Although I’ll try to keep this relatively low on spoilers, it will inevitably have some for the first three books in the seven book series, so read at your peril if you haven’t enjoyed them yet.
The Death Gate Cycle is an old school series, studded with fantasy favourites. Dragons are frequently involved, and there are two races of demigods (the Sartan and Patryns) with three lesser races (humans, dwarves and elves).
The races populate a strange world, that was Sundered by the Sartan and split into four distinct realms, based on the elements. At the Sundering, the Sartan also sealed their enemies, the Patryns, in the Labyrinth. This was intended to be a kind of long term correctional facility, but became a hellish maze festooned with terrible creatures that killed huge numbers of the imprisoned Patryns.
Understandably, the Patryns were not best pleased about this.
Haplo, the protagonist of the series, is a Patryn sent by his lord to stealthily reconnoitre the four realms. In the fourth book, he visits the water world (Chelestra). To his surprise, the mensch (humans, dwarves and elves) get along in peace. Sly and vicious dragon-snakes of dubious origin have been terrorising the mensch, and Haplo plots to use them both to strike at his ancient enemy.
Much more of the Sundering and what went wrong is explained in Serpent Mage, particularly regarding the Sartan. I hadn’t intended to write another review so soon, but I read it all (just over 400 pages) in a day and if a book’s that damned good it deserves to be reviewed.
Serpent Mage is a great read, with a fantastical world that’s very well-written and it sees further unpeeling of the Onion of Knowledge. Haplo continues to struggle with his burning hatred of his enemy and the good nature of one Sartan in particular, and it’s a nice change to see the mensch getting along.
It does start a little slowly and I’d strongly advise potential readers to buy the first three books before reading Serpent Mage.