#Raistlin and the Knight of Solamnia
Raistlin, Caramon, Earwig Lockpicker, and Sir Gawain free a ghost bound to a ruined keep (Larry Elmore, from Dragonlance story “Raistlin and the Knight of Solamnia” by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragon 154, February 1990)
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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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The War of the Lance
Dragonlance time again.
Ten stories and a poem. The opening and closing stories this time are both from Weis and Hickman. By having the stories set around the time of the War of the Lance, the authors have a chance to dig into some of the events that didn't quite make it into the original trilogy. It's a nice touch, and made nicer by only touching a few of the stories.
Raistlin and the Knight of Solamnia, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Raistlin's an interesting character. He was morally ambiguous from the start, and hardly anyone trusted him. And it wasn't terribly surprising when he betrayed his friends and joined the forces of evil. What was surprising, in a way, was that he wasn't motivated by jealousy or resentment or bitter anger over the mistrust he faced. No, his friends were right about him all along, it was pure ambition. He never went through a dramatic change, he just grew a bit more firm in his convictions.
That means stories like this, that take place before his turn, let the authors show off his softer side a bit more than normal without fundamentally changing his character.
What can I say? I liked it.
Dead on Target, Roger E. Moore
Our hero dies. And then he gets angry. And then he gets revenge. And then he rests in peace.
War Machines, Nick O'Donohoe
A teenaged girl with a massive crush on a Knight of Solamnia risks her life to find the gnomish weapons that could destroy their dragonarmy enemies. She gets all that and a nice little bonus besides.
The Promised Place, Dan Parkinson
It's a gully dwarf story. Actually, it's the story that set up The Gully Dwarves. And it works much better than that did for me, mostly by virtue of being shorter.
Clockwork Hero, Jeff Grubb
Gnomes are terrible inventors. In many more senses of the word terrible than one. But they're not that bad at inventing stories when it comes right down to it. And really what's a hero but someone with a sword and the right story? It turns out there's at least one gnome with a real talent for inventing heroes.
I shouldn't have liked the thing with the love interest. It was a bit too cute. But I liked it.
The Night Wolf, Nancy Varian Berberick
With enough magic, you don't have to be a werewolf to be a man who turns into a wolf. But that doesn't mean it isn't still a curse.
It's a good story. But there's nothing about it that needed to be set near the War of the Lance, or needed to be a dragonlance story, or even a D&D story at all. I don't know if it was written for this collection or not, but if not then good job finding a home for it.
The Potion Sellers, Mark Anthony
The placebo effect is a wonderful thing. Sometimes even if it shouldn't be effective, a medicine can still be exactly what you need.
The Hand That Feeds, Richard Knaak
In a world where there are multiple, jealous, vindictive gods who can each grant some but not all miracles, it can be difficult to know how to balance your reverence and your tithes for best effect. A merchant gets an object lesson on that topic that he'll never forget.
The Vingaard Campaign, Douglas Niles
One of the things that didn't make the cut in the Chronicles trilogy was the story of how exactly Laurana almost single-handedly turned around the war. This story, told in bits and pieces of collected history from journals, only gives a view from 10,000 feet. But it's still a nice view.
The Story that Tasslehoff Promised He Would Never, Ever, Ever Tell, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
I think I'm supposed to sympathize with everyone's frustration over Tasslehoff's complete inability to keep a secret. But honestly those idiots should have all known better. And if instead of spouting off cryptically and then nodding at each other's shared understanding, they'd actually spelled things out for him, then his inability to keep a secret wouldn't have been a disaster in the making.
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Bold What Applies To You: DragonLance Edition
You like Chronicles more than Legends
You like Legends more than Chronicles
You like them both equally
Your favorite Chronicles character is: Tanis, Caramon, Raistlin, Tika, Sturm, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Flint, Laurana, Fizban, Gilthanas,Tas, Kitiara, Bupu, Other
You think Kitiara was the villain
You dislike Tanis
You ship Raistlin/Crysania
Your favorite type of mages are: White Robes, Red Robes, Black Robes
Pick one: elf, dwarf, or kender
You secretly hoped that Takhisis would triumph
You want to be a Knight of Solamnia
You think kender are annoying
Silvanesti or Qualinesti
Solace or Palanthas
You preferred Raistlin when he was a Red Robe
You prefer Raistlin as a Black Robe
You don’t like Raistlin
You feel bad for Caramon
You love Dalamar the Dark
You’ve read DragonLance: The Second Generation
You’ve read Dragons of Summer Flame
You’ve read The Annotated Chronicles and/or Annotated Legends
Your favorite DL book wasn’t written by Weis & Hickman
You’ve read 10+ DL books
You’ve read 20+ DL books
You’ve cried while reading a DL book
You’ve yelled at a DL book while reading it
You’ve written DL fanfiction
You’ve drawn DL fanart
You’ve convinced someone to read the series
You started reading DL when you were 16 or younger
DragonLance was your first fandom
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Dragonlance’s Lost Chronicles II: Dragons of the Highlord Skies - A praising review
Cover art depicting Kitiara Uth Matar, her dragon Skie and Lord Soth, by Matt Stawicki
I just finished Dragons of the Highlord Skies, second volume of The Lost Chronicles of Dragonlance. It was difficult to get this copy, since despite the first volume (Dragons of the Dwarven Depths) was available here in Spain, both this second and the third I had to import from the other side of the planet - literally, they came from Argentina -. And this one in particular was in an used condition and was the last available hardcover copy I could find. It seems that the Dragonlance books are getting more and more rare, which saddens me, at least as long as they are not considering doing new editions.
This second volume is dedicated to another part of the story that had to be left out in the original Chronicles trilogy: namely, how Laurana, Sturm, Flint, Tasslehoff and other companions found the Dragon Orb on the Ice Wall castle and defeated the Dragon Highlord (Feal-Thas) guarding it. This part is synthesized in Dragons of Winter Night (second volume of the Chronicles) with a poem by Michael Williams and that's it; when we resume reading, these companions already have the magical artifact in their possession and are sailing towards Sancrist to deliver it to the Knights of Solamnia.
However, although it seems that this volume could be read before reading Dragons of Winter Night, at no point should you do so. Furthermore, I would almost suggest that you finish the entire Chronicles trilogy before reading the volume I now review, because there is a lot of information and side stories that the authors take for granted that you know. What's more, not even most of the book is dedicated to Laurana and her company - thank the gods! because no matter how hard I try, and I promise you that I’ve tried a lot, I don’t like Laurana, poor thing - but the stellar and indisputable protagonist of this volume is Kitiara Uth Matar.
Fortunately! Because she’s the best of the book, an excellent, fantastic character, who barely got the time she deserved in both the original Chronicles and the spectacular Legends trilogies. Kitiara, ex-companion of the protagonists and Dragon Highlord, is, together with Raistlin, probably one of the best characters in this universe, although very different from him, of course. Not as bright and clever as the mage, Kitiara is, however, the archetype of an empowered woman: brave, ruthless, relentless, daring, fighter, there’s practically nothing that can break her, she takes no shit from anyone, neither man nor woman, neither monster nor mage, neither dragon nor god. Obviously, she’s a character that you could qualify as a villain, since she chooses to fight on the side of the "bad guys", as she aspires to dominate and lead the military forces in the service of the Dark Queen. She’s also a free woman, in full control of her own sexuality, which she uses when she wants and alwalys in her own benefit. What is there not to admire about her? Her absolute lack of morality and restrains, her disregard for the welfare of anyone other than her, her dismissal of the pain and suffering of others, her cruelty and indifference, and what is her greatest flaw, her tendency to outbursts of anger and to let herself be taken by whims, which will gradually end up being the architects of her own destruction.
At a time when empowered women, relentless villains, and self-made fighters have come into vogue, it's a shame that the general public and today's fantasy readers are missing out on someone like Kitiara.
Enough of rants. To the topic. Although the book is presented as the story of the two women who love Tanis - and whom Tanis loves - as the old Manichean dichotomy of Good and Evil - Laurana the kind, the chaste; Kitiara the wicked, the promiscuous - the truth is that Weis and Hickman have had the decency of not repeating this hateful contrast they made in the past, focusing, as I have said, most of the book on Kitiara, in her struggle to gain control of the Blue Wing of the army and her rise to command the troops in place of the emperor Ariakas. Forcibly led to an untenable situation that, incidentally, fosters a temporary outburst of jealousy and whim that is her greatest flaw, Kitiara will end up making a pact with the goddess Takhisis herself to save her life and in return, recruit Lord Soth - another remarkable character - for the cause. And in the process, she must set a trap for the naive Knights of Solamnia and serve them a poisoned gift: the Dragon Orb which, like Tolkien's One Ring, offers an illusion of power in exchange for brutally control its bearer.
The book is fantastic, fast-paced, entertaining; a little slower and tedious in the parts dedicated to the knights and Laurana - redeemed, luckily, by the ever-charming Tasslehoff - but it never gets boring. The problem with reading this story is that it kinda ruins one of the most epic moments of Dragons of Winter Night, which was the revelation of Kitiara as an antagonist to the brave companions: the moment when she killed Sturm and, before the corpse of the old friend and lover, she takes off her helmet and reveals her identity for the first time, since a Dragon Highlord's armor is totally asexual and doesn’t make a difference whether it is worn by a man or a woman. That moment is one of the two most intense climaxes of the Chronicles, in which we share Laurana's astonishment to discover that, indeed, the Blue Wing of the enemy troops is commanded by a woman - and as Ariakas says in this same volume I review now, what a woman! -.
That’s why it’s important to read Dragons of Winter Night first, at least, before approaching this volume, because the magical effect of the revealing moment is lost. Besides, there have been decisions made in the narrative that I don't really agree with - like exposing Kitiara too much to jealousy over Tanis, when in the original trilogies she was a rather cold woman who controlled her emotions much better than she does in this one book - but I understand that they’ve done it to make her more relatable, more human; and for us to enjoy seeing how she gets over her own mistakes and manages to turn her weaknesses into strengths, to undo her own wrongs.
Nothing more to say, 5 out of 5, great read, highly recommended to all Dragonlance fans and specially Kitiara fans. I thank the authors for dedicating this volume to her, since her potential felt wasted in the original novels. Characters like her, many try to write them, but rarely have they been as relatable as in this case. An example to follow.
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Dragonlance Chronicles - A (very brief) Review
Many years have passed since the first time I read the Dragonlance Chronicles, recommended by a friend upon learning that I really enjoyed reading Tolkien’s works. Although it’s not comparable, it was an incredible experience that definitely established my taste for the genre and also for writing. I have been rereading the trilogy every few years and this is the first time that I do it in the 20th anniversary limited edition, which was a total success. With the passage of time and myself becoming an adult, especially when reading reviews from other fans who have also followed the course of the years, you might think that the story, or the characters, have lost the charm they had in your teens - or even that where you saw a lot, there is little left.
I am pleasantly surprised to discover that this was not the case. I would even say that they have gained a lot, now that the Chronicles can be read from an edition annotated by the authors. Not only have they not lost their original luster, but they are still the endearing and well-built story that helped me through sleepless nights.
The premise from which the story begins could not be simpler: a structure modeled after the Dungeons & Dragons RPG games. A group of different heroes, belonging to different races and with different abilities, leave in search of an answer for the evil invasion plaguing their world, and that change and evolve according to events.
Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Cover art by Matt Stawicki.
This story has been criticized for being made up of cliches, stereotypes both at the level of characters and dialogues. This being true, we must value and respect the ability of the authors both in the construction of the world of Krynn - not an easy task - and in the characterization of the characters, some better than others, but in the end all contributing to the plot of a more relevant than another.
Its strong points? The great diversity of personalities. Far from being completely flat, many characters are complex, make mistakes, get confused and lost, exalt and regret, suffer and rejoice. The moral of the story, that evil turns against itself but that just as an absolute kingdom of Evil would be condemnable, so would be the stereotypical triumph of Good. Racism, treated in hatred between nations that are unable to unite against a common enemy. The empty codes of honor and the suffocating rules that are useless if they are only by word of mouth and do not apply to life - I am looking at you, Solamnia Knights -; or how the excessive abuse of power or ambitions contribute more to personal destruction than to happiness.
Yes, this is surely very trite today, but it is still a saga of the late 80s, early 90s, and compared to today's young adult fantasy, this is quality. It’s well written, well built, and above all, it serves its cause: entertainment and evasion. It’s very easy to empathize and care for these characters and their motivations. Even the kender, who until recently had annoyed me more often than not, I’ve started to like and appreciate him.
Margaret and Tracy have written a wonderful story, which I will never tire of recommending to lovers of the genre. And only because of that tormented, twisted and sociopathic character named Raistlin Majere, it's worth it even if everything else doesn't matter to you.
Dragons of Spring Dawning. Cover art by Matt Stawicki.
Hold on now, for it’s time to read the following trilogy: the Dragonlance Legends. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you better brace yourself.
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