Dragonlance Chronicles: Dragons of Autumn Twilight – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to get out a soft blanket, pour a fresh mug of coffee, and curl up with a good book. When I was younger, a good portion of my autumn afternoons and evenings were spent this way. Sadly, as an adult, I don’t get as much time with my books as I’d like. But, I still make sure to carve out at least a few hours every week to read. If you frequent this site then you know that I like to read a little bit of everything. Biographies, science fiction, and horror are some of the genres that I’ve covered on this blog before. But there’s another genre of fiction that has always captured my attention; fantasy.

Many old grognards will tell you that their introduction to the swords and sorcery genre began with J.R.R. Tolkien. That was not the case for me. The first fantasy novel that I ever got my hands on was Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. If you ask me how I obtained this book, or what made me want to read it, I honestly couldn’t tell you. The truth is, I don’t remember how this particular paperback ended on my bookshelf. But for as long as I could remember, it was there. Perhaps it was something I bought at a bookfair on a whim. Or maybe a friend brought it over and left it. Whatever the reason, it ended up in my collection. What I do remember, however, is reading it for the first time. It was in the fourth grade and I was home sick from school. I didn’t feel well enough to sit out in the living room to watch TV or play video games. I decided to pick something off of my bookshelf instead. I should pause here and mention that I had been an avid reader from a very young age. I remember my third-grade teacher telling my mother that I could read at a tenth-grade level. So when I tell you that I picked up this book around the age of ten and devoured it in under two days, I’m not telling you a fish story. It happened.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight was unlike anything I had ever read before. Until that day, my reading had always been restricted to age-appropriate things like Judy Blume books or the Encyclopedia Brown series. But here was something new! A book that took place in a fantasy world filled with elves, dwarves, and goblins! These things seems common in today’s pop-culture. But at the time, having never heard of Tolkienesque fantasy, these were entirely new concepts to me. On top of that, both the writing and the story were absolutely incredible.

Aside from opening my mind to fantasy writing, this book also accomplished something else. It introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. You see, this novel was published by TSR, the company that created D&D. In the early 80’s, TSR decided that it wanted to publish a series of D&D adventures that took place in an entirely new world. To help promote this new campaign setting, it also ordered a series of novels to accompany the release. The campaign was called Dragonlance. And Dragons of Autumn Twilight was the first novel based on the campaign material. I don’t think TSR was prepared for just how popular this new series of books was going to be. The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy became an immediate fan favorite. I credit this popularity to both the wonderful writing style of the authors as well as the excellent character development.

From the very first pages of this book, the writing is descriptive and engaging. The opening scene takes place in a tavern. And just reading those first few paragraphs gives me a sense of comfort and paints a picture that immediately sparks my imagination. As the book continues, we are introduced to a number of characters. It is these characters that are the magic behind the Dragonlance story. Each one is unique, with their own loveable quirks and personalities. The way the authors have these characters play off one another is nothing short of masterful. We meet Tanis the Half-Elven, a man of mixed race who struggles with own identity, while also playing leader to his band of friends. We meet the brothers Caramon and Raistlin, one is a kind-hearted oaf, while the other is a conniving magician. There’s a handful of other characters as well, but I’d rather you meet them for yourself and see what makes them so special instead of letting me introduce them. Because trust me, any description I could give does them no justice.

The story itself is nothing short of spectacular. It focuses on a group of old friends who, after several years apart, meet up at their favorite tavern. However, the state of the world at the time of their reunion is one that is very different than it was when they parted ways. A new government has taken over, strange creatures have been sighted outside the safety of town, and whispers of a coming war drift on the air. It is at this reunion that our cast of character find themselves suddenly thrust into the middle of this turmoil. But what starts out as a hasty escape, soon turns into an quest of divine revelation. There’s so much about the story that I want to share with you. But it is something that’s really best experienced by reading the book.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of sitting down with this novel, I urge you to do so. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be a fan of fantasy or not. This book is written in such a way that makes it accessible to any reader. You don’t have to be a D&D player to understand or enjoy the plot. Everything you need is provided to you right here, in the pages of this novel. And if you want to full experience, read it during these autumn months. The events of the novel take place during this time of year and reading it during the season enhances the experience that much more.

 

Story: Well written and character driven. The world of Dragonlance is rich with history and it is presented here in a masterful way. This is one of my all-time favorite books.

Recommended: Anyone. This is an excellent entry point for those who might be curious about fantasy literature. Great characters, great plot. Plenty of action and humor.

Old Game Hermit

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19 Responses

  1. Hello Old Game Hermit,

    Thank you for writing this review. Even with D&D’s recent release and Weis and Hickman’s recent new book set in Krynn, Dragonlance still doesn’t get enough love.

    My experience was similar, except it was the early 90’s and I was in the 7th grade. I had found an old copy at my local library – a very well read copy that now sits proudly on the bookshelf in my home office. Up until that point, I was not an avid reader. But this book opened my mind to all sorts of new worlds. Besides Krynn – of which I have now read 159 books, and counting, in the series – this book opened my mind to books in general, Dungeons & Dragons, and eventually the world is writing. It also gave me an escape from a rather crappy, bully-filled adolescence.

    I know Tolkien should get a lot of this credit, but to me, Weis and Hickman get all of my love for the genre. They introduced me to it, they made me love it and for that I will be eternally grateful. They helped mold me into the man/son/brother/husband/father/writer that I am today.

    They gave me family and friends that I can go visit any time I need.

    From a kindred spirit,

    Nathan

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. Lots of young people today, even if they’ve heard of Dragonlance, have no idea just how influential the series was. For example, In the early days of online gaming, it was not uncommon to run into players with characters named after Raistlin or Tanis – just like these days you can’t play an online game without standing next to a Sephiroth.

    Dragonlance forever.

  3. Old Game Hermit I loved your review of Weiss and Hickmans masterpiece of writing. I to picked up Dragonlance as my first foray into fantasy and was hooked. I couldn’t tell you what made me purchase the book that changed my life but now at almost 50 years old I can still pick up my 1st editions and get wrapped up in the story all over again. I was so happy when Margaret and Tracy made their return to Krynn with tales of the Heros I grew up loving and my favorite Kender Tas. It started me on my journey all over again. I’m waiting now on the Dragons of Fate where we’ll get to see Huma again and our heroes will meet their heroes. Can’t wait!

  4. I just bought this book for a 6th grader with a high reading level and he absolutely loved it; he devoured it in a week. What made me think to get it for him was , much like you, I read the whole trilogy in the summer between 4th & 5th grade and it truly was my introduction to “grownups” books. Really appreciated reading you post here.

  5. This was also my first foray into fantasy novels. I was about 11 and found them on my older brother’s bookcase. I’m now 40 and still pick them up to read every few years. I have been longing for a true (well written!) film series based on the show. Sadly, I’m not sure it will ever happen.

  6. Thank you for your comment. Rumors have been circulating that Joe Manganiello has been interested in a producing (and starring in) a DragonLance film trilogy.
    We can keep our fingers crossed!

  7. Great review, also I found a Dragonlance book somewhere un remembered, but it was one of my first journeys into fantasy. I remember when I was reading it for the first time , I’ve been looking for this my whole life. I had always like RPG video games like the old DnD games in the IBM 186 days. In my early 20s I would go to flea markets and garage sales just to look for old Dragonlance books. Never surprised me how many I would find that people didn’t even know they had or what they were. They really printed the crap out of those things I guess lol. But I gathered a decent collection at one point but sadly due to time and life I have lost the majority. However recently I was moving some stuff and came across a box with a couple, since I had a vacation coming up I packed Dragons of the Dwarven Depths. When I got back I ordered the Test of the Twins trilogy, and I plan on keeping them in my regular rotation. Now that I’m older they really are a nice quick read. How people started reading Tolkien at a young age is beyond me, I found it quite confusing in my teens. Thanks again for sharing your story and bringing to light how similar all our beginnings with the series was. On a closing note Patrick Rothfuss Name of the Wind one of the best modern fantasy books I have read, check it out.

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think many of us have similar stories on why these books are so meaningful. Cracking open the pages to a Dragon Lance book is akin to visiting your childhood home and snuggling down under an old familiar, yet forgotten, blanket in your old room.

  8. Thanks old game hermit. Just read your article today. This 60 year old grandma has been re reading the novels. Most of my copies from the 80s are lost to time so I sprung for some kindle editions. Nice to see others feel the same as my self about these books.

  9. Mid- nineties, boy I liked gave me a copy to read. I ended up liking the boon much more than him! Currently sharing the audiobooks with my husband (Yes there are audiobooks of this and they are fairly well done.) Thank you for a great review- this is just how I explained it to my husband. Can’t wait to get to the Time of the Twins series!

  10. I remember buying the collectors edition which had the complete trilogy in it way back when. My friends and I were huge into D&D, and this was the perfect gateway into another side of that universe (along with the Dark Elf and criminally underrated Elven Nations trilogies). I have my original copy on a shelf in our family room…oh to be a teen again!

  11. My introduction to fantasy is with the very same book Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I had some friends of mine that loved fantasy art but loved to read. This art and reading also included D&D sessions. Once D&D was incorporated my fantasy apprenticeship had started until I ran the gambit of fantasy novels, comics and PC games

  12. Tried to read TOLKIEN after seeing the animated Hobbit movies in early 80s couldn’t get past the first chapter, to me it just dragged along to slowly . The first time I picked up DRAGONLANCE in the late 80s . I just devoured it couldn’t get enough. Yes it starts a little slow but it introduces you to each character with a steadily increasing pace into the heart of the story. Constant character development keeps you up-to-date on each one and helps to bring you into this wonderful world . With many books and stories by more than just Weiss and Hickman the world of DRAGONLANCE feels real .

  13. Agree with every word! Best series of books I read at the time I did. So nice to see others who liked it. No idea this its not in Hollywood yet?

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