Elven Star (Death Gate Cycle, #2), by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
"Elven Star" takes place on Pryan, the World of Fire. Haplo has once again been sent forth to find out how he can destabilize the world so that his "Lord" can come in and save the day.
The story begins with the elven Quindiniar family. The Quindiniars are the second-richest family in Equilan, the elven queendom (the Queen's family is the richest). Lenthan Quindiniar has passed the family business, the manufacture of magical weapons, to his two eldest children. Calandra, the eldest, has taken over the day-to-day operations of the business, and Paithan, the second-eldest, has taken on sales and delivery of the weapons. Lenthan also has a younger daughter, Aleatha, who spend a lot of time making herself look beautiful and toying with the affections of the men around her, both elven and human. She hopes to marry into nobility.
The Quindiniars have a new customer, a human named Roland Redleaf. Roland is the middleman for a dwarf, Drugar, who wants weapons to defend his people from a threat that has destroyed four lands so far -- two human lands and two dwarven lands. This threat is a group of giants called the tytans.
There's a whole subplot in which Roland and his sister, Rega, are masquerading as husband and wife so that Rega can seduce Paithan. Then they can blackmail Paithan into selling them the weapons for a lower cost and pocket the difference. This plot turns into two romance subplots (sub-sub-plots?), one of which is kind of sweet, despite one incident of manhandling. The other one, however, is straight out of a bad 1980s romantic comedy, complete with him carrying her bodily at least twice, her slapping him once and trying to claw him another time, lots of bickering, and one unconsented kiss. I wasn't really crazy about that romance subplot, if you can't guess.
The world building, on the other hand, is excellent. I loved the concept of how the World of Fire would work. It plays out as a jungle planet with no nighttime. Somehow (we do find out how later in the book), the sun manages to hang in the sky over Pryan constantly, causing the plant life to grow out of control. The people live in giant trees the size of continents with smaller trees growing out of them. The branches of the continental trees are so huge that there are lakes, rivers, and even oceans balanced on top of them
The comic relief is also top-rate. We don't see Alfred in this volume. Instead, we meet a human wizard named Zifnab (n.b. as I didn't read the "Dragonlance" books until after I finished this series, Zifnab's name didn't look at all familiar to me). Zifnab has a dragon, known only as "Dragon," whom the wizard keeps enchanted with a bawdy drinking song. Or perhaps the dragon is the master and Zifnab is the follower. Zifnab pushes the plot forward and also creates quite a few laughs along the way.
Weis and Hickman also do a great job with the threat of the tytans. You can see their motivations, even if their approach leaves quite a bit to be desired. They also leave things tense enough that you are never quite sure who will make it through the latest conflict with them.
And, finally, we get more pieces of the mystery about the Sartan -- both what they were up to, and what happened to them in the years following the Sundering. I seem to have vague recollections of the explanation, but it has been so long since I have read these books the last time that I will probably be surprised all over again at the resolution.