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Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are of course famous for inventing the Dragonlance series - the neverending adventures of a Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying world that, on the written page looks uncannily like Lord of the rings.
I think that when they came up with the idea for this series the duo intended to create the largest set of worlds and the longest running fantasy novel series to date. There are seven books in total, the first four see the anti-hero of the series exploring and learning about the four worlds (all tied together by a Death gate, whatever that is) that had been created after the "Sundering", a remodelling of the one world by a race of Godlike magical beings called the Sartan into four worlds, each characterised by an element, earth, fire, stone and water. The final three books are supposed to extend the adventure.
The first novel sees Haplo, a member of another godlike race of supreme magical beings called the Patryn - the ancient enemy of the Sartan who were all captured and put into the "Labyrinth" fantasy equivalent of a death camp - who, along with his master Xar has excaped and is out for revenge. They don't really know whats going on, only that all of the Sartan seem to have disappeared and that none of the worlds are working as they should be. Haplo visits Arianus, the world of air. A somewhat bizarre place that is made up of floating islands. of course he finds the requisite assassin, warmongering elves, magicians and dwarves and a lot of runnign around and hijincks ensue. In other words, don't expect anything earth shatteringly original beyond what you see in the setup.
Weis and Hickman, however, somehow manage to make a virtue of cliche. Every one of their novels is unapologetically designed to kickstart another fantasy roleplaying world and the Deathgate cycle with its four completely new world's and endless footnotes on currencies, weights and types of magic seems to be a more brazen attempt than most. Despite glaring faults as writers, their attempts at characterisation ham fisted at best and plotlines that generally dwindle into nothing, there's something remarkably compelling about these novels. Maybe its because, every so often, they eschew the traditional quest narrative in an attempt to write something that coveys social awareness. For instance The Dwarves in Dragon Wing are enslaved workers to maintaining a machine called the Kicksey Winsey by the elves that doesn't even really work any more; it raises obviousconcerns about Marxist power structures and the implementation of technology, but unfortunately the authors fail to develop them as they are just incapable of doing so within the genric demands of their fiction. The light hearted "fun" imperative genrally takes over and as a result we've got a first entry in a sequence of books that zip along in an immensely reeadable fashion but frustrate when one considers how much more complex this narrative really could be.
Hugh the Hand agrees to assassinate the king's son but is unprepared for the magical being who is his victim's guardian, or for the difficulty that awaits him in the realm of the dwarves.