Tag Archives: DragonLance

Amber and Iron

It has been nearly 18 years since I read the first book in the Dark Disciple trilogy. Crazier than that, only 18 years means the review is accessible! The remaining entries of the trilogy have sat on my to-read shelf for maybe as long as they’ve each been out, yet I’m not sure whether I ever would have read them despite my intentions, except D&D[1] is finally releasing more DragonLance source material, which means I am hypothetically all of those 18 years behind on the ongoing plot of the world. (Or they reset / went back in time? I have not, to be honest, read any of the new game material yet to check.)

The downside, if you clicked through, is that the prior book wasn’t, you know, very good. One thing I’ve hoped as things go forward is that the authors were trying to bring the world back to something that makes sense, after the Fifth Age BS that TSR[2] forced on them in the late ’90s / early 2000s. Is that what is happening? I’ve only read a second book out of three, so my qualified answer is: maybe!

Amber and Iron is, on a moment by moment basis, at least okay. I consistently cared about what was happening with most of the characters (kender, monk, a handful of gods, and a, er, dark disciple), and I for sure liked some of the plot elements (the drowned Tower of High Sorcery at the bottom of the Blood Sea of Istar? yes please!). But when I step back and take a look at the story as a whole, man, it does not make a lick of sense.

Did they try to solve the vampiric cult thing? Sure, and reasonably so. Did anything else that happened make sense relative to the previous book? Maybe, but how should I know? Nearly 18 years, I believe I mentioned. Did anything else that happened make a lick of sense relative to itself? Nearly nothing, no, I don’t even know why it’s “and Iron” in the title!

And yet, perversely, I still want to know what happens next. Because it will make this book retroactively make sense after all? Could happen, but it’s not why. Because I want to know what happens to the characters? I sort of do, but that’s not really why either. Because I want to know what happens to Krynn? See, now we’re talking. I love that world in a way I love few others. It’s just always been my jam.

[1] Blah blah blah OGL controversy. For these purposes, take it as read that I super don’t care. If Weis and Hickman take Krynn to a different game system, we can talk then.
[2] Or maybe it was already Wizards of the Coast? How should I know?!

Dragons of the Hourglass Mage

The final volume of another Dragonlance series has at last arrived, and I am forced to admit to a lack of objectivity about Dragons of the Hourglass Mage. Because, as the cover and unwieldy title alike imply, it is mostly about Raistlin Majere, and I don’t really get tired of that guy, at least not when written by Weis and Hickman.

Pretty much, the book details the lost month in the original Chronicles between when Raistlin left his companions to die in the Blood Sea of Istar[1] and when he reappeared at the series climax to tilt the balance against the Queen of Darkness[1], in order to further his own ambitions via a freer world. It may contradict some of the other main sequence canon, but never in very noticeable ways. Plus, since the character study continues to fulfill everything I’ve sought out of the series in the past twenty years, I don’t really care. Things in the story include a secret resistance in the heart of evil’s lair, an assassin kender, a plot against the gods of magic, and perennial Dragonlance favorite Lord Soth, the death knight. Unless you also really like the psychology of Raistlin Majere, though, it’s okay at best.

[1] Sometimes, when I have not typed the words out in a while, I forget just how standard-fantasy these books can get.

Amber and Ashes

For a lot of people, the DragonLance series has not been a high point in their reading careers, and for still more, it’s been relegated to the dustbin of history since the late ’80s. But me, I’ve always had a soft spot for those original authors, and the characters and world they created. So I know the more recent history, with a great huge novel devoted to killing lots of people and taking away the gods and the moons and whatnot, and then another trilogy revealing that the cause behind the preceeding events was not what it seemed. Now, there is a new trilogy in which nature abhors a power vacuum, and so Miss Weis is going to see to it that it has been filled.

Unfortunately #1, all the old characters are completely out of the picture these days, excepting the newly returned gods of course. But since they’ve never really appeared as characters before (well, okay, but these ones haven’t), it’s hard to have a stake of familiarity involved. Unfortunately #2, the land is so different as to be unrecognizable, littered with elven refugees and a Solace on the verge of becoming the southern Palanthas. Unfortunately #3, vampiric cult. Seriously.

But it’s not all that bad, it’s just that I have mildly higher expectations, and they have not been met. As generic fantasy, it’s perfectly inoffensive, and in fact still more reliably written than a portion of what I read these days. (Ask me three years ago, and it’d be better than two-thirds of what I read, so.) Amber and Ashes tells the tale of Mina (disciple of the One God in the years when Krynn had none) coming to terms with the lie that has dominated her entire life and choosing what to do next with the new life that has been left to her. It’s also the story of that vampiric cult I mentioned (which is not quite as bad as it sounds), the gods setting a new pecking order after recent changes, and the pawns they are using: in this case, a monk, a kender who sees dead people, and a death knight. (Yes, the kender can see him.)

The Annotated Chronicles

When I was a wee lad, I read a ton of those AD&D Dragonlance books, pretty well indiscriminately. There came a time in my late teens when I realized that some, okay most, of the books in that setting were pure crap, and that they didn’t actually have to be suffered through in order to know the entire story. Ultimately, books written by authors who didn’t create the characters I was trying to read about, in which the characters did completely ridiculous things that they probably would never have done anyway and certainly would have mentioned doing… these kinds of books could be ignored. It was a pretty happy day, when I finally worked that out for myself.

The thing is, though, I still think that the Weis and Hickman originals (10 now, plus several short story collections and a handful separate from each other) are generally quite good. Rough around the edges early on, perhaps slightly overflowing with bile towards Wizards of the Coast near the end, but on the whole filled with likeable characters having interesting stories in a setting that I’ve always enjoyed. Naturally, then, I’d want to read about all the little notes and thoughts and stories the authors had about creating the series, once I knew it was available.

In the end, it was pleasant I liked the books well enough to enjoy a reread. There’s quite a bit of interesting material, don’t get me wrong. The problem is that the majority of the material is added by a person I’ve never heard of, probably in marketing, who exists to point out when a throwaway reference to an event or character was eventually written into a book that you-the-consumer ought to go out and buy and read now. Plus, most of Tracy Hickman’s commentary in the first book revolves around explaining exactly how D&D the game went about creating the early situations. Given that it’s the single weakest element of their work, I think that the knowledge is both fairly common by now and also not particularly worth dwelling on.

So, what I got out of it was quite a few good anecdotes from people involved in the project, some poetry analysis from the guy who added the poetical elements (well, obviously), a very few glimpses into the creative process itself (somewhat moreso into the processes, creative and otherwise, of working for a book farm like TSR in those days), and answers to a few questions I’d often wondered about. Not bad as an excuse to read for a few weeks without having to turn my brain on while still being guaranteed reading pleasure out of the process.