I always hope that the world will prove the stereotypes wrong. When the setting calls for a dark and stormy night, I anticipate a soft sunset and a warm breeze, the tall grass dancing its mockery of every bad novel with slashing lightning and sloshing mud. The world’s an ornery place that doesn’t play by our rules, and I count on its contrariness to make life a little more pleasant sometimes.
Of course, this self-inflicted reverse-psychology doesn’t usually work. Turns out the world doesn’t give two figs for what I think or want. That’s why on the night when Sargent Faithful and his boys marched into Colonel Rupert’s camp it was raining fit to drown a pig. The wind lashed at the empty tents still weighted down by the gear of dead men, and though all trace of lock-stepped boot prints had been washed away, I shuddered as the howling wind seemed to bring them back to us again.
The colonel had sent his squad out three days ago on a reconnaissance mission into enemy territory. None had returned, but HQ had sent him another squad anyways. That, too, was stereotypical.
I’d heard about Faithful before, though I’d never met the man. Military life has a way of changing a person, and it’s not uncommon for a man to lose his way after a battle or two. It’s hard to believe in a god out here. But not the sargent–he was a man who always knew exactly where he was. It was uncanny, in fact, how present he was. I always expect the religious to fix their stare into the other world, always dreaming about how things will be different someday, or how it should be. Not Faithful though, he was always here. Always right here.
Bragovia Army Corps
Summer, 642 TE.
He saw the man, he saw the camp,
He heard the threat and death.
With twisted lips he walked the heights,
Looking with laboured breath
‘Round the valley cloaked in mist
And thousand stars bright lit.
He held his breath and turned away
And down the hill he wept.
Past sentry’s post and comrade’s tent
He crept in dead of night,
And from the pickets loosed a horse
And fled before first light.
With dawn’s red glow, a tidal wave
Flowing o’er hill and hold
Came death to make that red look light
And coward’s actions bold.
Said not a word as flee the day,
A scarf ‘round head was tied.
No look nor prayer tossed back to men
Whose fate it was to die.
He fled his death, but never could
He flee his memories:
‘Twas he that killed those men, and when
He reached that far-flung sea,
There Death did find him in the depths
Where sought he to be free.
He could have cried, a single call
Would bring aid to his side,
But in silence he killed his friends,
And in silence he died.
The companions are growing old, and for most, this will be their last adventure. Relative peace has settled over the land for the last twenty-five years, and while the armies of Takhisis still exist, they are bottled up in Sanction and perceived to be of little threat. Dragons of Summer Flame, in fact, begins with none of the action the other books have, but instead focuses on a small island and a new character: the beautiful human woman with golden eyes named Usha.
Larger than the previous books in the saga, Summer Flame begins more slowly as well. However, you won’t lack for adventure and battle in this novel, and it contains in one book what we would have had to read three for with the original novels. The entire story is contained between these covers, so you won’t have to wait and see what happens.
What does happen is both sad and satisfying, catharctic and thrilling. Journey with Palin Majere, the son of Caramon and Tika, and his cousin Steel Brightblade (the son of Sturm Brightblade and Kitiara uth Matar, the half-sister of Caramon and Raistlin; presumably Sturm and Kitiara had the child during the five year span before the original trilogy), who will be joined once again by an exuberant, if somewhat older, Uncle Tas. This book is perhaps my favourite of the DragonLance Saga, particularly the character of Steel, and it is one I will read over and over again throughout the years.
The cover art of this book shows the twins standing back to back, one with a sword held over his shoulder, the other with his staff. A slight smile quirks Raistlin’s lips while Caramon scowls at the reader, and it leaves one wondering at the artist’s meaning. In Test of the Twins, Raistlin has succeeded in entering the Abyss where he will challenge the Queen of Darkness, Takhisis herself, while Caramon and Tasselhoff traveled 302 years into the future. Overshooting their own time, they find themselves in a desolate land torn by lightning and ravaged by starvation and plagues. Their home has been destroyed, and while unsure of what has transpired, Caramon has learned a few lessons in his travels. He has a kender with him: he can change history.
Test of the Twins is almost a denouement for the trilogy. I really felt like the climax was reached in the last book with Raistlin entering the Abyss. The end of this book is exciting in a way, but only in the same way that the end of one of Shakespeare’s plays is exciting. The climax was in act 3, and now we’re done. We know the end, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as act 3.
Still, it wraps up the trilogy nicely, and restores Krynn to something of a clean slate. It also sweeps the stage and sets Krynn for the next book in Weis and Hickman’s saga, a series of short stories that transitions from the original companions to their children. Reading The Second Generation will help readers connect a bit more with the characters introduced in Dragons of Summer Flame, the next book in the saga, but it’s not really necessary.
Read Test of the Twins and enjoy; the Legends trilogy isn’t nearly as good without it. But don’t expect it to compare to War of the Twins.
And though he did not strike with the dagger, it drew blood anyway; drew blood not from flesh but from soul. Quickly and cleanly, it sliced through the last spiritual tie between the twins. Caramon winced slightly at the swift, sharp pain in his heart. But the pain did not endure. The tie was severed. Free at last, Caramon released his twin’s arm without a word.
Raistlin’s evil has been revealed in such fullness that his twin can no longer ignore it. When Caramon first traveled into the past, he had hoped to save his brother, to bring him to redemption, but by the end of Time of the Twins, he knew that such was impossible. At least, for a given value of “knew,” because not long after the beginning of War of the Twins he has changed his mind again. Hope continues to dwell in his heart, and Caramon is loathe to give up hope for his twin.
War of the Twins details the pride of the Kingpriest that resulted in the Cataclysm, the fiery mountain hurled upon Krynn that broke the land and ended with the silence of the gods. It also reveals what should have been evident to the reader all along, yet is easily overlooked: Raistlin, in traveling to the past, has not only learned from Fistandantilus, he has become Fistandantilus. And this means that Fistandantilus’s fate, to die in the Dwarfgate Wars, must become Raistlin’s own. Caught in a trap of his own making, Raistlin struggles to find an escape, but short of admitting defeat and fleeing, none seem evident.
However, there is a caveat. Tasselhoff Burfoot, the kender companion, traveled with Caramon back in time. Having been created by accident, a quark of the chaotic Graygem, kender were never supposed to travel through time because, unlike the races created by the gods, they have the ability to change history. Perhaps Raistlin’s fate is not sealed after all…
As Crysania’s love for Raistlin grows, so does Caramon’s distrust and detestation. But despite the finality of this book’s conclusion, remember there is another volume waiting. You won’t be able to take a break between them, trust me.