Sunday, October 18, 2020

Dragonlance: Legends [1] Time of the Twins (1986)

I haven't read this book in at least 20 years.  I know this because in 2001 I started tracking all the books I read and it's not listed there.  Yes, that's right.  I have kept track of all the books I've read since 2001, still going strong today.  (I have also been tracking movies seen since 2003.  And more recently, TV shows and comics.)  Maybe one day I'll get it all up on this website.

Anyway, this is a bit of a different retrospective entry—all the entries in this series going forward will be.  I haven't read this book in 20 years and all I remember is that this series, Legends, was awesome (better than Chronicles), and that Caramon and Raistlin go back in time to see the fall of Istar and the Cataclysm.  That's about it.  I don't remember how it ends at all, or even what happens in the next two books.

Before you continue:
  • This is Part 4 of my Dragonlance Retrospective
  • See this blog post for an overview of the Retrospective
  • These blogs are not plot recaps—they are most effective in conjunction with your own re-read of the series

This Seems Familiar...

There are a lot of callbacks to the beginning of Chronicles at the beginning of this book.  Our heroes—and Lady Crysania, the new kid on the block—converge on the Inn of the Last Home, just as they did to start Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  Only this time it's very different.

There's no Flint or Sturm (dead), no Kitiara (she's bad now), no Raistlin (he's bad now too).  Goldmoon didn't make the journey (watching her kid).  Caramon's a fat drunk.  Tika's overwhelmed running the Inn.

From there, the similarities end, which is a good thing.  Sometimes it's enjoyable to iterate over a tried and true formula again (like The Malloreon), but other times you want something new.  And there is definitely a lot that's new, even now, to me.  Because I forgot about half of the stuff that happens!

I Forgot About...

So yeah, I totally forgot Tasselhof went back in time with them.  But of course he did!  The typical 80's fantasy needs some sort of comic relief.  I guess Caramon and Raistlin weren't enough to carry the weight of a full trilogy, despite Raistlin being the best character from Chronicles and the one I wanted to read most about when it was over.

At first I thought Tas would be annoying to have on the adventure, but with all the things he's experienced, he's a rare "mature" kender this time around and actually somewhat aware of what's going on, and thus much less annoying.  Tas's map of the past is very well done, too.  I actually like it better than the main one at the beginning of the book.

I forgot about Caramon being enslaved and becoming a gladiator of sorts.

I forgot that Raistlin basically became Fistandantilus.  Now it all makes sense again.

I forgot that the image of Kitiara and Lord Soth from the Shadow over Nordmaar game book and Villains miniature set actually depicts a scene from this book.  Kitiara is visiting Raistlin, using a jewel he gave her as protection to get through the Shoikan Grove that surrounds his tower in Palanthas.  Lord Soth is there to provide moral support (or steal her soul for his own if she should fail).  Cool scene, and Raistlin and Lord Soth—my two favorite characters in Dragonlance—having a conversation is even cooler.

The Cover

More cover art by Larry Elmore, one of fantasy's premiere illustrators.  He did all the covers for Chronicles... in fact, he did the majority of the original covers for D&D novels, if I'm not mistaken.  So no surprise here.

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Like the Chronicles covers, they are not that exciting, just characters standing there.  This one features Raistlin and Crysania, dark and light.  It appears to be the version of Raistlin from the present, with his golden skin and hourglass eyes.  I guess more people would recognize that version... the description of the body he inhabits in the past (Fistandantilus) doesn't match what's on this cover.

And like most Dragonlance covers, there have been a few versions at this point, all showing the same basic thing (Raistlin and Crysania).  This is the most current oneThere's this older one.  And finally one from the comic book adapation.

Anyways, the first edition on shown here is serviceable.  I certainly didn't buy the book based on the cover.  After Chronicles, it basically sold itself.  Check out the higher quality version on Larry Elmore's site.

Oh, Brother

It is clear that one of the main plots in this series is Caramon learning to live without his brother.  It's been his weakness ever since we first met him in Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and was one of the few things left unresolved at the end of the previous series.  The way he begins this series, as a fat drunk, illustrates how he still can't live without Raistlin, even when he knows Raist can take care of himself.

Honestly, it's part of why I'm not a big fan of Caramon.  As strong as he is physically, he's very weak mentally.  Sometimes I feel Weis & Hickman went too far in making Caramon and Raistlin complete opposites.  But I suppose sometimes you have to go to extremes to make a point.

Like I've said, I don't remember how this series ends.  I'm going to guess that this gets resolved at the end, though.  It has to, otherwise I wouldn't remember it as being awesome overall.

The Illustrations

In this series, they continued with interior illustrations for each chapter—however, they are different than what we had in Chronicles.  They are done by Valerie Valusek, who did the ones for Dragons of Autumn Twilight, if you remember.  The ones she did for that book are great.  These are not so great.

This time there's no chapter title or sentence.  And the images are somewhat tame, usually just a bunch of objects.  Nothing that really gets you excited about what's coming up in the chapter.

I'm not a fan of this style and implementation, to be honest.  So I won't be including my favorites like I did for Chronicles, and I probably won't talk about them in my entries for the next two books.

Random Observations

Since I don't do straight plot recaps, for this series I'll just list out some random observations that I had that don't warrant a section on their own.  I thought about doing a section on the Cataclysm, but we don't really see the full thing here, just the onset.  So that'll probably be in the next blog post.

  • The best thing about this novel is that it obviously wasn't based on gaming sessions or modules like Chronicles was.  It doesn't jump from quest to quest (or jump over them because there are too many, like in Dragons of Winter Night).  It's a proper novel with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • We get a decent taste of the minotaurs in this novel.  Their home island is on the other side of the Blood Sea, so they were barely featured in Chronicles (aside from the first mate on that ship where they found Berem, I think), but in this novel we have the Red Minotaur, a warrior in the arena that Caramon fights alongside and against.  Larry Elmore even painted a scene of that.
  • There was a peek inside the Tower of High Sorcery at Wayreth.  Cool to see that, along with some insight on the high mages themselves (Ladonna [black], Par-Salian [white], Justarius [red]). 
  • We meet Dalamar the Dark Elf, Raistlin's apprentice.  He seems cool.  He was in the Ral Partha Villains miniature set I covered in the Dragons of Spring Dawning post, if you remember.
  • The Cataclysm begins at the very end, though I thought it odd to have abruptly jumped from the first Warning to the last one (Thirteenth) in the space of a chapter.  There's a good sense of dread building up on that first day, and then suddenly we're one day before the Cataclysm.  Kind of minimizes the impact... why have the concept of the Thirteen Warnings if you don't devote any time to them?
  • I have no idea how our heroes get back to present time, if at all.  I simply don't remember.

Traveling Back in Time

The nostalgia in reading this for the first time in at least 20 years is getting to me on this one.  I briefly talked about it in the Retrospective Overview, but I first read Dragonlance in Rhode Island, when I lived on Fort Adams from 1990-1991.  Fort Adams is just outside of Newport, and we lived in military housing built right next to the Fort (my father was in the Air Force).

The friends I met there, Josh, Jed, and J.P., were into D&D and fantasy as well, but I only remember Josh and I reading the D&D stuff a lot.  We were way into it and I distinctly remember reading these books at our school, Rogers High School, and browsing all the other Dragonlance novels at the bookstores in the nearest mall.

So on a whim, I decided to search for my Fort Adams friends online, to see if I could find them.  Surprisingly, I found them all.

I located Jed easily, and his vocation in running a ministry is no surprise... his family was quite religious and he wasn't actually allowed to play D&D back then (we did it in secret at mine and J.P.'s houses, and we used to make fun of him sometimes for being too religious, which I felt guilty about later on in life).

I had to pull out my old yearbook to find out J.P.'s full name, though, as I had forgotten it.  The only thing I could find of him was on LinkedIn.  He works in finance and still lives in Rhode Island.  He also keeps his profile up to date, which is nice.

Lost in Time

Lastly, I found Josh—and was saddened to discover that he passed away in 2013.  He was only 37.  I think I searched for him online in the mid 2000's, but couldn't find him and never bothered again until now.  Man, what a bummer.

What's even more of a bummer, was that he lived in northern Virginia at the time.  I lived in northern Virginia for about 9 years up until 2011, roughly 25 minutes away from where his obituary said he lived.  We were minutes from each other for years probably, and didn't even know it!  :(

I'll be thinking of you, Josh, as I continue on with this retrospective.  Thanks for being my best friend during my year in Rhode Island, for sharing my enthusiasm for fantasy and D&D, for exploring Fort Adams with me, for sending my copy of the yearbook to me after I had to move away early, and for continuing to write to me after the others had stopped.  I wish we could've reconnected again.  RIP, buddy.


Book 2 — War of the Twins


Book 3 — Dragons of Spring Dawning

Book 2 — Dragons of Winter Night

Book 1 — Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Retrospective Overview