Reviews of 'The Secret of Pax Tharkas'
Reviews of 'The Secret of Pax Tharkas'
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The Secret of Pax Tharkas by Douglas Niles is the first book in a new trilogy called Dwarf Home set in the Dragonlance universe. Mr. Niles is the author of several other fantasy novels and series, most recently he finished the Rise of Solamnia trilogy; also set in the Dragonlance universe. After finishing the Rise of Solamnia trilogy I felt a little disappointed at where the story was left and all the events that transpired. The Dwarf Home trilogy sets the stage for what could be some very dramatic events. Of course, time will tell if those events occur and just how they occur. There is definitely promise though.
The plot of this book is divided up into several points of view. There is one of a dwarven historian seeking to record events and interview different people and promote an ideal. A second point of view revolves around a gully dwarf who always seems to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The last main point of view centers on a member of the Bluestone clan and their proverbial string of bad luck. All three of these plots predictably merge together to form the overall plot line, which I won't say too much about because I believe it to be a spoiler. By and far, the plot of this book is largely a set-up to the next two installments of the trilogy. There is certainly some substance, but the overall feeling I got when reading this novel was a certain "wait until the next book" type of message. There does seem to be a purpose to this novel, however, it is mostly an introduction of the characters and a few situations to set up, what I assume, later events.
The characters in this book, for me anyway, where hit and miss – sometimes with the same character at different parts of the book. For instance, the gully dwarf Gus. Through the first quarter of the book I really liked his character, after all who doesn't like a gully dwarf. Yet, as the book progressed, it seemed that he lost some of those endearing qualities that make gully dwarves unique. Almost as though Mr. Niles tried making Gus more than he should have been. The character of Brandon, was the opposite to me. At the start of the book I didn't really care much for his character. Yet, by the end of the book I had some interest in him and was curious where his tale was going to lead. The character Gretchen I was never really able to develop much interest in. To me, she just didn't come across as a dwarf. Some of her scenes seemed forced and almost as though they were they only to move the story forward and not develop the character. There is some character development in this book, but as with the plot, it seems some things are being held back for the next two books.
I think I need to say, that I don't have a problem when authors intentionally set up the first book of a trilogy as long as it doesn't take away from the current book. While I don't think this 'took away' from the book, it did leave me with a slight feeling as though there was something missing. Just something to keep in mind when reading this novel.
I have two minor criticisms with this book. First is the characters, and how they change – especially Gus. He seemed inconsistent at times. Also, some characters as mentioned above I had trouble connecting with. Secondly, I am of the opinion that the overall plot, characters meeting up etc., was too 'neat'. Maybe, instead of having all the characters come together as they did, the story would have been better served to keep them separated through the entire book.
There are some positives with this book as well, all is not dark and grim. I felt Mr. Niles' prose flowed much better in this novel than in the Rise of Solamnia trilogy. The setting was well described with enough information to allow the reader to picture the vision Mr. Niles had, but with enough missing so the reader can fill in the small details, a very good balance in that perspective. The overall story arc seems to be leaning towards some very large scale things – if I am reading the theme correctly.
Overall, this is a decent book. It is certainly not the best book I have read lately, but conversely it is by no means the worst book I have read either. Fans of the Dragonlance universe need to certainly check out this book if only to know where this series is headed. Casual fantasy fans or fans looking to get into the Dragonlance setting may want to stay away from this one until they have a firmer understanding of the setting and the history involved. This is another book that was hard to finalize a rating for, my gut instinct says to rate it a 3.5 yet (as always) that is not an option. So, I will lean towards giving it a solid 3 star rating with the caveat that I am really looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy. I see great things ahead for this series.
I have to say that Niles' first offering in the Dwarf Home Trilogy is better then most would expect. The characters are true to their dwarven form but yet offer enough distinctive personality to step outside of the traditional dwarven mold.
The story line itself is a linear moving problem. Thorbardin has changed greatly since it was last visited in a book. The High Thane Jungor Stonespringer has instituted several new policies including stripping female dwarves of rights and putting a bounty on the head of the aghar.
Perhaps worse is the fact that William the Black is hiding in the abandoned council hall, with mad schemes of destroying the High Thane and the Hylar. Even though both Jungor and William know where each other is, they lack the stomach, or perhaps the power to truly eliminate the other. So instead of directly assaulting and ending one threat, Jungor tries to sneak attack William, while William plots and schemes.
To the north lies the long underused dwarven nation of Kayolin. This nation while mentioned in several nations has never formally been visited in a novel, and in this book readers have the first chance to delve into the mysterious dwarven nation. Once inside they will discover what happened to the title of Governor and why Kayolin now has a king. Readers from the Rise of Solamnia trilogy will remember references to the King of Kayolin, and now we know what happened.
The story also travels to the Neidar and visits Pax Tharkas. In these locales the reader will rediscover what has become of Hillhome in the decades since Flint Fireforge defended the streets from the Theiwar. Also Pax Tharkas is visited and we learn of what became of the ragged band of exiles that were tossed out of Thorbardin. Both these locales will surprise the reader as time has dragged forward, and while progress has been made, it doesn't mean it was made for the better.
Also in this book we are introduced to several new and reacquainted with several familiar faces. The characters presented in Secret of Pax Tharkas have changed with the passing of time. Tarn Bellowgranite will seem different then his previous self in Dark Thane. Instead of seeing the High Thane Tarn, struggling to save his people and unite them from the dangers of the deep, we see an aged thane, a dwarf who has become more interested in the survival of his people rather then the retaking of the mountain dwarf kingdom.
Also we meet a gully dwarf, who unfortunately is in the wrong place at the wrong time, a dwarf from Kayolin who struggles to regain what was taken from him and his family, a hill dwarf who desires rulership of Thorbardin, and at long last one of the Daewar that traveled to Thoradin makes an appearance. Noticeably absent from the book are Mog Bonecutter and Jungor Stonespringer, perhaps there stories will be told in the next book.
Overall the plot moves at a moderate pace allowing the reader to draw in the scenery of these vary different locales. Also characters are presented in several different manners and Niles does not recycle old plot devices, instead keeping character interaction fresh.
Overall this book was a splendid read and one that should keep the reader turning pages at a steady pace. I for one am looking forward to the next book in this installment.
The Secret of Pax Tharkas is the first book in the Dwarf Home Trilogy. I had high hopes of this new dwarven series going into it, and I must admit that I wasn't disappointed in the least. The best thing right off the bat with this book is that it's most frequent setting doesn't take place in Pax Tharkas, nor in Thorbardin. We get to see the elusive dwarven kingdom of Kayolin up in Solamnia. The story setting of the Dragonlance series is moved ahead three years from the Rise of Solamnia Series to 433 AC.
Kayolin, for those of you keeping score, was a dwarven settlement led by a governor who reported to the High Thane of Thorbardin. In the Rise of Solamnia series, we find out that a king is leading the kingdom, and for some of us we were wondering how in the world this happened. Niles does an excellent job of explaining how this happens, with the Kayolin dwarves no longer following the rule of the High Thane following the Rebellion.
So our hero, makes a journey from Kayolin, it's a quick one that involves a death and an accusation. He makes his way to the Neidar lands around Pax Tharkas where he was betrayed. The action and setting of the book kept my interest as I went through, and I couldn't put the book down. The walk-through of Pax Tharkas was neat, and we even get to see the dead elf king Kith-Kanan along with a brief mention of his undead guards coming to life. The trap that was set in Pax Tharkas had me privately cheering for it to be sprung, but knowing that it would cause a great division among Tarn Bellowgranite's followers and those of the hill dwarves of Hillhome.
The only two continuity errors that I caught were relatively minor, and most Dragonlance fans won't be able to catch them so it won't affect your reading of the book. We get to see appearances again by Tarn (as mentioned above), Willim the Black, and Otaxx Shortbeard. Two I wished were in the book were Mog Bonecutter and Jungor Stonespringer, but I am sure they will appear in the next book.
Overall, I am going to give this book a high mark, because it kept my interest in the book, and the pace moved on instead of bogging down. Also, the low amount of inconsistencies is great job by the author, and I really look forward to the next book to find out what becomes of the dwarven nation.
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