Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dragonlance Tales, Volume I The Magic of Krynn

Dragonlance Tales, Volume I
The Magic of Krynn
Edited by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
Copyright 1987

Riverwind and the Crystal Staff

By Michael Williams

This is a narrative poem telling the life story of Riverwind up until he found the magical blue crystal staff that restored the power of clerics in Krynn.

I don’t evaluate poetry because I have not read enough poetry to know good from bad. I’d rather have read this as a story.

The Blood Sea Monster
By Barbara Siegel and Scott Siegel

An outcast elf flees from a baker from whom he stole a loaf of bread. He hides in a fishing boat and ends up accompanying the fisherman to sea. The fisherman’s goal: to catch the monster that lurks at the center of the maelstrom in the Blood Sea.

This story is so atrociously bad because it breaks a fundamental rule of fictional writing that even high school students know: you can’t write a first person narrative if the narrator dies at the ending. It just doesn’t work. You may think I threw you a spoiler, but I didn’t spoil anything for you. This would be a B- paper for a high school fiction writer.

A Stone’s Throw Away
By Roger E. Moore

Tasslehoff Burrfoot acquires a magic ring that transports him to a citadel of a powerful magician. The magic user imprisons Tasslehoff, determined to acquire the ring, but neither he nor Tasslehoff can remove it from his finger. So the magician summons a demon whom he has enslaved to learn what the ring does and how it can be removed. The demon provides the answer, much to the chagrin of the magic user.

I liked the premise of this tale a lot. The story is well told and true to the Tasslehoff Burrfoot character. However, this guy writes some of the most stilted, silliest dialogue I’ve ever read in print and it hurts the story a great deal.

Dreams of Darkness, Dreams of Light
By Warren B. Smith
William Sweetwater is a short, pig faced man who runs a tavern in a port city occupied by the Draconian army. (in the Dragonlance Chroncles, it is at Pig and Whistle that Raistlin and his troop perform for patrons to raise money). William has heroic dreams of adventure. Real adventure comes his way when his friend, Tom the tailor is capture by the Dragonians. He combines forces with a Minotaur that owns another tavern in town to rescue Tom.

This was a mildly engaging tale with a fair amount of action. I liked the character of William Sweetwater in the Chronicles, so it was pleasant to visit with him again.

Love and Ale
By Nick O’Donohoe
Before the war against the Draconians, the Inn of the Last Home was just another inn in a remote town. Its owner, Otik and his barmaid Tika, brew their own ale, of which Otik is quite proud. But when a kender stops by and spills a little magical dust into the brewing process, the patrons of the Inn of the Last Home become more aggressive and more amorous. . .

This 40 page story was about 20 pages too long. Credit the author for a decent story. Criticize the editors for not lopping 8,000 extraneous words from the text.

Wayward Children
By Richard Knaak

A patrol of Draconians wanders into an uncharted village of elves. They brutalize the town and are determined to occupy it. But they soon find that the town is actually inhabited by their cousins – the dragons, whose eggs were stolen and used to create the Draconian race. The dragons get their revenge for the loss of their children.

This story was well crafted and is the best of the stand alone stories in this collection (not being linked directly to any characters or actions in the original Chronicles). It reveals the origins of the Draconians.

The Test of the Twins
By Margaret Weiss

This tale recounts Raistlin’s test at the Towers of High Sorcery and how he was made to kill his own twin and loving brother to pass that test. Raistlin’s trial and how it left him a physical wreck is frequently mentioned in the Chronicles, but never fully told. Here it is, wonderfully told by one of the architects of the series.

This is one of the stories left untold in the Chronicles that begged for at least a novella, if not a full blown novel. So much more could have been done with it, but credit Weiss for honing it down and still making it worthwhile reading.

By Nancy Varian Berberick

This story is set before the Chronicles takes place. Tanis and Flint are journeying in the mountains when they encounter a young woman determined to find her brother and boyfriend who have been whisked away to the castle of an evil magician determine to harvest the essence of their life to prolong a life. Tanis and Flint risk life and limb to help her find her missing men.

It relies on the handsome heroes helping the distressed maiden cliché, but is a well crafted story nonetheless with a halfway decent twist at the end.

Finding the Faith
Mary Kirchoff

Another of the untold tales of the Chronicles was the journey to Ice Wall to recover the Dragon Orb and Dragonlance. The elf princess, Laurana lead the party that includes Sturm Brightblade and his rival knight, Derek; the cleric of Paladine, Elistan, and Tasslehoff Burrfoot to a remote glacial region. There, they find a false cleric who is willing to aid them in crossing a glacier and entering a cave that is a portal to the home of a magician who keeps the two artifacts. In the end, the party recovers the powerful, magical artifacts to aid in the war against the dragon armies.

I never knew if it was laziness on the writers’ part or bad editing that omitted this story from the chronicles, for it should have been included. I like the narrative device of the old cleric, recounting the tale of how he discovered the true god, Paladine and telling the tale to youngsters. Still, the story comes up short because Tasslehoff Burrfoot appears near the end with the Dragon Orb with no telling of how he acquired it. It seems we’ll never get the full story.

The Legacy
By Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman

This novella by the creators of the Dragonlance saga serves as a capstone to the Dragonlance Tales trilogy which I have not yet reviewed. It chronicles the evolution of Raistlin from a great magician of the red robes to a powerful mage of the black robes aspiring to dethrone the Dark Queen herself and take her place as a god.

Raistlin’s twin and his wife Tika have settled down, own and inn, and have raised three boys. Two, Tanin and Sturm, are young warriors with growing reputations. The third, Palin, is a magician. Cameron and the three boys are summoned to the Tower of High Sorcery to learn that there is evidence that Raistlin, supposedly dead in the Abyss, is still alive and searching for a way out. The only person, according to the mages, that can find out for sure, is young Palin. Cameron fights hard to avoid having his son get involved with the tower’s lords and his wayward twin.
Perhaps it is because they are the creators of the world that is Dragonlance that Weiss and Hickman authored what is, by far the best tale in this book. I regret having read it before having reread the Legends series because the Legends Trilogy is as good, if not better than the chronicles and I had forgotten its story and how it ended.

Nonetheless, Weiss and Hickman bring out the best in the characters and the world they created and in the end, provide a twist that the reader doesn’t see coming. For all the fun that Dragonlance is, it contained no clever twists. In this novella, we see Weiss and Hickman have developed their story telling ability even more after the publication of their second trilogy.

In reading this anthology, it is clear that Weiss and Hickman are masters of their domain and others are just pretenders. The Chronicles and the Legends lend themselves to so many tales that could be told and told well. Unfortunately, few of them are told well here.

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