Originally posted May 19, 2015:
Recently I broke out my old Dragonlance Chronicles paperbacks, read through them in a couple weeks, and discovered they still tell a good story. I first read them back in seventh grade. They were my among my favorite books for a time. I read them again about ten years ago, my adulthood tastes had become a bit jaded at that point, preferring other fiction that didn’t resemble a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
Yet with this go-around I could appreciate that Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman knew how to tell an entertaining story. Nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wanting to read more. There’s plenty of conflict, internal and external. From a story standpoint, the only drawback was that there were too many protagonists for my taste as the series moved forward–sort of like in a D&D group where the Dungeon Master has problems saying “no” to new players.
(Some have criticized how Dragonlance changed the D&D hobby, but that’s a separate issue outside of this review, which I’ll address another time, perhaps).
Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the best of the trilogy, specifically Book 1. Each of the protagonists are distinct–almost like character classes in D&D. You have fighters, a cleric, a wizard, a thief, a dwarf, and main protagonist who might be considered a ranger, and they’re on a quest to find a lost artifact hidden in a ruined city in the wake of invading armies of strange “lizardmen.” Book 2 continues with the heroes sneaking into an enemy stronghold.
Dragons of Winter Night is my least favorite. The original eight heroes grew to more than a dozen, most of which don’t really don’t change much over the course of the story. The best example is Tanis Half-Elven. He’s supposed to be the group leader, but (without giving up away too much of the plot) he doesn’t really make decisions. He also torn between a “good girl” and a “bad girl,” and spends much of his time in angst over the two.
Only four characters take matters into their own hands, exercise their “heroic roles:” Sturm Brightblade, a knight of Solamnia; Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a kender (you’ll either love or hate him); Raistlin Majere, a wizard on a power trip (known for his hacking cough); and his brother, Caramon, a fighter.
Dragons of Spring Dawning ties up most of the lose ends, while leaving room for readers to move n to the Legends Trilogy. In retrospect, some of the characters and events are reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and V). Just don’t look too deeply into the actions of the gods trying to maintain “the balance” between good and evil behind the story–if you do the ending might be a bit “ho-hum.”
Yet despite my older and more cynical self coming up with the above criticisms, I was still entertained. They’d be a good read for somebody in late middle-school or early high school. The Dragonlance Chronicles were some of the best books TSR published in the 1980s and why there are Dragonlance still has its fans to this day.
Read this if: You like reading epic fantasy and don’t mind your characters acting like D&D class archetypes.
Don’t Read this if: You believe RPGs and fiction should not go together. You own the original Dragonlance adventure modules and have read them all.