Fire Sea (Death Gate Cycle, #3) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
In "Elven Star" we heard recordings that the Sartan left behind mentioning their concerns about sending energy to Abarrach. And, in "Fire Sea," it does not take us long to find out why the Sartan were so concerned. Abbarach, the World of Stone, is dying, in more ways than one.
We begin in the city of Kairn Telest, which used to be green and warm and full of life. The city is now cold and barren. The people, including the children, are dying both from hypothermia and starvation. And by "people," I mean the Sartan. All of the mensch are now dead. The Dwarves, for what it is worth, lasted longer than the humans and elves, perhaps because Dwarves are adapted to living in caves.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, death is not the end for the Sartan of Abarrach. You see, they have discovered what they think is the secret to eternal life -- they raise their deceased from the dead. This is a less-than-perfect solution. The dead are able to keep on doing the jobs they did in life, for example, which is a plus. However, the cadaver is also more or less trapped in the past, able to relive past actions, but not able to learn new ones. Therefore, you can move an agricultural cadaver from one field to another and, so long as he or she is harvesting the same crop, you're in business. Many soldiers are also cadavers. They end up replaying their old battles and so they run the risk of getting dismembered or decapitated by a current opponent while fighting an opponent they faced in life.
While preparing for his departure to Abarrach, Haplo put extra runes on his ship so that he could stay conscious during the trip through Death's Gate. As he prepares to leave, he experiences an uncomfortable rippling sensation. Soon afterwards, he finds Alfred in the hold of the ship trying to placate the dog with a sausage from Haplo's food stores. It turns out that Alfred spent the duration of "Elven Star" trying to find Bane and has just arrived in the Nexus in hopes that he will find the boy there. It is too late to do anything else with the Sartan, so Haplo takes Alfred with him to Abarrach. On the way, their minds mix and each experiences a traumatic event in the other's life.
When they arrive on Abarrach and discover the use that the people of Abarrach make of necromancy, Haplo and Alfred have very different responses. Haplo sees necromancy as a way to create the perfect army. He envisions his "Lord" sending his army in to battle the Sartan, and when a soldier dies, the necromancers would come in, resurrect the soldier, and the soldier will get up and keep going.
Alfred, on the other hand, is horrified. Sartan magic has rules, and necromancy violates them in a very severe way.
I know that this is hard to believe after so many hundreds of words in my review, but not much actually happens in this book. Most of the interesting things are in setting, rather than in plot. People die, but more or less don't stay that way. We hear someone else say, "I know about the dog." What do these people know about the dog? We'll find that out later in the series.
The setting is fascinating, and the philosophical musings are also of interest to the reader. But the main point of this book, as I recall, is one major revelation that I cannot go into now, as it would be a spoiler, that has major repercussions for the rest of the series.