Dragons of Winter Night: Video Book Review

This week, since we’re probably not getting GenCon this year, I’m going right ahead with the Dragonlance Chronicles, with book two – Dragons of Winter Night

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Dragons of Winter Night: Book Review

Dragons of Winter Night, as a novel, runs into the problem of adapting what was we think of it into just a trilogy of books – a bunch of material has to be skipped over. We start off after the retrieval of the Hammer of Karass and the re-unification of Dwarven society (which would later be covered in Dragons of the Dwarven Depths), with that kind of setting the tone somewhat for how the show comes out.

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Dragons of the Dwarven Depths: Book Review

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.

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Book Review: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

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.

If you are interested in picking up the book, it’s available from Amazon.com as a paperback, Kindle book, unabridged audiobook, and as an annotated anthology with the other two books in the trilogy.