So I just finished reading DotHM, and by extension, Dragonlance all together. Never before has a book so completely wrapped up a story as this one has. It was sublime, moving to the point of tears, and absolutely fulfilling in ways that i did not know i had even wanted.
The story, as we know, fills the large gap in Spring Dawning between Raistlin's disappearance from the Perechon at the very beginning and his return as a black robe at the very end. It delves into the transformation between the weak, jealous young red robe and the resonating tower of self confidence we know and love in Legends. And along the way, HM wraps all of the little disparate gaps left in Chronicles--gaps that in hindsight were always answered with the core text. HM merely illuminates what we all should have seen from the outset.
I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, as the story is worth delving into for any true, or even casual, dragonlance fan. And yes, I highly highly recommend either reading Spring Dawning before you start this book, or doing as I did, and having both in front of you, and alternating between the two. I also recommend having recently read Soulforge, for a bit of reference. This book, with its weight of finality, is the true end point for the Heroes of the Lance, and Raistlin himself, in a way that Summer Flame and the War of Souls tried so hard to be. It's only fitting, then, that Dragonlance as a series end where it started, with a handful of would be heroes thrust into a spotlight they never wanted in order to save a world that didn't want them.
HM covers a very interesting aspect of Raistlin, one that we've never seen before. In this story, he's an awkward adolescent, eager to please his new masters, and eager to seek out the power he so desires. He's not the shady, shy young man of early chronicles, and he's most certainly not the master of past and present that he becomes. He's a man who has thrust off the red robes, not out of a general evil, but because he doesn't care about anyone else but himself. He wants desperately to fit in with the so-called 'cool kids' who wear the black and follow the queen, but he discovers that they are as shallow and lifeless as the groups he left behind. Raistlin's maturation is dealt with a grace and splendor that I honestly hadn't thougth Weis and Hickman capable of. Their writing has been less than great as of late, and this book shines with their love and skill in a way that hasnt been seen in decades. It's as if they themselves knew that this was going to be the last hurrah for their journey on Krynn, and wanted to make sure it was a good one.
This book answers the questions fans have had for the past 25 years. The Key that Raistlin uses to gain his power. The link to Fistandantilus. The Dragon Orb. Cyan Bloodbane. His relationships with Soth, the Conclave, the gods themselves. And where the hell he even got his black robes from. And the integration is seamless. Reading Hourglass Mage is like watching the director's cut of a movie you know inside and out. The new scenes flow as if they had always belonged, and you had just missed seeing them the first time, and the streams that cross between HM and Spring Dawning never feel contrived or out of place. Indeed, even the verbage is the same, unlike the awful transitions from Autumn Twilight to Dwarven Depths. Weis and Hickman learned their lessons from DD and it's follow up, Highlord Skies, and applied them well. If anything, Hourglass Mage is the third Raistlin Chronicle.
The book is not perfect-- there are typos here and there, and a few confusing turns of phrase and plot points, but frankly, this book is Dragonlance itself, and what would DL be without typos and confusion? Never does it detract from the story itself, in any regard.
Now, Dragonlance as a series may continue in some form or another. But Dragonlance as the child of Weis and Hickman, the novel series born in 1984 with a group of friends meeting up in an Inn--that series ends with Dragons of the Hourglass Mage. The novel takes 25 years of plot development and setting growth, and synthesizes it into the endcap to the Holy Six. With it, all questions, all loose threads, all storylines that stem from the Heroes of the Lance are finally complete. And if you can close that final page and put that book down without tears in your eyes, well sir, you're a better man than me.