The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman


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The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Quote:

A band of friends meet at the Inn of the Last Home in the town of Solace. Five years ago they went their separate ways, searching for evidence of the lost gods. Their findings were inconclusive, but their reunion is interrupted by the news of vast armies allied with dragons on the march and the arrival of strangers bearing a crystal staff...and the long-lost power of healing. The continent of Ansalon is riven by war and it falls on this band of heroes to save it from destruction.

The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy is one of the most famous works of epic fantasy of the 1980s. Published in 1984 and 1985, the trilogy and its immediate sequel series (The Dragonlance Legends) have together sold almost 30 million copies, making them one of the biggest-selling series of that decade. Millions of fantasy readers started out in the genre by reading these novels.

The question arises, then, is it a good idea to revisit these works as an adult and risk ruining nostalgic teenage memories in the process?

The answer is mixed. The paradox at the heart of enjoying the Dragonlance Chronicles is what age group it's actually aimed at. The generally jovial tone (even when quite dark things are happening), the casual dialogue (this is a trilogy where medieval fantasy characters say "Yeah!" a lot) and the extremely breezy pace make this feel like a series aimed at children. I don't mean YA, I mean 7-10 year olds. The prose is simple and easy to read, and it feels very much like a work aimed in writing style at the same kind of audience as The Hobbit. There's moments of whimsical humour, stirring action and intriguing worldbuilding which do withstand comparison with Tolkien's work, despite the less-accomplished writing.

However, there are moments when the series abruptly goes much more adult. There are several sex scenes (albeit mostly of the "fade to black" kind) and female characters are threatened with sexual assault on a fairly regular basis. Tanis Half-elven also can't even meet a stranger on the road without carefully explaining how his mother was assaulted by a human man, leading to his conception and outcast status from both communities. The trilogy is also painfully 1980s in how it tries to have both strong female characters (Laurana, Tika, Kitiara, Goldmoon) and then gets them into situations of undress, or wearing revealing armour or clothes (Tika, at least, gets to make some wry observations on this that makes me suspect Margaret Weis was rolling her eyes as she wrote to market requirements). There's also a quite spectacular amount of violence, including characters being beheaded, turned to stone or set on fire on a fairly regular basis, and some psychological horror in the form of Berem, who is cursed to die and live again so often that he is going insane.

If you can overcome the tonal dissonance - the gap between the lightweight, juvenile writing and sometimes darker, more adult content - then it's possible to enjoy the Dragonlance Chronicles as a fast-paced, popcorn read. The trilogy does have another key feature (or bug) which is that it is an attempt to adapt no less than twelve Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules into a coherent story. Several times the narrative cuts away from our heroes embarking on another side-quest only to come back to them after that quest is completed, leading to the heroes thinking wistfully back on adventures that the reader never experienced (such as the journey to Ice Wall Castle, or Raistlin's completely out-of-nowhere return to the main story in the closing pages of the third book). This does make the story feel somewhat incomplete. It also means that the stories are extremely fast-paced: the Chronicles trilogy features a bigger story and more characters and events than The Lord of the Rings in about 50,000 fewer words. Some will enjoy the breakneck pace, others may lament the lack of character and plot development this results in.

The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy (***) is fast-paced, fun and easy to read. It's also simplistic, juvenile in tone and has not aged fantastically well. Truth be told, there's much better options available for both adult and children fans of fantasy these days. But if you can overlook the issues, there is still some fun to be had in revisiting Tanis, Raistlin, Caramon, Flint, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Tas, Kitiara, Sturm, Laurana, Gilthanas, Lord Soth and the rest of this memorable bunch of archetypes. The trilogy is available now in the UK and USA.

Scarab Sages

Your post reminded me that it's probably been years since I read this trilogy. Now I'm wondering if I should read my original paperback copies, or continue my current trend of buying hard cover, "reading copies" of my favorite books.

Liberty's Edge

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There is an excellent collected annotated volume - all three of the original trilogy in one volume, annotated by Weis and Hickman, among others.

Not sure if it’s still in print, but it’s great!


Marc Radle wrote:

There is an excellent collected annotated volume - all three of the original trilogy in one volume, annotated by Weis and Hickman, among others.

Not sure if it’s still in print, but it’s great!

Once of my favorite parts of this, is Jeff Grubb apologizing (sorta) for tinker gnomes.


Unfortunately, there will never be an apology for Kenders.


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Phillip Gastone wrote:
Unfortunately, there will never be an apology for Kenders.

Some things are unforgivable. Kender are on that list.

Scarab Sages

My younger brother is very good at playing Kender characters. Thankfully, it was only the one time, about 25 years ago.....


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Lathiira wrote:
Phillip Gastone wrote:
Unfortunately, there will never be an apology for Kenders.
Some things are unforgivable. Kender are on that list.

why forgive something so AWESOME?!

Scarab Sages

Marc Radle wrote:

There is an excellent collected annotated volume - all three of the original trilogy in one volume, annotated by Weis and Hickman, among others.

Not sure if it’s still in print, but it’s great!

I had considered this once before, many years ago. Now I have followed your most excellent suggestion and ordered a hardcopy edition off Amazon. It should be at my house sometime during the next week.

Liberty's Edge

Aberzombie wrote:
Marc Radle wrote:

There is an excellent collected annotated volume - all three of the original trilogy in one volume, annotated by Weis and Hickman, among others.

Not sure if it’s still in print, but it’s great!

I had considered this once before, many years ago. Now I have followed your most excellent suggestion and ordered a hardcopy edition off Amazon. It should be at my house sometime during the next week.

Awesome!

I think you’ll be glad you did! :)


Freehold DM wrote:
Lathiira wrote:
Phillip Gastone wrote:
Unfortunately, there will never be an apology for Kenders.
Some things are unforgivable. Kender are on that list.
why forgive something so AWESOME?!

I forget where the pic is out there, but a someone who will constantly be rifling and pocketing your stuff and will never ever stop even when you ask nicely to ask beforehand is not something I want in the group. The creators have insisted that they are never evil, that the truly wise know how important they are and are happiest when their hands are in your pockets.

So if you whack off their hands and put them in your pockets, they will be happy all the time.


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As my avatar might suggest, I'm a fan of the Kender, but I should be more specific: it's fun to READ about the Kender; I'm not saying it's necessarily fun to play a game with a kender in the party.

Werthead's review mentions the paradoxical nature of Dragonlance: it seems childish in tone - and the humor of the kender, gully dwarves, and gnomes goes a long way to making that fun - and yet it relates dark and nasty events. This, in my opinion, is a great recipe for a fantasy story. You get the fun of the humor AND can treat the story and its situations seriously, if it's written the right way. (On these boards, I keep raving about Roy Thomas' "Conan" stories, partly for that reason: his ability to fill a story with fun humor and still keep the situation looking serious and real. I might say the same about The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. For that matter, if I REALLY want to stretch the point, the Harry Potter series mixes childish silliness with deadly - and I literally mean DEADLY - seriousness, resulting in a series enjoyed by both children AND adults.)

Tasslehoff Burrfoot fills an essential role by letting the reader laugh while letting the other characters demonstrate how serious the situation is. It was obviously no accident that when Weis and Hickman finished the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy and wrote its immediate sequel, the Dragonlance Legends trilogy, Tas was constantly playing a role in it, and the reader sees a huge amount of Legends from Tas' point of view, even though the main characters of the plot are Raistlin and Caramon. Kender are just plain FUN. I've read the Chronicles and Legends trilogies four times each, which puts them at #2 and #3 on my list of favorite fiction series'.

(But then, #1 on my list is DEFINITELY a children's series: the Oz series by L Frank Baum. So I guess if you consider "childish" to be a bad trait then you probably shouldn't heed my opinion.)

I also want to make one last little point.

Werthead wrote:
The trilogy does have another key feature (or bug) which is that it is an attempt to adapt no less than twelve Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules into a coherent story. Several times the narrative cuts away from our heroes embarking on another side-quest only to come back to them after that quest is completed, leading to the heroes thinking wistfully back on adventures that the reader never experienced (such as the journey to Ice Wall Castle, or Raistlin's completely out-of-nowhere return to the main story in the closing pages of the third book). This does make the story feel somewhat incomplete.

Yes, I consider that one of the bigger problems with the trilogy. I especially wish Weis and Hickman would have written more detail about how Gilthanas and Silvara completed the "DL9: Dragons of Deceit" module. However, when I read the Chronicles for the third and fourth time - and began my fifth reading - I was able to fill two of the other gaps nicely. I feel that the book Dragons of the Dwarven Depths did a great job filling in DL3 and DL4 so I read it between Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragons of Winter Night. And between parts 1 and 2 of Dragons of Winter Night I read the short story "Finding the Faith" which relates "DL6: Dragons of Ice". I have that short story in The Magic of Krynn and I understand the "Best of Tales" book, although I never saw it, also includes that short story.

(You know, I feel sad that I won't have much chance to check paizo.com next week. If anyone responds to my post it may be a long time before I find out. But hey, how can I resist the opportunity to talk about the Dragonlance Chronicles?)


Great post Aaron.

Any chance you could outline how the old 2E D&D modules helped (or didn't) to make the story more coherent?

I actually own a beat-to-#### copy of DL1 Dragons of Despair. It seems a little railroady to me but I've kept it because I like the stained with who-knows-what art work and maps.

Which is rather astonishing to my older self since I once made this post here, and I now play rather regularly in an Eberron campaign, albeit a heavily customized one.


The module set in the dwarf kingdom with the huge hanging city was awesome.


Quark Blast wrote:
Any chance you could outline how the old 2E D&D modules helped (or didn't) to make the story more coherent?

No, I've never seen those.

Scarab Sages

Grrr....My original delivery date fro the copy I ordered was supposed to be between 2-4 October. By last Friday, the tracking was saying it would be at my house by 8 pm. At 8 pm tracking switched to telling me it was late, and now would arrive somewhere between 5-10 October.

Stoopid USPS! Some of the best incompetence money can buy. I wonder if there's a way to default Amazon orders not being shipped via USPS.

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