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Fantasy Index


A novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
(1984, TSR Fantasy)

Dragonlance Chronicles, book 1

A group of resourceful friends senses that evil is brewing in the world, so they search for more clues, and the famed dragonlance which can defeat it.


-- 3rd reading (paperback)
July 18th to August 3rd, 2019


I first read this book in high school, where it was brand new and amazing. My second time reading the series was more than twenty years ago, where I found it lacking a bit. As I get older, it seems to lack even more. I found that the need for such a large group of characters was not there, and that perhaps they should have come into the story at a later time. Only a few of the characters were developed, and while I know the rest will have things to do later, there was little need for them now. Additionally, it forced the authors to give the reactions of each character individually, so that sometimes we had nine reactions in the same paragraph, just to cover everyone in the group. I know the series gets better (especially in the Legends series), but it definitely starts out weaker than it should.

Spoiler review:

This book was more difficult to read than I recall. I guess I was less mature, and so were the writers -they got so much better with the Death Gate Cycle. Still, the story is off to a good start, with a band of characters who are thrust into a situation where they end up encountering evil along the way, and instead of allowing it to continue, they oppose it, which gets them into a lot of trouble.

But there are a lot of characters to interact with. It’s easy to remember who they are, because they have such different character traits, but so many of them have so little to do. I remember loving Tasslehoff’s character, but it must be from later novels, because here the kender has little to do. I did, however, love his ability to mimic a fake dragon in the draconian camp. Flint the dwarf gets even less to do. He’s just grumpy and looks at Tanis knowingly, as they’ve been friends for a long time.

I also don’t remember Raistlin being so mean and hateable. He’s very much into himself as a power-hungry sorcerer, which will culminate in the last book of the Legends series. Still, there are bits where he shows a soft spot, especially towards his brother, whom he scoffs at so often, but also toward others in the group. He seems to respect Tanis as a leader, even though he often calls the half-elf a fool. Raistlin at least gets to do something, casting spells and saving the companions more than once. Magic comes to people much harder in this world, as it takes a physical toll, and the spells they cast are erased from their memory, so they need to memorize it again if they want to cast it again.

Sturm is just a generic knight with a sword, strong and able to fend off many enemies. He’ll grow in the next few books, as a Solemnic Knight. Caramon, Raistlin’s brother, is dim-witted and full of brawn, and in this book gets to fight and fawn over his ungrateful brother. Even though he doesn’t get too much to do, I think he makes for a good counterpoint to Raistlin.

Tanis is the main focus of the book, as he holds the group together. As a half-elf, he can grow a beard, which ostracizes him even more when he has to go back into the elven kingdom. But all the others look up to him to lead them, even the kender and the mage and the knight. He has charisma and a fair judgment that allows all of them to accept his decisions. He has a strange ability to see the infrared signature of people, so he can see them in the dark, but that ability disappears early in the book, and I don’t recall ever reading about it again.

These people, along with the missing Kitiria, half-sister to the twins, made a pact to search for the true gods five years earlier. It’s not clear why they went on that search, and other than Kitiria, I don’t know if anybody found any of what they were looking for. They meet again after five long years, in their old home town of Solace.

The two barbarians, who I was surprised didn’t take offence at that term, Goldmoon and Riverwind, brought the mysterious blue crystal staff into the midst of the companions. It is the symbol of what they were looking for, but apparently didn’t find. I didn’t realize how much meddling the old man (Fizban) does throughout this book, from the very first page. He instigates a fight (by telling a story of the old gods) that sends the companions and the staff into hiding, then on the run.

It is here that they come into contact with a new race, the draconians. They are in search of the blue crystal staff, and are pure evil. When killed, they turn to stone. Later, they’ll find some that explode or spew acid blood. Really nasty creatures. They are chased into Darken Wood, which was an unnecessary part of the book. Up to this point, it looked like the authors didn’t quite know how to start the story. Darken Wood is kind of a Rivendell/Beorn/Lothlorien type of place, with some of the Undead warriors that Aragorn commanded thrown in. The dead elven army is searching for redemption and guards their forest, the unicorn offers advice and supplies, as well as travel over the mountains, much like Bilbo and the dwarves are ferried by the eagles.

Once this is over with, the story improved a bit. It basically takes place in four more locations. They travel to the lost city of Xak Tsaroth, then back to Solace, to Qualinesti and then to the conclusion in Pax Tharkas.

The trip to Xak Tsaroth gets the companions captured, but it also allows them to take control of the fake black dragon, probably the funniest part of the book. The city itself is occupied by a black dragon, but she is overconfident, and so lets them go when she can’t see them anymore, sure that her fire destroyed them all, even after one pass. I guess she hasn’t faced many enemies up to this point.

Xak Tsaroth is a city that everyone thought had been destroyed in the Cataclysm, a horrific event thought to be caused by men turning away from the true gods, so they threw a mountain on Krynn, shattering the world. This city is mostly buried, on the edge of the sea, and somewhat under it. It’s also where Riverwind found the blue crystal staff, but has no memory of it, except for danger. It seems cliché and lazy to do this. It also seems strange that the temple of Mishakal the healer could be left standing when everything else in the city was collapsed and in ruins. Did nobody notice this in the three hundred years since the Cataclysm? Did it just reappear? Did temples to the other gods survive unnoticed? Why didn’t the dragon or draconians investigate the temple? If they couldn’t enter, surely the Queen of Darkness would be worried, and send the Dragon Highlord Verminaard to destroy it?

Regardless, Goldmoon enters the temple as Riverwind’s flesh is melted from his bones, and others are injured by the fire. But with the power of Mishakal, she is able to heal him. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded sacrificing the annoying Riverwind, but he doesn’t contribute much to the rest of the story, so it wasn’t too bad.

They find a way underground, where they find a community of gully dwarves. Raistlin charms some of them, especially the smart and confident Bupu. Raistlin takes an instant and compassionate liking to Bupu, who leads them around the hidden city, which has been taken over by the draconians and the dragon. She leads them to a hilarious lift device, at which they fight draconians, and then to meet with the gully dwarf leader, who betrays them by letting the dragon know they are here. Still, they sneak into the dragon’s lair underground, and are caught by its magic. Goldmoon sacrifices herself, using the staff’s magic of healing and goodness to destroy the dragon, which seems unlikely. Still, it allows the others to find the disks of Mishakal, and Bupu finds the spellbook that Raistlin is searching for.

The underground city now flooding and being completely destroyed, they make their way back to Solace, releasing Bupu, and finding Goldmoon in the temple above the ground, being saved by her god. In Solace, they are captured, but find Gilthanas, an elf from Qualinesti who has also been captured. They escape around Qualinesti and are brought before the Speaker of the Suns, Tanis’ uncle and foster father.

They don’t get the warmest welcome, especially since Tanis didn’t leave under the best of circumstances. He was in love with Lauranna, the Speaker’s daughter and Gilthanas’ sister. Lauranna is now older and more beautiful, grown into an elvish woman, and she still loves Tanis, or thinks she does. The elves are planning to leave their homeland, which will be under attack by the draconians and dragons within a few days. The draconians are planning to destroy the elves completely, so their only hope is to cut off the draconian hoard from Pax Tharkas before it leaves the city. So off they go.

They meet an obvious traitor human on the way, and go through secret paths to enter the city. The authors go to extreme lengths to make us think that Gilthanas or Raistlin could be the traitors, but it’s obvious they aren’t. They lose Tasslehoff and Fizban in the caves, when they meet up with the ghost of a dark elf, a strange giant slug, and where Tanis gets the mysterious magical sword of the ancient elf-king.

I always liked Fizban, because he’s one of the trademark silly characters in the books written by this author, including Simkin in the Darksword Trilogy and Zifnab in the Death Gate Cycle. But I wonder at his methods. The Queen of Darkness is willing to destroy everybody on Krynn to enslave them, and Paladine seems to be willing to allow her to do so, unless people can rise up on their own. I understand that the people of Krynn need to learn a lesson, but the god of good seems to be willing to allow a lot of violence and destruction, raping and pillaging, to occur while that lesson is learned.

Anyway, Fizban with his fireball and funny ways is a great addition to the story, and everybody thinks he’s insane. He ends up sacrificing himself for Tasslehoff and the gully dwarf Sestun, but he’ll be back. He’s a god, after all.

It’s a little simplistic how they got the two dragons to fight each other, but evil always betrays and turns on itself, so I guess it’s not too unrealistic, given the situation. The companions dress up as women, which was funny, to infiltrate the dungeons. The men are only kept from rising up against Lord Verminaard because he has their wives and children in captivity. Once Tanis and the others free them, the men rise up in revolt. It doesn’t matter that the traitor had betrayed them, because they all start rioting in the courtyard. Verminaard fights several of the companions, bewitching them to win, but then Goldmoon attacks with the staff, and he loses his power, as the Queen of Darkness withdraws, seeing that Paladine’s forces will resist her. She’s gone to regroup.

Goldmoon also finds Elistan, who is destined to be a cleric of Mishakal. I don’t know why Goldmoon isn’t that cleric; she’s already proven herself to be an excellent healer.

The first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles unfortunately starts off rough, but it successfully introduces us to a band of travelers who will eventually help save the world. In this book, they stay together, which makes the book somewhat difficult to read, especially when the authors change points of view in the middle of a paragraph, and have to describe the reactions of each member of the party to some event, one after another. Still, the world is interesting and growing, even at this point, and I can see the seeds for so much more. It truly opened the door to some great world building by other authors.


-- 2nd reading (paperback)
May 25th to June 3rd, 1998


The story is just as good as I remember it, but the writing is of lower quality than, say, the Death Gate Cycle.  Probably because this is the authors' first novel.  I had forgotten many things about this series.  Can't wait for the next one!


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