But sometimes, there's a series like Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle that makes you quickly forget that there are even dragons.
That's IMPOSSIBLE, you say. How can a confessed dragon-lover FORGET ABOUT THE DRAGONS in a FANTASY SERIES that actually HAS THEM. Well, it's easy enough, when there's just so much more to blow your mind than dragons. And boy, in this series, is there ever.
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The Death Gate Cycle is an older fantasy series: the complete seven-book series was published between February 1990 and September 1994. The author duo, who had also created the Dragonlance series (I haven't read this one yet, but it's just a matter of time), took on a much more ambitious project this time. Instead of focusing on the usual human vs elf vs dwarf vs dragon elements of the typical fantasy, they added in two races: the Sartan and Patryn. Against those two, your typical dragons didn't stand a chance.
The magic-wielding Sartan, fearing the growing power of the rune-using Patryn, sacrificed millions of lives in order to tear the world into five different parts. Into the worlds of Air, Water, Earth and Fire, they placed the surviving members of the "lesser" races: humans, elves and dwarves, with groups of Sartans in place to watch over them. They created the Death Gates as passages between these worlds: conduits through which resources and information could be shared.
In the monstrous Labyrinth, they imprisoned their enemies: the rune-wielding Patryn. They hoped that the difficulties of life there would lead to a kinder race emerging from its final gates.
But things went horribly wrong.
Now, the Patryn Haplo has escaped the torture of the Labyrinth. He travels through these elemental worlds with a mission from his Lord: investigate. Learn as much as possible about their politics, geography, strengths and weaknesses. Keep secret his true identity. Do not be discovered by the Sartans.
Prepare these worlds for a new Lord.
Why do I come back to it?
I won't say you have to read it to understand (HA), but I will say that if you give these characters a chance, they will grab on to your heart and never let go. I mean, look at me. It's been more than 10 years since I first met them, less than a year since my last series re-read, and I would love to inhale their stories once again.
Plus, the world-building is mindblowing, and the story? Well. Let's just say that the third and final books in particular shatter my heart each and every time.