Flashback Friday - The Dragon Lance Chronicles
Friday Flashback is where I look back at the books, films, TV shows and million and one other things that have inspired me over the years in my storytelling and art. This week I'm have a look at the classic book series, The Dragon Lance Chronicles.
I remember many years ago on a family summer holiday as a young teenager discovering a trilogy of books called the Dragon Lance Chronicles. As a teenager at the time of this discovery and on a week away with the 'old folks', something every teenager fears. This afforded me an opportunity to avoid the family much like Kevin the Teenager and very much unlike Kevin the Teenager to lose myself in a book or two, and the big fat books of the Dragon Lance Chronicles offered me a great way to do this.
Originally the story was a trilogy of books, in subsequent years this has expanded to several more. However the original three are Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning. The books, as the title hints at, are a series of fantasy novels and are written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and based on the world of Dungeons & Dragons. The first in the trilogy, Dragons of Autumn Twilight and was written way back in 1984. That makes me feel old!
The stories are very much the heroes journey and follow a large group of adventures as they quest their way through the fantasy realm of Krynn. The main focus of the novels is on the continent of Ansalon and the characters of Tanis Half-Elven, Sturm Brightblade, Caramon Majere, Raistlin Majere, Flint Fireforge, and Tasslehoff Burrfoot as they look to find the fabled Dragon Lanc - a weapon for killing dragons, the return of the true Gods and defeat the evil bad guys in the guise of dark magic users, dragons, dragon highlords and Draconians - reptilian creatures that serve as foot soldiers in the Highlords' army. There is even a flying citadel in one book!
Here is a brief summary of each book:
Dragons of Autumn Twilight - A group of old friends and new companions meet and begin their journeys to become the Heroes of the Lance. They enter enter Xak Tsaroth, find the Disks of Mishakal, are captured, meet Gilthanas, invade Pax Tharkas, meet Elistan, who becomes the first cleric of Paladine, incite a successive slave revolt, and kill a Dragon Highlord.
According to Tracy Hickman, "The restoration of truth and faith are... to a great extent, is the theme of this first book in the series."
Dragons of Winter Night - The companions continue in their journeys to become the Heroes of the Lance. They travel to Tarsis, which is destroyed in an ensuing dragon attack, split into two groups, one of which goes to Silvanesti only to find it ravaged by a nightmare caused by a Dragon Orb, the other to Icewall Glacier where they kill a Dragon Highlord and take his Dragon Orb. The former group succeeds to obtaining the Dragon Orb and ending the nightmare. The latter group are attacked as they escape and are stranded on Southern Ergoth, an island where they meet numerous elves.
Eventually, they travel to the tomb of Huma, where they meet Fizban and a silver dragon in disguise. The former group travel to Sancrist Isle, where Sturm becomes a full Knight of Solamnia, a Dragon Orb is shattered, and a dragonlance is forged. The identity of another Dragon Highlord is discovered. The dragons attack. Sturm is killed, but the Dragons are driven off thanks to the new dragonlances.
Dragons of Spring Dawning – Without blowing the ending: The group continue and conclude their journey in becoming Heroes of the Lance.
It might seem like I have really undersold the complexities of the story in my clumsy summary of the three books, and I have. The thing that I love about these books, and several of the ones that followed such as the Twins Trilogy, is the characters. You can create the most fantastical , imaginative and realised worlds possible, but if you don't have the believable characters to live in it following equally credible character arcs, your left with nothing other than a pretty 'picture'. Just watch James Cameron's Avatar, you'll know what I mean.
It was an important lesson I discovered by reading these books. I will admit I didn't know I had discovered it at the time as I was to busy enjoying the adventures these characters were having. However, through hindsight and a more mature reflection, very much so. And just to nudge this tangent along a little more before I get back on track, I remember being told that a great story should be just as great when it is two people in an empty room talking as when that same story told by the same two people talking in a fantastic science fiction or fantasy environment – that is the key to good sci-fi and fantasy writing.
Back to the books.
The characters are the strength of the stories told across these three books, all of them are flawed in one way or another, the good and the bad, and that is what makes them believable. For me, that's what makes these books great. I'm not a big fan of magic and mystical fantasy, I just don't get it. I'm a man of science. Yet, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have created characters and a world that, although they are the stereotype settings, heroes, heroins and villains, they are not the stereotypical.
If you enjoy fantasy or adventure stories and you haven't read these books you should be asking yourself why? Because for me, who really struggles with magic and mystical fantasy, I couldn't put them down. So much so that they are, and have been ever since I read them the first time, a permanent fixture on my bookcase and they have inspired me and my writing and art from a very young age right up to this very day and beyond.