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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dragonlance


This is the edition I read,
and still own.
Lately I have been thinking about Dragonlance. Not sure if it's nostalgia (which it probably is) or just my literary love for the series. For those who don't know, Dragonlance was a setting created for D&D back in the early 80's. It was conceived based on the premise of wanting a setting that featured dragons very prominently, rather than just as powerful monsters that you could encounter.

The first modules were played by a group of employees at TSR. Among that group were Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. What came of those sessions and modules was a trilogy of novels by Weis and Hickman called The Drgonlance Chronicles, and it tells the story of a group of friends who become unwitting heroes in a massive war between good and evil.

I have read that trilogy four times in my life. And the sequel trilogy, Legends, twice. I have also read several other Dragonlance trilogies and stand-alone novels, adding up to about 25 book all together. Can you tell I really like the setting?

As I have gotten older, and expanded my circles of friends, I have realized that not everyone likes Dragonlance (GASP!). In fact some people deride the Chronicles as "juvenile" and poorly-written. Well, as these things go, it's all a matter of taste. But it makes me think sometimes about why I love the trilogy so much (and am currently contemplating reading it yet again).

Obviously, nostalgia does play a part. I first read them during my senior year in high school. Up to that point the extent of my fantasy reading was limited to the 12 Lancer/Ace Conan books, and a few odd books here and there. At that point I hadn't even read any of Tolkien's books (though I loved the animated movies). But when my friends Bill and Wes gave me their copy of the trilogy, I devoured them and wanted more.

The charm of the series, for me, was initially that it was like reading a D&D campaign being played. The authors did a very good job of translating some of the counter-intuitive rules of the game (mainly about magic) into something that made sense from a literary standpoint. I have to say that, after reading those books, I felt that I finally understood the Magic-User class enough to want to actually play one on occasion.

Sturm Brightblade
I also really like the characters. I obviously have my favorites, and there are some that I like less than others. But I don't actually hate any of the characters. Well, except the villains. But you're supposed to hate them, right? There are moments in the story that make me laugh, as well as some that still make me cry. But over all, I think it's the sense of adventure, the wide-spanning storytelling, and the accessible language that all combines to really do it for me.  I can even forgive the fact that the setting doesn't have Orcs!  Mainly because their place is taken by the Draconians, one of the coolest fantasy races ever.

If you enjoy Tolkien, and are willing to set aside your literary snobbery for a few moments, I think this little gem is a timeless read. And I think I really want to dig my copies out of storage again.

2 comments:

Kort said...

Tom - I loved the Dragonlance books (and modules) too. Looking back, I can see why some of the more 'snooty' fantasy readers write it off as fluff fantasy, but to me it still carries a big punch. Great characters, drama, action, settings and monsters ...who could ask for more? Raistlin was my favorite, though I'm not sure why I identified so with him. I like all of the original party though, even Tass. ;]

Kort said...

BTW, I never met the authors, but had the pleasure of talking with cover artist Larry Elmore once or twice. Nice guy.