This is the fifth of seven Death Gate Cycle books, and unlike the previous four sees Haplo return to one of the realms (namely Arianus) rather than exploring a new one.
As usual, I’ll try and keep spoilers to a minimum.
The book’s quite enjoyable but is a weaker link in the series. The return of old characters (Bane in particular, who is referred to but does not feature in any other book save the first) is welcome, and the antagonists are subtle and sinister.
However, a problem with returning to Arianus is that much of the storyline is a little too familiar and akin to that of Dragon Wing, the first book. It’s also too slow, particularly in the first half of the book.
Unlike some previous instalments in the Death Gate Cycle there is relatively little revealed about the Sartan, or the Sundering, the war with the Patryns and so forth, which is a shame.
A strength of the book is the return of one strong character in particular from Dragon Wing, and the divergence between Haplo and Xar, the Lord of the Nexus with whom he once shared an absolute loyalty.
The introduction of the Kenkari elves is another positive. I can’t quite recall whether they’re explicitly mentioned in Dragon Wing, but the concept of soul-capturing definitely is. The Kenkari build on this theme and play a critical role in the story.
Hand of Chaos is not a bad book, just a little too slow, and with not quite enough excitement or revelation compared to its immediate predecessors. I’ll be ordering Into The Labyrinth, the sixth part of the Death Gate Cycle, when I buy my next batch of books.