DragonLance Chronicles

Grimward

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#61
Yeah, don't skip Dragons of Winter Night or you miss a lot, Ray, and the summary references in Dragons of Spring Dawning will probably NOT satisfy any demand you have for continuity.
 

soulsinging

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#62
It's a continuous story, so you really want #2 to understand #3, Ray. :)
Definitely this. Book three would lose most of its impact without the developments in book two. Which reminds me of one of my favorite sequences in book 2... the riot and flight from Tarsis. In one understated chapter they convey more helpless terror than GRRM did in 700 pages of Clash of Kings.
 

Toby Frost

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#63
I was going to post this as a review, but it seemed more appropriate here.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight

When I was 10 or so, I had an excellent English teacher, who was obsessed with Tolkien (he looked slightly like Bernard Hill as Theoden). I still remember a poster he put up of the Witch-King riding a sort of pterodactyl, facing off against Eowyn on the Pellenor Fields. I can also remember him catching a friend of mine reading a lesser fantasy novel and exclaiming “Dragonlance? Why aren’t you reading The Lord of the Rings?”

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (an awful title) should be pretty bad. The cover of my edition depicts a lady with two swords and a chap who resembles Errol Flynn throwing a dragon-men off a cliff. It’s old-fashioned fantasy of the daftest, jolliest sort, based not only on a Dungeons and Dragons setting, but more-or-less as a write-up of the adventures of a group of players. It’s crammed with monsters (where they come from and how they co-exist is beyond me) and, worse, has a lot of soppy elves being sad and leaving their homeland as hordes of slavering baddies approach. (How I dislike soppy elves. It makes me want God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to part the clouds and bellow “Stop pining!” at them).

But this book is actually quite entertaining. The story tells of a group of friends – all of them clearly different “types” from the D&D world – who meet in an inn after many years. They are soon forced to flee, and become involved in a plan to steal a pile of magical disks from a dragon, which is firmly allied to the evil horde planning to conquer the world. In the second part of the book, having stolen the disks, the characters meet the elves and are sent on a mission to free the slaves of the arch-villain, and lead them on a revolution.

Nobody is going to mistake this for high art: the authors have an annoying habit of telling the reader what they should think. There are a lot of exclamation marks, and the writing at times isn’t much better than functional. The storytelling is a bit crude, too. The comic characters fall flat too often (literally, owing to oversized robes) and the serious bits can get rather cheesy, especially the romance. But the characters are interesting, and that compensates for the weakness of the setting very well. They all have their own problems that run parallel to the main plot. They’re broadly drawn, but effective, and the authors deserve credit for depicting this large group and their interaction convincingly.

In particular, although I found that the amoral wizard Raistlin was far less interesting than I remembered (he’s a River Tam, allowed to get away with anything because the authors love him too much), his troubled brother Caramon and the sad knight Sturm have a resonance that didn’t affect me when I was young. If any of the characters are weak, it’s the more bizarre ones, such as Tasslehoff and Flint, who have a tendency to do “their thing”, or occasionally spectacularly not do it. It’s also worth pointing out that the female characters get far more to do than they would in a lot of modern novels.

Would I recommend this book? It’s hard to say. When DoAT gets it right, it works, and on a slightly higher level than you might expect. But a reader ought to go in prepared.
 

svalbard

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#64
I cannot remember which book or what the Order of Knights were called, but the chapters with Sturm leading the knights in the defense of their stronghold against Kitiara?? were really strong, more so than other parts of the series.
 

soulsinging

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#65
I cannot remember which book or what the Order of Knights were called, but the chapters with Sturm leading the knights in the defense of their stronghold against Kitiara?? were really strong, more so than other parts of the series.
That was in Dragons of Winter Night... they were called the Knights of Solamnia. I think book two was the high point of the series, with the flight from Tarsis, the dream in Silvanesti, and the defense of the tower. It also is where you get most of Sturm's story, which as others have pointed out is one of the stronger characters. It's interesting how many people here note that Raistlin has aged poorly and Sturm become more interesting to them over the years. I think that is one of the strongest points of the series, the large cast gives something for everyone to an extent, and you can almost always find new things to enjoy when you go back to it, even if other parts seem weaker.

I also have to remark on something mentioned elsewhere in here: the conflict among the characters. I tend to think of the companions as a harmonious group, but they spend most of the books separated and when together don't really trust each other. I think that's a key to the series. The action does fly past in leaps and bounds, so most of the tension is driven by the characters struggling to accept themselves and/or each other enough to vastly exceed any one individual's potential. At times, this means it dips over into melodrama and cheese, but when it works it can be very compelling and is why people remember these books and characters so vividly. Even knowing what was coming, there was a time or two I got choked up at the loss of another beloved character.

Would I recommend this book? It’s hard to say. When DoAT gets it right, it works, and on a slightly higher level than you might expect. But a reader ought to go in prepared.
I really enjoyed your take on the book and agree pretty much entirely with it. I'm curious if you've read the next two books in the series? Most people would say the writing improves dramatically in those books, so a lot of that "telling" and cheese disappears. The characterization only gets better to boot (in most cases, Gilthanas is still a total turd though, your soppy elves comment couldn't be more accurate!).
 

Brian G Turner

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#66
Perhaps - as a younger reader - Raistlin surprises, simply because he's an anti-hero/antagonist, and I don't recall them being common in those days. Hence why he becomes especially interesting. But as adults, we're more likely to have encountered similar characters, so the effect as lessened.

Simply thinking aloud. :)
 

Grimward

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#67
I cannot remember which book or what the Order of Knights were called, but the chapters with Sturm leading the knights in the defense of their stronghold against Kitiara?? were really strong, more so than other parts of the series.
They were the Knights of Solamnia as soul points out, and more specifically were tiered within by level of accomplishment:

Order of the Sword (the lowest)
Order of the Crown?
Order of the Rose (the highest)

Not sure about the middle one without looking it up, and also not sure whether it and the Order of the Sword should be reversed. Pretty confident that the Order of the Rose was the highest. There was something about the Death Knights being of the Order of the Black Rose, too, but that's wandering from your question a bit. Sturm was of the lowest order, and I seem to recall some commander named Derek (?) wanting to strip him of that and cast him out of the Knights.
 

Toby Frost

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#68
I think that’s partly it, Brian. He was quite an unusual character at the time (for Fantasy. I think there’s a lot of Sherlock Holmes in Raistlin). Also, though, my own tastes have changed as I’ve got older. Cynicism in books feels boring and cheap these days (this, more than gore/rape/torture is what I find irritating in “realistic” fantasy), and the more normal characters, who I would have seen as a bunch of shiny do-gooders when younger, feel like people trying to do their best in a difficult situation, which is perhaps more appealing to older people – well, me at least.
 

chopper

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#69
i re-read them last year. they stand up better than some of the more recent Forgotten Realms books, for example.
 

Bick

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#70
I just read the first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and I agree with much of what is written here. It’s enjoyable, pacey, and somewhat to my surprise, not rubbish at all. It’s actually rather well done, accepting that it is what it is - a D&D romp of limited depth. The characterisation is rather good and I enjoyed some of the scenes and settings.

All of which makes me suspect that the opposite of Grimdark isn’t some sort of fluffy-bunny world where nobody gets hurt and it’s always summer, but a sort of supercharged awesomeness, a kind of violent optimism.
Yes, this! Perfectly put.
 

soulsinging

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#71
I just read the first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and I agree with much of what is written here. It’s enjoyable, pacey, and somewhat to my surprise, not rubbish at all. It’s actually rather well done, accepting that it is what it is - a D&D romp of limited depth. The characterisation is rather good and I enjoyed some of the scenes and settings.


Yes, this! Perfectly put.
It holds up better than most of its peers in that regard. I'd encourage you to read on... I think book 2 is probably the best of the series and the writing improves notably after that first book, which really shows the D&D influence in places. The characters are really what drives the series though.
 

picklematrix

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#74
I'm going to start on this series at some point this year. I expect it to be pretty fun, as I tend to enjoy the type of world and character building used in these role-playing based properties.
I have high hopes for it to be a fun, escapist style adventure.
 

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