Well Of Darkness
Book One of The Sovereign Stone Trilogy
by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, fantasy (2001)
Voyager, £5.99, ISBN 0-00-648614-2


Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's best characters are always the bad guys. Raistlin Majere comes to mind. Their latest non-Dragonlance fantasy trilogy is centered around the viewpoints of the villains, which I think should be interesting. And if Well Of Darkness is any indication, count me in for the next three years. I am hooked. This book has what that is missing in the last few books by this duo: excitement, betrayal, tragedy, and yes, the way good and evil get messed up sometimes that we don't know how to tell each apart.

This story tells of two partners-in-crime: Prince Dagnarus and his whipping-boy-turned-mage Gareth. Gareth and Dagnarus bond when they are kids, and Gareth becomes pathetically devoted to Dagnarus (fans of slashy subtext, take note). Dag plots against his father and his brother Helmos, heir to the throne, and finally finds the possible key to his usurping the throne in Void magic.

The Void, is seems, is a form of dark magic (duh) that requires its spellcasters to pay some deadly price in return for power. Along the way, Gareth becomes adept at it, Dag falls in love with a spoiled, petulant (and very married) elf Valura, and things go really out of control in the final denouement.

I can't get into the details of this story, really, without taking out all the fun of it and spoiling it for readers. But the heart and soul of this story is definitely Gareth, whose dogged loyalty for Dag often wars with his conscience. But you know how these things are: charismatic, selfish Dag - how can anyone resist? The irony here is when finally Dag acknowledges Gareth's love - not that way, people - Gareth finally breaks down and loses it completely. Poor guy. Unrequited love is such a bitch, I know.

And Valura's an interesting character. Underneath the spoiled, pretty facade is a lonely soul who is more lost in her life than she'd ever expected. She and Gareth love Dag in different ways, feeding Dag with the self-confidence he needs to wreck havoc on his family. And it's fascinating too how much Dag depends on these two for his strength. It's codependency at its most beautifully twisted here.

The ending... well, I didn't see it coming. And I find myself shell-shocked in horror and denial. I didn't read that. I really didn't read that. But - lemme peek again - I read that alright. Dang, I'm not happy, I'm heartbroken even, but at the same time, I can't wait for the next installment. What happens next? I need to know.

Well Of Darkness is gripping and high action drama. Say what you will about Ms Weis and Mr Hickman catering to lowbrow fantasy plebeians, but Well Of Darkness shows what they do best: telling a jolly good story of some really fascinating characters.

It's going to be a long wait till next year.

Rating: 92


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