Dragons of Autumn Twilight ended with the refugees from Pax Tharkas having found a refuge in a mountain pass in the hope of (possibly) making it through the winter. The second book in the Dragonlance Chronicles series begins with the Heroes of the Lance having already gone on another adventure, and having brought the refugees to the Dwarven city of Pax Tharkas. In the roleplaying game modules, your player characters would have gone through this story. However, while much of the Dragonlance modules were adapted to the original Chronicles series, not all of them were. In the late 2000s, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman returned to Dragonlance to adapt this missing chapter into novel form.
It is to the credit of Weis and Hickman that after so long an absence from all the original Heroes of the Lance, it feels like they’re able to so effortlessly find their voices – at this point in those characters lives, after all this time. There are some stumbles – for example, Sturm tap dances on the ragged edge of an alignment violation that he’s goaded into by Raistlin, which feels off.
However, the story does give the spotlight to some characters who I feel get short shrift in the other books. Probably the best example of this is Flint Fireforge. In the novels, not much time is spent on Dwarven society, and definitely not on Flint’s backstory. This book explores his background much further, how Dwarven society is structured, and how dwarven society reacted to the events of the Cataclysm. Considering that early in Dragons of Winter Night (which I’m currently reading), a big deal is made in Tarsis that the party passed through Thorbardin, it’s kind of important to get across here why that is a big deal.
There’s also some additionally important development for Raistlin here, which both sets up material that I believe will pay off in part here, and and also will pay off during the Legends series.
Of not exactly equal importance, but still somewhat notable is some brief development we get for Tika, and it’s handled in a mediocre fashion. On the one hand, she follows after Caramon, kills something for the first time, and shows a tremendous degree of independent action. On the other hand, her arc entirely exists in an attempt to get the affections of a male character, and the attack by a Draconian against her (the first thing she kills) is written like an attempted rape. Tika needs to metaphorically and mechanically level up in the narrative, and it never really feels like it happens here.
The audiobook is kind of a mixed bag. Reader Sandra Burr nails Tasslehoff Burrfoot and Flint, both in terms of their voices and dynamic, and likewise with Raistlin. Caramon feels much more like a big dumb oaf in her performance that the character actually is – Caramon is a character who is closer to Gourry Gabriev than Charlie from Riders Radio Theater. (There’s a deep cut).
I did like the story, and I’m glad I spent an Audible Credit to get it, and I’m glad I read it. However, it’s definitely a book that exists to fill a narrative hole that was addressed in the adventure modules, but not in the original book trilogy. I’m glad it’s filled.