Amber and Blood by Margaret Weis is the third, and final, novel in the Dark Disciple trilogy. The first book being Amber and Ashes (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, Vol. 1) and the second being Amber and Iron (Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple, Vol. 2). This trilogy follows the path of one of the characters from the Weis and Hickman War of Souls trilogy set in the Dragonlance Realm. Fans of the Dragonlance world know that Weis and Hickman are responsible for creating some of the most iconic characters in the fantasy genre, and I am, and always will be, a big fan of their Dragonlance Chronicles Special Edition (Dragonlance Chronicles). They were the first fantasy novels I ever read and launched me onto reading many more novels. This is an extremely difficult novel for me to rate and review, as I will explain below.
The plot of this book picks up right where book two left off. That being Mina's quest of self discovery, just who she is and what her role in the world is. Rhys and the kender Nightshade are given a task that will certainly test their resolve and abilities. In terms of subplots, aside from the appearance of many gods from the Krynn pantheon, there just really isn't much `meat' to the overall story. This book, much like the second book in this trilogy, is clearly character driven. This, in and of itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but as a big fan of Dragonlance novels and fantasy novels in general, this novel just seems to be lacking the enjoyment that I have come to expect and enjoy from a book. As I said in my review of the second novel, I was a fan of how the gods of Krynn used to interact with the people i.e. dreams, visions etc versus how they are in this trilogy appearing and interacting the way they do. To me, this comes across as contrived and against what twenty years of reading has established.
The characters in this book are for the most part, characters that we have seen in previous books. Rhys the monk, Nightshade, Mina, and Galdar. I was rather surprised at the lack of new characters. There seemed to be ample room to introduce a new character or two to add a subplot, yet that simply wasn't done. While I understand this book, and trilogy, is about Mina and her personal journey the absolute focus solely on her actually causes me to become apathetic to her and her plight. By fleshing out the characters around her and maybe adding a subplot or two, I may have cared more about her. As it is, I felt as though she was being shoved down the reader's throat with no other options. It feels odd for me to even say that, as I am a big fan of character driven novels, but this one for some reason just doesn't work for me.
A few criticisms I have about this novel are:
1 - I am deeply disappointed in Wizards of the Coast's editing department. From the middle of the book on there are numerous errors. Typos, missing words, repeated words, etc. Maybe, due to the situation regarding another novel they simply gave the second half of the book a glance. Who knows, but for a publisher to allow that many mistakes is uncalled for.
2 - I was a fan of Mina's in the first two books, yet the unbridled focus of her in this novel squashed any interest for her as a character I had. The adage too much of a good thing can ruin it, applies here. I think a better mix of characters and plot would have greatly benefited my overall enjoyment of this novel.
3 - How the gods were handled. When I finished this novel and reflected on it, I was left with the feeling that the gods were spoiled brats and not some supreme being responsible for everything in the world. I fully understand that each god has their own motivations and such, yet I just never felt that the gods acted as `gods' should act. The framework of the past twenty years of reading Dragonlance novels seemed to be tossed out the window.
Some things I particularly liked about this novel:
1 - I enjoyed the ending to Mina's story. Some things made sense, some things seemed to be a bit of a stretch, but overall it was an acceptable ending. She certainly had a great deal of character development.
2 - Ms. Weis' prose is, as always, solid and enjoyable to read. She has a certain flow that I have grown accustomed to over the years. I liked it to putting on your favorite pair of sneakers. You know exactly what you are going to get each and every time.
I really wanted to like this novel. After all, I have invested six novels worth of time reading about Mina and her adventures. Yet, in the end I am left with a sense of disappointment. Not for the final product, but what I think could have been better. I simply did not enjoy this novel anywhere near as much as I enjoyed the first two. Fans of the Dragonlance world, should definitely read this book and cap off the trilogy because the end `event' Is vitally important to the story and Krynn overall. For people looking at getting into the Dragonlance world, I would highly suggest starting with the Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy Gift Set and reading out from there. This novel, and trilogy, is simply not a good place to start reading in this world. I, much like many other Dragonlance fans, sincerely hope this is not the last Dragonlance novel penned by Ms. Weis. I hope Wizards of the Coast allow her and Mr. Hickman to publish one more, if nothing else, for the fans who have invested countless years in the world.