When I first read Dragons of Autumn Twilight, back in Middle School, I hadn’t read much fantasy fiction, and I definitely hadn’t watched much anime. This year, I decided to revisit the Dragonlance trilogy, with what I know now about Fantasy fiction, with a more mature perspective as a reader, and having watched (according to MyAnimeList) 66.5 days worth of anime between when I discovered Anime in Middle School and now.
The first book, in a way, starts of in a cliched fashion, but in a very self-aware cliched fashion – Group of adventurers meet in a bar and are kicked out the door on the road to adventure. In this case, the adventurers are a band of heroes who have mostly known each other for years who left to travel the world because they suspected that there was some Weird Shit going on, and returned with the answer “I dunno, but there’s some Weird Shit going on.”
The heroes are Flint Fireforge (Dwarfy Dwarf), Tanis Half-Elven (Ranger With Dice Lice), Sturm Brightblade (Kinda Lawful Stupid Cavalier/Paladin), Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Kender Thief whose player wants to play the comic relief), Caramon Majere (Fighter with good Con, Str, and Cha but not great Int and Wis), and his brother Raistlin (Mage who rolled 18s for Int and Wis, and 8s for everything else).
They are kicked out the door with the arrival of two barbarians – Riverwind and Goldmoon. The two have obtained evidence that after the Gods had left the word of Krynn centuries before in a great Cataclysm, they are returning to the world. The existing theocratic governments consider this a threat to their power, and the forces of the Goddess of Evil want to cover this up because they don’t want people to know that the Goddess of Evil is quite back yet (or at least that there’s an alternative).
Re-reading the book, I found in my mental pictures of the characters that they easily fit into more anime-inspired portrayals. Much of the humor in the book comes from either characters doing something dumb and being “corrected” for doing it, or through characters getting into silly situations and reacting to them in a comedic manner. At several points through the book I found myself coming up with “omake” strips for the story, or thinking about how it would work as a sort of “Dragonlance Abridged” webcomic.
As an aside, if that doesn’t exist, then it totally should.
The writing is generally okay. It gets a little male-gazey at parts. Admittedly, this happens when the POV character is male, but on the other hand, you can have a male character describe a female character who they’re attracted to without getting into describing their boobs and thighs. On the other hand, Weis and Hickman have the best Dragon descriptions and internal narratives in the business. Each of the dragons we encounter in this story are absolutely terrifying, killing their victims that, to continue the anime comparison, would fit in nicely with a late 80s, early 90s OVA or film.
The characters are two dimensional, but not in a bad way. These don’t have the character depth as the characters from Game of Thrones, but they fit well into archetypes, and archetypes can sometimes work to help the reader know their way around a work. That said, it’s where the writers go with those archetypes in the second installment that really decides how the series goes. To use the Star Wars comparison, by the end of A New Hope, everyone is still fairly stock archetypes. It’s Empire Strikes Back where they go into new and interesting directions.
I definitely enjoyed reading the book – though I recognize that this is the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie – it’s not going to challenge your sensibilities, but you’ll have a fun time while you read it.