Over the past 3 decades I have read the Dragonlance Chronicles as well as the subsequent main series, Legends several times. The first time was when I was about 10 years old and the last was about 15 years ago, when I was in my late 20s. Each time I have read these books I have really enjoyed them.
I recently wrote an article about these books for this column, and after I finished writing I decided I would go back and read these books as well as the Lost Chronicles series, which I have only read only the first two books, once each.
I started with the first book: Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I didn’t rush my way through it. I wanted to take my time, so I tried to read a chapter or two a day so I could give myself time to analyse and think about the story and the characters now and reflect on how my thoughts and opinions might have changed since I read these decades ago. Also, would like to point out that this volume has always been my least favorite in the series.
This isn’t meant to be a review, nor is it a story synopsis, just a fresh set of eyes on stories and characters from my youth, read in chronological order.
So how did it hold up?
Pretty well. The last time I read these books I was an adult so I didn’t expect to find it terrible.
You get good sense of each of the characters and each one has a moment or two to really shine. Two of the characters that think of as “stars” of the series: Tasslehoff the kender and Raistlin the mage are much more in the background in this book than I would have thought, with Tanis the ranger and Goldmoon the barbarian priestess being the main protagonists in this volume. The latter is so important in this novel that the heroes would be killed at two pivotal moments without her aid. I remembered the first instance, but had somehow forgotten the second.
One of the weakest aspects of the novel is the villains, while serviceable aren’t very memorable. You have a black dragon, two red dragons and Verminaard, the Dragon Highlord. They have some cool action sequences and fight scenes, but not a lot of character development or story content, a problem which is rectified in some of the later novels.
This was as about good as I remember. It moves at a brisk pace and introduces all but one of the core heroes (aka the “Companions”), sets up the current state of the world of Krynn, while touching on some of its history. I always preferred Book 1 to Book 2 and that didn’t change on this read-through.
The adventure aspects of the story feel like they took somebody’s AD&D game and turned it into a novel (which is sort of true since Tracey Hickman was designing the game modules and play testing them at the same time he was working on this book) and this where this book really shines.
The adventure into the underground ruins of the lost city Xak Tsaroth to recover a religious artifact from the lair of Kisanth, the black dragon is the best part of the book.
The second half of the novel introduces the last Companion, Laurana, an elven princess and one of my favorite characters in this series. She doesn’t have much to do in this book, but she does have a cool moment in combat near the end. Also, introduced is Fizban the wizard, who provides comic relief and a helps out in a couple of important moments.
I was worried I would find him to be the “Rose Tico” or “Jar Jar” of the book, but he held up fine for me, though I didn’t find him nearly as amusing as I had in 1985. A big detriment to the second book is a subplot that goes on for about 8 chapters, but feel like about twice that; who is the traitor in the group?
Part of it dragging to me could have to do with my familiarity with the story, but I feel it could have been paced a little faster.
The best part of Book 2 is the climatic battle where Raistlin, his brother Caramon, Tanis, the knight Sturm battle Verminaard, an evil cleric, in combat.
What I liked about this was that Verminaard gets to use his unholy powers to battle four combatants at once.
“Run? From this rabble?”
“It’s the sensible, logical thing to do, of course, which is why we don’t do it.”
“Hope is the denial of reality. It is the carrot dangled before the draft horse to keep him plodding along in a vain attempt to reach it.”
Tasslehoff Burrfoot “I asked my father once why kenders were little, why we weren’t big like humans and elves. I really wanted to be big…He said kenders were small because we were meant to do small things. ‘If you look at all the big things in the world closely,’ he said, ‘you’ll see that they’re really made up of small things all joined together.’ That big dragon down there comes to nothing but tiny drops of blood, maybe. It’s the small things that make the difference.”
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