 just based on how much I enjoyed the book.

I would recommend this book to fans of the Dragonlance world who are caught up with all the books that have been released thus far. If you haven't yet read Amber and Ashes you really need to read that before you read this one, or you will be completely and utterly lost. If you are looking at where to start reading Dragonlance books, this one is not the one for you. I would suggest the Dragonlance Chronicles; they are after all the books that launched the world. All in all this was an enjoyable book and I am looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy.

Reviewer: Carteeg Struve

Rating: Stars

Editor's Note: The following review contains SPOILERS. You have been warned!

The fact that I finished this novel in under a day is not a tribute to my reading abilities, but it is due to the fact that once you start the second part of this trilogy you are going to be very reluctant to return to the lesser things in life: like family, friends, employment, meals, and sleeping. I am just grateful we have the ability to read and breathe at the same time... and also go to the bathroom.

The storyline re-picks up by giving us the viewpoint of a to-be victim of the so-called "Beloved of Chemosh" and continues the vantage point up until the new Beloved takes his own first victim. This worked well because it helps disconnect the threat to being purely that of the characters we've been following and helps generalize the growing menace to that of the populous. Also it was good to see Lucy again, who was one of the earlier victims in the first novel. (The fact that a series about vampire-ish undead includes characters named Mina and Lucy – two names of women from the novel Dracula – is a bit of humor not to be missed.)

The problem of the unstoppable Beloved continues to spread across Ansalon, but soon we return to Chemosh himself and his bumbling death knight sidekick and are quickly reminded that the God of Death is not getting closer to any type of victory. In fact, other than manifesting dangerous threats to everyone at large, as the book progresses we continue to see how unable he is to actually make his threats truly amount to anything. This is a nice change from other 'core' novels in which we find an unstoppable mastermind of an enemy who is only to be overcome at the last moment. If in Volume Three Chemosh actually gets close to winning anything that would be a plot twist in itself.

I will state that although the issue of Chemosh thinking Mina is dead seems to be finished up a little too quickly for my liking, there was enough going on throughout the rest of the novel to make me overlook such a quick resolution to what appeared to be a major deal at the end of Volume One.

Next we return to the new bad-guy on the block who showed up at the end of the first volume, Nuitari. At the end of the first book, the God of Black Magic appeared a little too close to being a classical black-cloaked/long-mustached-twirling villain who was two steps away from tying some girl to a train track. But in Volume Two he is developed much more as we see his dealings not only with the imprisoned Mina, but also his own bumbling sidekicks, the Black Robes Caele and Basalt. Instead of waiting for the secret of his retaking of the Istar Tower to be leaked to his cousins, he tells them himself and lets them in on the deal... partially. The sequence is wonderful in the fact that it shows that Nuitari is not a standard villain that greedily goes for all-or-nothing only to be left in the dust. He works hard for mounting small victories. He's not a mustache-twirling villain. He is a long-term manipulator. In that, I've started to really like his character.

Oh wait. That's right. The heroes of the piece. Considering that there are so many things going on and that Rhys himself didn't show up until a third of Volume One was finished, it is easy to become engrossed with everything else going on. I doubt this will shock everyone, but the former monk of Majere Rhys Mason and the nightstalker Nightshade did not die at the end of the first book leaving us with no heroes to follow. Also we get to again see the forever egotistical and yet childishly charming Princess of the Dark Pantheon, Zeboim. I wish we could have seen the great late lord of the Knights of Takhisis in a less infuriating manner, but alas it looks like that will not happen. The Ariakan plotline seems resolved in a somewhat choppy manner, however everything is there to understand what happens. The scenes we don't see are probably not really all that important anyway. In short, if somebody says they will go off to do X, Y, Z and nothing goes wrong and they say they did X, Y, Z later on, then there is no reason to spend time watching them do X, Y, Z.

The first half of the book, where it is not following a god or two or three, follows Rhys as he continues to hunt his 'Beloved' brother, Lleu. However, no longer are Rhys and Nightshade alone. News is getting out. Jenna of the Red makes a few cameos along with others from important organizations which are no longer blind to events going on. We are even introduced to a rare Dragonlance character, a paladin–and more importantly a paladin that is likable, as they are supposed to be! Huzzah! But unfortunately the new guys don't prove too much help. Attempts to try to detain and/or destroy the Beloved, including one with a name familiar to many in the Dragonlance community, are made. All attempts fail.

Rhys is [later] shanghaied (literally) into events again. This part feels a bit orchestrated, but considering the only other option is to watch the hero go home, I can give some leeway. Rhys' relationship with Majere is sorted out, which is early if you compare it to the cliché version of the 'crisis of faith' story we have seen time and again. Man is not supposed to return to God until the story is either over or just about over. This makes me curious of how Rhys will be further developed in Volume Three. As for Nightshade, I will state that I have a new favorite scene from Dragonlance. Not 'The' favorite scene, but one of them. The mystic Nightshade's prayer to Majere towards the end left me feeling great about the character. He has a mind of his own, and his wisdom is that which not only rivals many of the mortal characters, but I'd say he far surpasses many of the divines. Majere especially included. Nightshade may be a kender, but occasional joke lines aside, he comes across as a real person. I look forward to not only seeing him in Volume Three, but in more stories to come afterwards.

But what about Mina? More and more oddities about this girl come to suffice as Nuitari experiments with her, specifically in how magic works. For the RP gamers out there, her rules for saving throws are very messed up. Things then get even stranger when the question of who Mina is comes forward during her escape from the Tower. I could also go into detail about her relations with Chemosh, but other than stating the god is an obsessed paranoid freak when it comes to her, there isn't much more to say.

The great revelation at the end of the novel is not a complete surprise, especially since we begin to see more and more hinting of it as time progresses. In fact, the final 'hints' are so blatant I hesitate to call them such. But the logistics of how the revelation is true or even works into the setting and storyline are not yet given. We are only teased with it before the inferred 'To Be Continued....' flashes into our minds.

Regardless of the great evil that girl has done, I feel very sorry for Mina. The eyes of all nineteen gods are upon her. And I doubt she will ever know peace, for what frightened her in the first book is already true.

Or at least it was.

And now for the long wait for Volume Three.

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