While Chapter 9 really puts us in Sturm's mind (I'll get to that in a minute) and his sense of nostalgia, my own nostalgia wanes at this section. The infodumping, which may be a step up from gamemechanicsposition from the first eight chapters, completely slows the narrative down. People complain about all the walking in Tolkien, but this is kind of boring. I really feel like a good editor would have cut a lot of this out, especially Tas's recap. Then when we finally get to Darken Wood, it's a made let down. No zombies (that may be a modern issue), no liches, not even one of the creepy guys featured on the first page of the chapter. Instead we essentially get the green scrubbing bubble ghosts from The Return of the King. I mean that whole section sounds like Peter Jackson boosted it from this scene. Pete, if that is true, of all the things you're going to take from DL? Seriously?
I have other issues with Darken Wood. Isn't this the Companions (I know they aren't calling them that yet, but for simplicity I'm using it) home territory and they've never checked out Darken Wood? You mean that's not a dungeon delve waiting to happen for young adventurers, especially considering not far away on the Gods' Peak Mountain people go on picnics. It just adds to the weakness of these chapters and kind of exposes the amateurness of Weis and Hickman. (And the TSR editorial staff.)
The story really vacillates between Sturm and Tanis with the other characters playing second fiddle, even Raistlin who is the only one that communicate with the dead that surround them. Sturm still obsessed with being a hero like Huma even though he wasn't even a knight or a squire (and Sturm is 30 at this point, old for a human). It's this delusion that makes him so much more appealing to me now. He's such a damaged man, more so than Raistlin who he seems to despise. Makes me think that comes from the fact that Raistlin has accomplished all he set out to do and Sturm is an utter failure dressed in his daddy's old suit. That could be kind of soul crushing for him.
We also get a little insight into Tanis: the twisting ring and the inner thoughts about Kitiara. He's a lover boy torn between the love of two women. A little wish-fulfill-y (just a smidge) here in that one is an elven princess and the other is a tomboy warrior. Okay, I'm cheating a little bit since that isn't exactly revealed, but so what? We know that Tanis has settled on Kitiara. We also get a nice character moment between Tanis and Flint. It's nice and well done, playing on the longevity of the two races, dwarf and half-elf, and how they see the world. Tanis is still a young man in Flint's eyes and to the rest of the companions for different reasons, and it is never clearer than it is here.
Centaurs. Meh. JK Rowling did them better later with better mysteriousness without using ye Olde English. But who is our mysterious benefactor that has summoned them.