Extremely Loud Opinions Presents: The One that Started It All
So....it's been awhile my dearest companions on my noble quest! Sorry to leave you all high and dry for a few months but my husband and I just bought a house and I've also just gotten a new job! Sadly those endeavors left little room for me to continue my quest.
However! The dust has settled and I have finished the first act of the first book in Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's iconic Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy, Dragons of Autumn Twilight! And I mean...none of the covers are that tragic all things considered.
I am going to start out this review with a disclaimer because I know that Dragonlance has a ton of nostalgia value to a lot of people. My opinions are just that, opinions, and just because I may rag on the books I review doesn't mean I hate them or think they have no value. And if you think that Dragonlance is the best fantasy ever written, good for you. I am not here to change your mind or fight you on it. If it brings you the same joy that the Icewind Dale Trilogy brings me, who am I to ruin that for you?
That being said, the first act of Dragons in Autumn Twilight is...a lot. And when I say that, I also mean there is a lot to like as well as just...a lot.
The world of Krynn is DOPE AS HELL for starters. Like hot damn a world that the gods have actively forsaken and where divine magic has dwindled to the point of nonexistence? Excellent. 10/10 neat setup. Starting in medias res with a DND party that had actually broken up returning to compare notes? Wonderful. Love me a good cold open.
And then there's....everything else. Look, I know that Dragonlance paved the way for the fantasy novels of today so I'm not saying that it has no value to fantasy literature as a whole. But there is so much in this book that DID NOT AGE WELL since the 80s. Some of that adds to its charm (like literally everything that Raistlin says unironically) but some of it really casts a pall over the work (like Goldmoon, just...everything about Goldmoon).
Disclaimers aside, on to the review! I present my Extremely Loud Opinions about Act 1 of Dragons of Autumn Twilight! Spoilers Ahead!
Things I ADORE about Act 1
Like all great epic fantasy novels of the 80s, it starts with an exposition poem
There is an inn built into a living tree and that is neat!
Yaaaaasssss finally!!! A true shitty Gandalf knockoff!!! I am here for MEMES
I love the super old school art for each chapter heading
Naming someone Flint Fireforge is the equivalent of getting on a table and screaming "HEY DID YOU KNOW HE'S A DWARF???"
I find the disappearance of the Old Gods and Clerics a deeply compelling piece of lore and I want to know everything about it
So I can already tell Tasselhoff Burrfoot the rogue is going to annoy me eventually but his intro is FANTASTIC
Holy shit this party has ALL THE TROPES!!! A dwarf, a sticky fingered rogue, an angsty half elf, a himbo, and an edgelord all literally walk into a bar
Oh god, in Raistlin I see every chaotic neutral caster the RPG Horror Stories Reddit warned me about and I cannot stop laughing
Oooooooh the sole lady party member who refused to show up is Tanis the half elf's ex! JUICY
Goddammit they just gave me a barbarian princess and her hot bodyguard I AM TOO WEAK FOR THIS TROPE
This fucking Gandalf knockoff just orchestrated the single most chaotic quest reveal I have ever seen and I honestly have to applaud him for it
Eyyyy the barbarians join the party!!! Even though Goldmoon is definitely an accidental cleric and not a barbarian
I just realized a henchman has the last name of "Toede" and I'm dying
Goddammit Goldmoon and Riverwind are HECKIN CUTE
Oh shit looks like the BBEG ESCAPED A FUCKING SPACE PRISON
Tas is actually my favorite now because he's the only one who makes jokes and acts like a person
"Finally they stepped out on the road with as much fear as a troupe of unskilled actors facing a hostile audience." Is an incredible description and I'm going to steal it somehow
Riverwind has got THE SASS
Goldmoon you idiot
Holy shit dragonborn! Dragonborn cultist alert!
Tas just pulls a sword bigger than him out of a statue like it's nbd
It's so interesting to see a character in an over the top fantasy novel dealing with crippling depression and Sturm Brightblade is rapidly becoming my other favorite character. He seems to have more depth than all the other characters combined to the point where he almost feels out of place with all these cardboard cutouts. Give this man his own book pls
Thank you Raistlin for finally pointing out that it was the weird old Gandalf knockoff who got y'all into this mess
Aww Flint and Tanis actually have a really nice relationship. It's too bad they don't care about the rest of the party the same way
It's the dead warriors must perform a task they failed to find rest cliche and I love it
The centaurs all talk like over the top pirates and I dig it
There is a bad guy named "Verminaard" and I am scream laughing into my notebook
Love the old impersonating a deity trick, definitely one of my faves
Yaaasssss Lady Dragon Alert!!!
Dungeon crawl dungeon crawl dungeon crawl!!!
Raistlin straight up says "while you were studying the blade, I was learning something useful" what a tool
FANTASY ELEVATOR FIGHT
Please take Bupu as your new party member she just told ugly ass Raistlin he was pretty and actually knows what's going on in this damn dungeon
The Gully Dwarf king is call Highbulp Phudge and this is Dendybar levels of generic candybar naming right here
Okay the ruined city of Xak Tsaroth is atmospheric af
The first Gully Dwarf king discovered Xak Tsaroth by falling down a well during a bender and I am obsessed with this origin lore
Raistlin literally says "No one will ever understand me!" UNIRONICALLY like every shitty teen stereotype ever and it's incredible
Wow Raistlin actually acts like areal person with Bupu and his sending her off was incredibly sweet....why the fuck am I having an emotion about RAISTLIN???
Things I DETEST about Act 1
The cast. Starting with Tanis Halfelven. He seems to have two modes: being uselessly indecisive and mangst. That's it. He's the party leader and his indecisiveness could be very interesting. However, his party just....keeps following him? So I can't tell if he's actually supposed to be incompetent or a Gary Stu badass with a very confusing veneer of imperfection. Also he's very mean to half his party for no apparent reason but more on that later.
Goldmoon and Riverwind. I have to talk about them both because they exemplify two different and somewhat intertwined tropes that I utterly DESPISE. Riverwind is a quintessential Noble Savage straight out of Dances With Wolves right down to being the strong, silent type. Now, nothing is inherently wrong with being a strong silent type but EVERY MALE NATIVE AMERICAN CODED CHARACTER WAS THE STRONG SILENT TYPE IN THE 80S and boy howdy it has not aged well. Then there's Goldmoon. She's literally a Magical White Woman and it is gross. Her people are consistently described as being dark skinned and dark haired while she's over there being inexplicably blonde, pale, and also she's the first cleric her people have seen in a millennia. I know that I'm probably just reading too much into her being inexplicably white and also having magic BUT THOSE TWO THINGS TOO OFTEN COINCIDE AND I HATE IT. I wouldn't be putting up nearly as much of a stink if it was just her hair that's inexplicably blonde and she's still dark skinned BUT NO. SHE'S WHITE. SHE IS CONSTANTLY DESCRIBED AS BEING PALE AND BEAUTIFUL UNLIKE OTHER WOMEN IN HER NATION. YUCK YUCK GROSS
I want to talk about Caramon, Raistlin's himbo brother but the fact that I don't have anything to say about him is a problem in itself. The man has no personality aside from he loves his brother and food and that is very sad.
Oh joy, the first thing Tanis angsts about is how he's the product of a rape and it's an integral part of his identity....my favorite plot point.....
Man I like hobgoblins so much in modern DND that it's super unfortunate to see them as exclusively dumb toadies in the 80s
Oh dear it seems this party also suffers from Only One Girl syndrome. Heaven forbid a DND party has more than one woman in it at any given point
Raistlin stop being an angsty shit wizard and let your himbo twin love you
Did that shitty Gandalf knockoff just...compel Goldmoon to SING HER ENTIRE BACKSTORY TO A CROWDED TAVERN KNOWING BAD GUYS OUTSIDE ARE ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR HER??? WHAT THE FUCK SHITTY GANDALF KNOCKOFF??
I really do not understand how these people are friends? Like, all they do is bicker, think mean things about each other, and discuss how inevitable a betrayal from certain party members will be. Like, I know this book was based off an actual DND game so I have to ask, was it even fun to play? Did you guys enjoy talking about how badly you want to throw your friend's wizard character under the bus at multiple occasions? Maybe I'm just a pussy, but that doesn't sound very fun
"I wouldn't trust us." God Tanis is so ANGSTY
The Native American coding of the barbarians continues to be MEGA YIKES
So are the draconians slimy or scaly? You are giving me conflicting messages here
Oh god I can smell a Tanis love triangle on the winds and it smells like gym socks and regret
Everyone is constantly on the brink of PVP in this party and it is very uncomfortable to read
Raistlin gives me such character whiplash sometimes. One minute he's hilarious and the next I want to put a boot so far up his ass he tastes it
Caramon pls grow more of a personality than "food good" I'm begging you
"You will call me master!" Are you a cartoon villain by any chance, Raistlin?
Nooooo not the village!!! Poor Goldmoon and Riverwind :(
Blech! Getting doused by black dragon acid breath gets a 0/10 from Riverwind
I think the fact that Flint is only the SECOND most one note character I have ever encountered is depressing. The first is also in this book
No one makes any innuendos about the slimy pipe entrance 0/10 wasted opportunity
Don't you just love blanket characterizations for an entire subspecies of dwarves? Don't you just love it when the characterizations are all mean spirited and negative for no good reason?
All of the somatic components for Raistlin's spells are just the regular DND spells but SPELLED WRONG I CAN'T DECIDE IF THAT'S CLEVER OR IF I HATE IT
When did Goldmoon and Riverwind start fighting?? Stahp
There is a mage named Fistandantilus and no one is going to take the opportunity to make a joke about it 0/10
If you add Goldmoon and make this a Tanis love quadrangle I am going to barf
Well that was an anticlimactic dragon fight
Tanis barges into a temple to yell at the gods like every teenage atheist's wet dream
So, despite my criticism of several points in this book, I am still enjoying it. I am very interested in the upcoming war with the draconians and getting THE DEEP LORE about why the gods forsook Krynn. Also I am hoping and praying that the cast starts to grow on me. Overall, I'm giving Act 1 a 6/10. There were a lot of good bits that do help me overlook the slew of things that did not age well but it's no Icewind Dale Trilogy so far. The review for Act 2 should be coming along shortly!
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Dragonlance’s Lost Chronicles I: Dragons of the Dwarven Depths - A rambling review
Cover art by Matt Stawicki depicting Tanis Half-Elven, Flint Fireforge and Tasslehoff Burrfoot, three of the main characters.
By now I should be rereading the second trilogy of the Dragonlance Tales, but I couldn’t resist and started with this trilogy of The Lost Chronicles which, to my eternal shame as Dragonlance fan, I didn’t even know it existed until a few months ago during confinement, when I decided to re-explore this beloved franchise of my teen years. The Lost Chronicles is a relatively recent trilogy - year 2006 - if we compare it with the first original trilogy, Dragonlance Chronicles (1984) that complete each other. Those who have read the Chronicles will remember that after finishing the first volume - Dragons of Autumn Twilight - in the second, Dragons of Winter Night, the authors made a temporary leap omitting part of the story - due to lack of time and creativity, they admitted at the time - in which the main characters’ group was recovering a sacred relic from the Dwarven nation of Thorbardin, The Hammer of Kharas, in exchange for providing protection and accommodation to refugees driven from Solace and enslaved by the Dragon Highord Verminaard. Well, precisely, this what the first volume of The Lost Chronicles is about, written no less than 20 years later, to complete this and other gaps in the original plot.
I have to say that on one hand I was excited to find this trilogy written to complete the original, and on the other hand, I was skeptical about it. Because writing decades later to complete something you had already done usually results in a grievance compared to the original work; it seems unlikely that something better will be done so long later; and unless you go with the lead feet, reread your original work VERY WELL and have a good publisher, it’s very likely to fall into contradictions and inconsistencies in the plot.
Well, nothing of that! This book is great! Not only have the authors recovered the original spirit of the Chronicles, but also - at the risk of being burned as heretic at the bonfire of fandom - they have improved it, and how! On the other hand it is logical, because writers are supposed to improve with time if they care for what they do, and let's not forget that Weis and Hickman are also the authors of that wonderful series called The Death Gate Cycle, which it is totally on another level. All that experience of years has been invested now and it shows.
How does it show? The pace of the plot, for example. The Chronicles, specially the first volume, had a very stressful rhythm - it was like climbing a roller coaster without harness - while Dragons of the Dwarven Depths has a sensible and constant pace, dosing the action and the dialogues in a balanced, fluid and consistent way. Secondly: it’s much better written than the original trilogy, both in terms of prose and setting. They take more time to describe the environments and the lore without becoming tedious, boring, or too hasty as sometimes happened in the original trilogy. Of course, the poems of Michael Williams are still horrible - or perhaps it is the translation that is horrible, I will give him the benefit of the doubt -; that issue seems to be doomed.
And finally I stop at what has always been, for me, the best of Dragonlance and the reason why I love it: the characterization. It has always been wonderful, and in this volume it shows. The Companions, very different in their origins, abilities and personality, have always fascinated me because they seem absolutely human and relatable, believable although many of them are not "humans" per se or have supernatural abilities, of course. They are supposed to be childhood friends and allies of their own free will in a world at war, but they actually malfunction as some kind of dysfunctional family, if I may allow redundancy. The mean-spirited and grumpy dwarf messes with everyone and scolds them all like a curmudgeonly grandfather, the others handle him making him believe that his decisions matter and his intervention is essential to them, the knight won’t stop annoying everyone with his ideals of honor and justice, lecturing them on what is right and good and cooperating rather little when it comes to making morally questionable decisions, the mage messes with everyone and everyone messes with the mage, who reacts like a furious snake because he’s aware that without him they would not make it to the corner alive, and in the absence of a real culprit, his fangs always end up stuck in his poor twin - an actual cinnamon roll, an example of the most tragic Stockholm syndrome -; the barbarians distrust everyone but they have no choice but to get along with them, the kender is, if possible, the most chaotic element of the group, whose burden and responsibility are passing each other as if they could really control him somehow; all of them led by a half-elf with remorse of conscience because he’s a disbelieving atheist who cannot even make up his own mind about if he feels elf, feels human, feels everything or feels nothing, and is not able to choose if he is in love with the elf girl or of the human girl, having enough work with babysitting this sociopathic group. Anyway. A delight for the senses.
Already experts in handling such a bunch of misfits, Weis and Hickman make you laugh hard at the interactions between them. In the Chronicles it wasn’t yet quite funny - especially if you hadn’t gotten used to Raistlin's mood, whom you’ve to swallow in little doses like a bitter medicine - but here, you’ve a great time! The knight annoying the mage, the mage messing with the knight, the two messing with the dwarf, the dwarf messing with everyone, the kender in the middle messing around... it seems incredible that these people saved the world, right? Well, they did! And even though they can’t totally get along, without a single one of them it would not have been possible. There, the greatness of the story.
I don't want to wind up much more. In this volume, the authors take the opportunity to correct other failures their original narrative had, such as devoting more attention to Riverwind, who plays a fantastic role as leader of the refugees - at the cost of casting a shadow over Goldmoon and therefore obtaining the inverse result of the original trilogy - and also, to pay a little more attention to poor Tika - the most human and perhaps most relatable of them all, although unfortunately she’s forgotten, like Goldmoon, halfway through the book - and above all, pay much more attention to Flint Fireforge, the dwarf, who’s really the main character of the book, and who finds himself faced with a moral dilemma: recover the sacred relic of the dwarves, the Hammer of Kharas, and hide it from his own people to take it to the Knights of Solamnia and therefore be used as an artifact to solve the war and give the world in danger of destruction a chance; or willingly return it to the dwarf nation and risk losing it to the cause.
5 stars. Great. Fantastic. It’s not boring for a single moment, there is no tedious, long or unnecessary part, the characters are genuinely themselves, the plot is better written and the style much improved. In short: it seems that time has not passed at all, or rather, it has passed, but for good. Highly recommended for Dragonlance fans and especially for those who are already familiar with the Chronicles. You will not regret it.
Geez, I need to shorten these reviews.
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