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The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

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The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

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.

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My first foray into the fantasy genre. I'll always have fond memories of these books. Reread them in my early 20s and loved them.

Not sure how I would feel about them now. Which is why I never gave them another shot.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

The first Trilogy was very “meh” for me.  The second I quite enjoyed.

The second trilogy I think was far superior. It wasn't based on the game modules, so wasn't as limited narratively, and it had the same (or slightly more, I think) page count to tell a much less sprawling story, which meant more focus and more characterisation.

I'll probably reread the second trilogy as well in a few months, but I have a ton of other stuff to get through.

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The first trilogy got stronger as Weis and Hickman found their path through the game module material. Of course the second trilogy is superior, and had some great moments. 

I'd argue that the first trilogy, and the first book in general, is as important to the fantasy genre, in its way, as The Lord of the Rings as it brought fantasy to the masses in a way that Tolkien didn't.   Mass marketing, of course, played a role in that, but more people in the 80s read Dragonlance first and then made their way to the Shire...in my opinion.

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3 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

The second I quite enjoyed.

Second trilogy? 

Is that the Legends trilogy or the Test of the Twins trilogy?

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1 hour ago, IlyaP said:

Second trilogy? 

Is that the Legends trilogy or the Test of the Twins trilogy?

Test of the Twins is part of the Legends Trilogy...?

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I tried to start these up a few years ago, wanting to read the books that got many of my friends into fantasy.  It didn't work at the time, but I still have a copy of the first book and have been meaning to give it another go for quite some time.

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Honestly I’ve probably read the first book more then any other book ever.

 

Edit: Also as I was a huge Weiss/Hickman fan for..longer then I like to admit, you can really tell who wrote what parts if you've read their solo stuff.

Edited by Darth Richard II

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The "Twins Trilogy" is much better, the first trilogy has a few good scenes and characters but overall feels disjointed and episodic (for the reasons pointed out above). And of course not very well written (although I think it is a bit better than what I've read of Crystal Shard and Drizzt Do Urden where some episodes read like RPG scripts which they probably started out as).

I never read the "second generation" after enduring a couple of standalones ("Wanderlust" and another one, I think) that were really bad. As for the juvenile talking this is still a problem with highly regarded "adult fantasy" of today. Even decent writers seem to have hardly any clue for levels of language or they do them in a very heavy-handed way (roughly in parallel with social distinctions). Martin's actually lost such distinctions in language and the way people talk. They exist in the first book or two but by volume 5 not only Tyrion but also Danaerys or Jaime mostly talk or at least think like guttersnipes. And it's worse in some supposedly more "hard-boiled" books.

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It was certainly my introduction into fantasy fiction.  I had read LotR, but it was Dragonlance that got me hooked.  I read every book in ever mostly terrible trilogy that came out and even my early teenage mind recognized horrible retcons when I saw them! :lol: 

I certainly have great memories of all of them.  Playing WoW Classic the other day, I did see someone named Caramon (with an accent over one of the a's) spamming in general chat an invitation to join the Heroes of the Lance guild.  :lol:  A quick /who revealed there certainly was also a Raistlin in the guild, naturally.  No word on any of the other names.  

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I enjoyed Dragonlance and still think it's the best of the book series that was created for the old TSR setting. The first fantasy book I ever read was the Legends trilogy (before the original trilogy) and then I read like 40 of the spin-off novels set in the universe. Many of them were really bad, if not terrible, but others were quite entertaining.

I also read the series up to DRAGONS OF SUMMER FLAME with attempts to read the subsequent books but none of them really ever matched up to the originals.

My favorite characters were Raistlin (even though he's basically a magical incel), Crysania, and Kitiara.

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6 hours ago, Rhom said:

  Playing WoW Classic the other day, .  

For real, how does it hold up?  I only played classic, but it has been 12 years since I played a mmorpg, but this has called to me a bit.

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1 minute ago, SkynJay said:

For real, how does it hold up?  I only played classic, but it has been 12 years since I played a mmorpg, but this has called to me a bit.

Its beautiful and glorious in its flaws and the community is fantastic.  Randomly killing murlocs and getting an invite from a priest to join them.  Tracking down a group to run Deadmines.  Its everything I remembered of the leveling process.

Sadly, I wont' have time to raid if/when I hit 60 this time around; but the community has been a blast.

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I don’t think I ever read the first trilogy but my dad had the twins trilogy so they were probably some of the first fantasy books I read after Lord of the Rings. I definitely enjoyed them at the time. I don’t know if I would now.

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You know I think I read about 90-95 percent of the DL franchise at one point. There's a few hidden pulp gems and a couple just plain out WTF ones but most of them are kinda poop.

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30 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

You know I think I read about 90-95 percent of the DL franchise at one point. There's a few hidden pulp gems and a couple just plain out WTF ones but most of them are kinda poop.

What... you didn’t like the one about Sturm and Kitiara flying to the moon on a gnomish flying machine?!!!?

Edited by Rhom

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