Test of the Twins

The cover art of this book shows the twins standing back to back, one with a sword held over his shoulder, the other with his staff. A slight smile quirks Raistlin’s lips while Caramon scowls at the reader, and it leaves one wondering at the artist’s meaning. In Test of the Twins, Raistlin has succeeded in entering the Abyss where he will challenge the Queen of Darkness, Takhisis herself, while Caramon and Tasselhoff traveled 302 years into the future. Overshooting their own time, they find themselves in a desolate land torn by lightning and ravaged by starvation and plagues. Their home has been destroyed, and while unsure of what has transpired, Caramon has learned a few lessons in his travels. He has a kender with him: he can change history.

Test of the Twins is almost a denouement for the trilogy. I really felt like the climax was reached in the last book with Raistlin entering the Abyss. The end of this book is exciting in a way, but only in the same way that the end of one of Shakespeare’s plays is exciting. The climax was in act 3, and now we’re done. We know the end, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as act 3.

Still, it wraps up the trilogy nicely, and restores Krynn to something of a clean slate. It also sweeps the stage and sets Krynn for the next book in Weis and Hickman’s saga, a series of short stories that transitions from the original companions to their children. Reading The Second Generation will help readers connect a bit more with the characters introduced in Dragons of Summer Flame, the next book in the saga, but it’s not really necessary.

Read Test of the Twins and enjoy; the Legends trilogy isn’t nearly as good without it. But don’t expect it to compare to War of the Twins.

War of the Twins

And though he did not strike with the dagger, it drew blood anyway; drew blood not from flesh but from soul. Quickly and cleanly, it sliced through the last spiritual tie between the twins. Caramon winced slightly at the swift, sharp pain in his heart. But the pain did not endure. The tie was severed. Free at last, Caramon released his twin’s arm without a word.

Raistlin’s evil has been revealed in such fullness that his twin can no longer ignore it. When Caramon first traveled into the past, he had hoped to save his brother, to bring him to redemption, but by the end of Time of the Twins, he knew that such was impossible. At least, for a given value of “knew,” because not long after the beginning of War of the Twins he has changed his mind again. Hope continues to dwell in his heart, and Caramon is loathe to give up hope for his twin.

War of the Twins details the pride of the Kingpriest that resulted in the Cataclysm, the fiery mountain hurled upon Krynn that broke the land and ended with the silence of the gods. It also reveals what should have been evident to the reader all along, yet is easily overlooked: Raistlin, in traveling to the past, has not only learned from Fistandantilus, he has become Fistandantilus. And this means that Fistandantilus’s fate, to die in the Dwarfgate Wars, must become Raistlin’s own. Caught in a trap of his own making, Raistlin struggles to find an escape, but short of admitting defeat and fleeing, none seem evident.

However, there is a caveat. Tasselhoff Burfoot, the kender companion, traveled with Caramon back in time. Having been created by accident, a quark of the chaotic Graygem, kender were never supposed to travel through time because, unlike the races created by the gods, they have the ability to change history. Perhaps Raistlin’s fate is not sealed after all…

As Crysania’s love for Raistlin grows, so does Caramon’s distrust and detestation. But despite the finality of this book’s conclusion, remember there is another volume waiting. You won’t be able to take a break between them, trust me.

Time of the Twins

Raistlin is perhaps the most powerful character in the DragonLance saga, for his story is not just about the darkness in his soul and his potential for redemption. In Raistlin we see the darkness within us all, and our own journeys through this world as we seek to learn more. Time of the Twins is the first book in the Legends trilogy, which focuses heavily on the development of Caramon and Raistlin and the nuances of their relationship. Less heavy-handed than the later Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, Time of the Twins highlights Caramon’s innocence juxtaposed against Raistlin’s malfeasance. This trilogy also introduces the discusson of ultimate good versus ultimate evil, and seeks to define these.

I consider this trilogy the frontrunner for such works as the Sword of Truth series, or George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, for DragonLance was one of the first fantasy series that introduced the idea of evil being good at times, and goodness blinding itself and thereby committing great evils. As such, I do not feel that one of these books can truly be taken on its own; Time of the Twins is good, but without its compatriots, it has no lasting value.

Nevertheless, on its own, Time of the Twins is interesting. The character of Crysania, cold and stonelike, is often compared with the dark character of Raistlin, who seems to burn with some inner fire. As Raistlin seeks to go back in time and study with the great Fistandantilus, Crysania is struck near dead and sent by the Wizard’s Conclave back to the time of the Kingpriest, when such clerics walked the land who would be able to cure the curse laid upon her. Caramon travels with her, and Tasselhoff Burrfoot, the irascible kender, is able to jump into the spell at the last moment and travel as well.

Three hundred into the past they journey, to a time just before the Cataclysm that broke the land and ended in the silence of the gods. This book has some good twists, and its development of the characters, particularly of Raistlin, is worthwhile. Voices are varied and enjoyable, and as with most DragonLance novels, it is quite a page turner. Pick this one up, but don’t fail to grab volumes 2 and 3 as well. The story is just beginning.

Dragons of Spring Dawning

The final novel in the Chronicles Trilogy, Dragons of Spring Dawning, concludes both this war and the Companionship. The novel, much like the first two, leaves a great deal unsaid in an attempt to relate the story entire, and so it feels a bit rushed. A fourth book probably could have been written, spacing this one out and expanding on some of the scenes, particularly at the end. After the focus on character development in book two, this one seems to be trying to fit a great deal of story into too few pages, and so some of the characters are dropped almost entirely.

With a surprise conclusion, the novel is satisfying and certainly pulls readers into the next trilogy, which picks up about two years after Dragons of Spring Dawning, but the ending is rushed. Like too many other novels, the reader will reach a point in the book where they will notice how very much is left to be done and how very few pages remain, and they will know already that it will not be as satisfying as it might otherwise have been. Still, the insight into Tanis’s and Kitiara’s relationship, the reintroduction of Raistlin in the final hour, and the revelation of Fizban all make this a cornerstone novel to the DragonLance Saga.

Though the Chronicles trilogy were the first novels written in the DragonLance Saga, I still feel like they are more of a prelude than a beginning, and that the series does not begin in truth until the Legends trilogy. The Chronicles trilogy merely sets the stage for the world, and the play begins in full after the first battle against Takhisis is won. The war is far from over.

Dragons of Winter Night

The Companions have been separated, both by decision and by circumstance. The Queen of Darkness, Takhisis, has returned to the world and is preparing her armies to conquer as the second book in the DragonLance Chronicles trilogy, Dragons of Winter Night, begins. Clearly, a lot has happened since the last novel, and we are told about it rather than shown to save pages and time; much like the first novel in the trilogy, this one also begins heavily in media res and will leave you wondering what has been going on. As a side note, in 2006 and 2008, a couple of books were published that detail what happened between Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragons of Winter Night. Check out The Lost Chronicles for more details. I intend to read these after finishing the original novels again, prefering to read the books in the order they were published rather than in the story’s chronological order.

Focusing heavily on the Knights of Solamnia, Dragons of Winter Night reveals more about why the order of knights have fallen into disrepute and focuses heavily on the character of Sturm Brightblade. Sturm is a squire of thirty years, young as far as the knighthood is concerned, though one of the eldest of the Companions (among the humans, anyways), and often morose. Sturm is depressed, melancholy, and pessimistic about the hope left in the world. However, as more is revealed regarding the knighthood and his past, Sturm’s personality is seen in a new light, and his nobility and code of honour becomes paramount. In particular, the question is raised near the end of the book which is more important: strict adherence to a binding set of rules or a more flexible, subjective interpretation of events based on one’s code of honour. The question is answered through the story, but I find it unfortunate that the subject isn’t really expanded upon.

Dragons of Winter Night is a solid middle-book to the trilogy, facing the same challenges as any middle-pieces in that it has no real beginning or end. It overcomes this challenge by providing action that is fast paced and exciting, heartbreaking romance, and the true introduction of dragons as Takhisis’s power on Krynn is revealed. The personalities of the Companions make for a highly entertaining read, and the books ends with a satisfying conclusion that still urges readers to pick up the next book in the series. If you liked Dragons of Autumn Twilight, you will love Dragons of Winter Night.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight

A few weeks ago, I was facing the prospect of the end of the spring semester and the approach of summer. The heady realization broke over me that I would be free to read something I wanted to read, rather than something for class, and as I dug through my memory of what we owned that I would like to read, a lightbulb fired above my head. I wanted to return to the DragonLance Saga, books that had practically raised me, teaching me the difference between good and evil, my moral code, and a great many other things. Excitedly, I went to our library to find the Chronicles series… only to discover that we did not actually own them.

Presumably, I initially checked them out from the library, but it really surprised me that I hadn’t purchased them before now. Therefore, I made a shopping list of books I needed to own, and when April and I made it to Barnes & Noble, I picked up a half a dozen must-have books for DragonLance lovers.

The first of these is Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first published in 1984. The book begins heavily in media res, as the Companions return to the Inn of the Last Home, having parted ways five years ago to search the land for signs of the old gods. The reader is immediately given numerous hints to their past, hooking our attention into the book and making it hard to put down. It is a fast read, flowing quickly and smoothly, and is a clear demonstration of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s mastery and profound partnership.

The Companions quickly find themselves thrust into the middle of a war, and the book delves into the lives of these normal people turned heroes in a fashion not seen in today’s literature. It seems that, these days, the heroes are practically superhuman, indestructible and uncannily intelligent. In DragonLance, the heroes never sought to be such, and they serve because they know it is the right thing to do. They do so out of love, and the theme of death is not shied away from.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the beginning of the series, and as such is something of a mystery. If you don’t mind having the answers revealed slowly through some of the most masterful storytelling yet to be seen in fantasy fiction, I heartily recommend picking up the DragonLance Chronicles.