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The chronicles novels by Margeret Weis and Tracy Hickman are novels inspired by Tolkein and his majestic lord of the rings series, whilst never hitting the heights of that great piece of work are at least a fun read and better than some of the other Tolkein impersonators.
Weis and Hickman are American authors who have collaborated on other novels but these novels are their best known pieces of work (Hickman is a man by the way despite the first name). Rather like Tolkein the books are trilogies and have many echoes from the great mans work, however, they differ enough to be enjoyed without reading Tolkeins work. They have also had a huge spin off industry in which characters in the novels have been taken forward by other writers and spun into more tales, these tales are of varying quality so should be read with a pinch of salt.
But back to the first story - Whats happening?
Well there is a planet which is torn by conflict between the Gods but at the present time the conflict had gone quiet. The planet is circled by three moons and three stellar constellations, each is associated with a god, and each moon with a wizarding class. There are different types of wizard, white (good), red (neutral) and black (evil), of course these catergories are open to interpretation. There are warring elves, dwarves, knights, gnomes, men, dragons and draconian.
However at the start of the book there is a loose piece not disimilar to the peace before either world war just needing a trigger for war to stalk the lands again. As with most fantasy novels, the novel starts with a meeting in a village pub between a half-elf Tanis, a dwarf Flint and a plainsman and woman called Goldmoon. Goldmoon is the catalysis for the events in the book as she carries a talisman the draconians are after, they are seeking it and have created an anti-religion called Seekers.
This soon develops into a standard journey into dark lands looking for clues into the talismans powers, they are joined by a knight, a pair of brothers one a warrior and huge and the other a weedy red cloaked magician, they are also joined by a kinder kin and a vagabond human. Kinder are so similar to hobbits its a wonder Tolkeins family didn't start legal procedings, small, inquisitive, loving food, tobacco and have large hairy feet. They however are thieves or aquirers as they would describe it.
The books soon develops into a written version of a road trip, they meet noble gods, signals over the battle between the gods and encounter the first dragon. They are constantly chased by draconians who are a kind of deformed elf/dragon mix, this again is reminiscent of the ringwraiths in LOTR.
We have set battles were the knights enter the battles between the gods, dragons appear more frequently and we have plenty of magic, fights, and betrayal.
To be fair to the authors they have been attacked for their similarity to Tolkein but they are different enough to be interesting to read, I particularly like the relationship between the dwark Flint and the kinder Tas, they are like an old married couple, and the death of Flint is genuinely moving. The death of Flint reveals the truth over one of the other members of the group, and that revelation leads into the second book in the series.
However, at the end of the novel Tanis is leading a desperate group looking into mines for a mysterious figure who has information vital to the outcome of the war. The book has moments of real tension, the tension devloped by the light use of dragons however when they appear the chapters are explosive. Of all the characters, Flint is my favourite closely followed by Raistlin the troubled magician, his interplay between his more muscular brother Camaroon will be explored in the following two books in the series but really explored in the subsequent trilogy - The War of the Twins.
This book introduces the characters and sets up the story well, but it is very similar to Tolkein and certain sections are too close.
I have to admit, when my friend recommended this book to me, I was more than a little doubtful about the quality of what I was reading. Let me tell you, I was so far off base. I have rarely read a book that kept me so enthralled as this one did. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman never failed to keep me interested throughout the entirerty of the book. It is captivating, riveting, and exciting from start to finish. The characters are extremely well developed and intriguing. I am convinced that anyone choosing to read this book will not be disappointed. And after you are done with this book, move on to the rest of this heart stopping trilogy.