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Amber and Ashes (Book Review) The Dark Disciple Trilogy Volume 1

Updated on October 21, 2009
Panoramic art from the book, Amber and Ashes
Panoramic art from the book, Amber and Ashes

Buy the book, Amber and Ashes at Amazon

Amber and Ashes, Vol. 1: The Dark Disciple (Dragonlance) (v. 1)
Amber and Ashes, Vol. 1: The Dark Disciple (Dragonlance) (v. 1)

Amber and Ashes hardcover - I always enjoy the hardcovers more.

 

We all remember Mina, from the War of Souls trilogy

***SPOILER ALERT***
Beaten down, humbled, with a soul mortally wounded by the death of her Goddess, Mina nearly takes her own life in the opening scene of this book. Mina, and her hypnotizing eyes that can ensnare a man in their warm flowing, sap-like liquid, has dogged around the sacred burial grounds of Takhisis (her dead goddess) with her minotaur friend, Galdar for about a year after the War of Souls ... and the dread is wearing on her.

Margaret Wies returns to the scene, after her War of Souls trilogy, with a new trilogy called: The Dark Disciple. I was surprised to see that Hickman did not co-author this book/series with her, but it did not diminish my excitement to dive back into another Dragonlance adventure. I will admit, I have stalled on picking up this book. While I loved the War of Souls trilogy (very, very good) I was not a huge fan of Mina, as a focal point. Luckily for that series, there were lots of other excellent characters that hooked me.

The title of the books, the series, the cover art - all pointed to a story saturated with Mina. I wasn't sure how I felt about this ... but none-the-less, here we are.

A godly approach, to a dying world

In the previous Wies Dragonlance installments the Gods were somewhat aloof, and mysterious. Their names uttered here and there. Their abilities, influence, intentions, and medlings are generally paramount to the story-arc, and every so often you get to glimpse the mind of one or two ... but generally speaking, Wies does not enter into God-Perspective writing.

Wies generally takes a 3rd person limited approach, with a fair amount of POV switching, and omniscient narrative summary, and in this book she does not stray from her tried and true formula, but she does add an extra ingredient ... The God of Death.

And the Goddess of the Sea.

But of course, in this book you're on a first name basis with Chemosh, and Zeboim (respectively). They frequent their human avatars, and you are constantly reading from their perspective. While at times this is pretty fascinating, and fairly unprecedented (from WIes's perspective), it definitely chips away at my suspension of disbelief. I think this is bound to happen with several people. More on this later.

So why is the world dying?

Krynn is not dying ... Dragonlance is. Wizards has discontinued Dragonlance. If you're reading this article you probably already know that ... but if you didn't ... yeah. That sucks pretty bad. It looks like they are consolidating and focusing on different settings. So I find it interesting, in light of this news, that Wies just jumps right into the Gods' chariots and fires off three books.

Book 2 and Book 3 of the Dark Disciple Trilogy

Wies shepherds in some beautiful energy, discpline, and environments

Rhys Mason is sitting on a grassy knoll, Atta (his faithful herding dog) at his side, and the wispy white clouds rolling over a pristine cobalt sky. Rhys is a monk of Majere. He leads a simple life at a simple monastery. He is a shepherd, and he loves it.

He cultivates his harmony, happiness, and companionship through the disciplined life of a Monk of the God Majere.

Wies does an excellent job of connecting you to the simple world of a Monk, his dog, monastery, and his dedicated worship. Wies also does an excellent job of murdering this perfect world, plunging Rhys into a world of darkness he has never known, and shattering the foundation of all he believes in significantly enough for him to denounce his god and embark on a quest of vengeance.

Rhys Mason, and his quest for vengeance

Rhys, confused, bloodied, and morally battered leaves the monastery in what would seem to be a simple quest: stop his murderous brother. But he finds himself face to face with Zeboim (and angry Goddess of evil), forced into a hopeless quest against a new brand of undead, and magicked onto Storm's Keep where he is forced into a sadistic game against a brutal Death Knight.

He is not fully alone. He is accompanied by some good characters. A kender, with the mysterious ability to communicate with the plane of dead, who's name happens to be Nightshade, reluctantly joins his quest. And of friend Gerard from the Wars of Souls has taken up residence in Solace, as sheriff.

Things get out of hand quick. Rhys and Nightshade soon find themselves in WAY over their head.

So, I guess god's wear shirts, pants and capes?

The Gods of Dragonlance. Those who are familiar know most of them by their God names (or at least one of them). But their specific abilities, intentions, and volition are always something left to the imagination.

The very term "God" suggests a certain amount of omnipotence. Right?

Much like many of the Earthly legends / mythologies, the Gods of Dragonlance are personified, imperfect beings, and generally don't like each other that much. Tempers rage, schemes are plotted to undermine one another, and men are used as pawns.

The most difficult thing about book one (and maybe it just takes some getting used to) is that you, the reader, have to adjust what you thought you knew about the Gods and accept what Wies is describing in her storytelling. For disbelief to be suspended, and the reader to fully enter the realm of the story, the reader should not be questioning what is happening or how it is happening. This really pulls away from the experience. And I can't help it when reading these books, but ... these are f*ing GODS, right?

It is hard for me to buy that these Gods are in trouble, or that they are facing problems, or that they need mortals and Death Knights to run around and do their bidding. It is difficult to set aside the belief that they can probably do whatever they want.

Vulnerability is important

The reader needs to feel a certain amount of vulnerability for the focal characters in a story. They cannot be invincible. They need weaknesses, flaws, and characteristics that make you want to root for them, or see them fail. It is somewhat difficult to read through this book and not be constantly reminded that these are Gods. Ultimate beings in direct control of the cosmos.

But, I'm sure Wies knew this going into it. She does an excellent job of relating to this problem in an elegant and acceptable way. But it is still somewhat of a problem in my opinion. One of the problem is inherent to the subject matter. The Gods are supposed to be mysterious beings. We're not supposed to know everything about them. So without a decent understandings of the true vulnerabilities, it is difficult to accept what is happening in the book without questioning it, because it might not be what you expected from a God ...

More from Wies and Hickman - if you haven't read them yet, do it.

Nuitari's got something up those damned black sleeves of his

Being in the minds of fascinating Gods for much of the book does have its benefits. We finally glimpse the mind of Nuitari; Evil god of the Dark Moon.

In an unexpected turn of events, Chemosh and Mina find a discovery that could very well upset the balance of the pantheon. Just when you think the rivalry between Zeboim and Chemosh is about as bad as it gets, you find Chemosh face to face with the moon-faced God of darkness, Nuitari.

They size each other up, looking for weaknesses. Chemosh finds one, and attempts to leverage it. But, chance would have it that Nuitari has a trump card laying in the palm of his hands. Chemosh watches in horror and blood pours between the dark God's clenched fist ...

Concluding the book review of Amber and Ashes, Dark Disciple Trilogy Volume 1

I have already begun the second book, and will be posting the review as usual. I appreciate all of you taking the time to jump into the Time_Spiral reviews. They are written in a way that would be entertaining and informative for both those who have read the book, and those who have not. Being in this particular medium (hubpages), I gather that not too many here are avid Dragonlance readers. But, maybe they'll read these articles and find themselves thinking: well that sounds pretty darn interesting!

I do recommend this book. Even though I haven't finished the series yet, book two is already turning out to be really interesting.

Thank you. Be peaceful on your way,

Time_Spiraling

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