Saturday, April 24, 2021

Dragonlance: Legends [3] Test of the Twins (1986)

Like Chronicles, things finally get exciting here in the last book of Legends.  The story comes together and we pull in all the elements and characters from Chronicles that made that trilogy good, but had been lacking so far.

It's like the authors finally realized all the cool, unique things about Dragonlance (that doesn't include kender) were missing, so they found a way to bring them all back in the last half of the book. We get the draconians again.  Tanis and Kitiara.  Flying citadels.  Dragons.  And Lord Soth!

Before you continue:

  • This is Part 6 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

Let's Start It Again

I didn't really talk about how the previous book ended in my previous post.  It's a very similar scenario as the end of the first book.

Raistlin and Crysania were opening the portal at Zhaman just when Caramon and Tasslehoff were using the time traveling device to go back home—and Caramon and Tasslehoff end up too far in the future.  A future where Raistlin succeeded in destroying Takhisis and becoming a god.  A future where Krynn is dead and the last days are upon them.

Part 1 of this book was probably pretty effective back when this came out, but these days it's somewhat ho-hum.  Travel into the future, see how the world has been ruined by a few minor choices, go back and make sure it doesn't happen.  The best part about this section is the last part, where Astinus, Dalamar, and Elistan have gathered together at the end of the world.  Caramon and Tas meet up with them and get the last volume of the Chronicles of Astinus, which tells them what happens in the alternate timeline, so they can fix it.  Then Caramon and Tas go back in time to Part 3.

Let's Bring Them Back

Part 2 focuses on all our non-Majere favorites in the "present"... that is, if Tanis, Dalamar, Elistan, Kitiara, or Lord Soth are a favorite of yours.  It's an okay section and provides a nice change of pace from Caramon and Tas, who I don't feel are strong enough characters to carry an entire novel.  Raistlin is the star of the series but he's offscreen for most of this one, much like he was in Dragons of Spring Dawning.

We get a nice prelude that reveals all the details of Lord Soth's downfall, told by the death knight himself.  Really enjoyed that since he's one of the cooler characters.

In general, though, this part of the book simply sets the stage for Part 3, featuring the same battlegrounds from Chronicles, namely the High Clerist's Tower and Palanthus.  We get some dragon riding action, with Tanis on Fireflash, the bronze dragon Flint and Tas rode in Chronicles.  The conflicts this time around are collectively called the Blue Lady's War.  (I didn't know that until I did some research just now.)

Also, I'm not sure how the timing works on having Raistlin battle Takhisis just weeks after they all began this journey back in the first book, but I guess it works when you want to have Tanis and Kitiara back in the narrative.

Let's Check the Cover

Courtesy of Wikimedia
The cover for Test of the Twins finally shows both Raistlin and Caramon, although it probably should just show Tasslehoff (see next section).  Same reliable Larry Elmore, but this time it's almost an action shot.  In terms of the original covers, I like this one the best out of the trilogy.

You can see the higher quality version on Larry Elmore's site.

In terms of the newer covers, the current one for this novel is way better.  It shows the final scene in the Abyss, in front of the portal, where Caramon is cradling a blind Crysania and Raistlin is about to be overwhelmed by Takhisis.  Of course, it appears that they are inside the Tower of High Sorcery where the portal is, rather than in the Abyss itself...but I'll let that slide since it's pretty cool.

Let's Do It Again

Part 3 features the final battle of the Blue Lady's War.

Finally, the draconians are back!  After basically two books of nothing—because they didn't exist in the past—we get to see them again.  Well, mainly we see them fighting again, dropping from dragons and flying citadels into the streets of Palanthus.  Which leads to the best part of the book...

...real action with a flying citadel!  After a tease at the end of Chronicles, this is very welcome.  If you remember in that trilogy, they just floated ominously above Palanthus.  Not so this time!

We not only learn how they are created (they rip castles out of the ground), we get to go up to one and fly it!  Well, Tasslehoff does, at least.  With a gully dwarf.  Sigh.  It's okay if you're not excited any more.  Come to think of it, we did this already, right?  In Chronicles, when we got to observe a dragon battle and had to do it from the point of view of Tasslehoff and Flint?  Another kender and dwarf.

And once again, Raistlin is the hero...he saves the world from certain destruction, though this time it's of his own making.  So is he really the hero?

He's not, in my opinion.  It's actually Tasslehoff, Krynn's Forrest Gump.  He controls the narrative, remember?  In the last section of the book, he bumbles his way through the battle of Palanthus, saves Tanis and Fireflash, saves Tanis and Caramon in the flying citadel, saves Dalamar, Crysania, and the world by flying the citadel to the Tower of Sorcery so Caramon could get in there and go into the Abyss to stop Raistlin from re-entering Krynn.  All hail Tasslehoff.

It gives me Lord of the Rings vibes the more I think of it.  What is it that Gandalf said?

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Let's See

In the previous volumes of Legends, I ditched the interior illustration section I had done for Chronicles, because the illustrations seemed a bit lazy to me.  Well, this time they are mostly the same, except for the third part of the book, when Raistlin and Crysania are in the Abyss.  For those chapters, they used different sets of eyes to indicate who was narrating.

There's Raistlin's angry hourglass eyes, easily recognizable.  Then Takhisis's sultry eyes that don't look evil, only beautiful.  Then Crysania's teary, blind eyes.  And finally Raistlin's closed eyes when he realizes what he must do to save Krynn.

I didn't remember these images at all and appreciated how they were used to supplement the text.  By far the best use of chapter images in this series.


Let's Feel Bad?

Something I've always liked about the Dragonlance titles by Weis & Hickman was how they were a bit more "realistic" than other high fantasy at the time, in terms of consequences.  People die, people are drunks and have problems, people make bad decisions and pay for them dearly.

As such, Kitiara by far has the worst fate in the entire series.

Kitiara hitched herself to Raistlin's wagon and in the event of his victory, would have made out just fine.  Instead, Dalamar kills her and Lord Soth takes her soul, his to torment forever.  She is clearly fearful of this fate and even Tanis is disturbed by it, as he struggles to let go of the claim she had on his heart so that Soth could take her.  It is that action that seals Kit's fate and despite all the evil things she had done, I felt bad for her.

Raistlin, of course, sacrifices himself and remains in the Abyss to save the world.  However, it's not exactly clear what that means for his soul or what he'll have to endure, and I'm sure there's other material after this that expands on it (which I probably won't read).

Let's Reminisce

Here's a last bit of nostalgia for this retrospective.  When I was cleaning out my garage this past summer (like everyone else during the pandemic), in addition to the unpainted Villains miniatures and other forgotten treasures from my childhood, I rediscovered the D&D character sheets my friends (Josh, Jed, and JP) and I used during that year in Rhode Island, when I first read Dragonlance.

Sinder was my character.  My older brother actually came up with the name.  (Sinder and Vyrastas, which I use for gaming, were character names he used in the Might & Magic game on Commodore 64.  He just made them up but I always remembered them.)  Sinder was a neutral evil halfling thief.  I was usually a thief, I thought they were cool, I guess.

Modred was Josh's character, and was a chaotic evil human cleric-mage.  I checked and apparently a human can't be dual-classed, but I mentioned in some other post that we didn't actually play by all the rules.

Kheldar was Jed's character, and was a lawful good human paladin.  Jed was always good, his family was very religious, remember?  If the name seems familiar, it's from The Belgariad (Silk's real name is Kheldar).  I don't think Jed ever read that series so I must have given him the name.

Shasarak was J.P.'s character, and was a lawful neutral human fighter-cleric.  Breaking the rules again!  I don't remember much about his character or how he was played.


You can tell we used these sheets a lot, as some sections like Hit Points and Armor are nearly worn through the page after so much erasing and rewriting.  These weren't our only versions of these characters, but were the only ones I had left.  We'd reset things every once in a while for fun.

It was always tricky playing D&D together.  We'd have to do it at mine or J.P.'s houses, because Josh and Jed weren't allowed to play it.  All our parents knew that, of course, so we'd play it in my room with the door shut and the Nintendo paused in the middle of a game.  Whenever my parents would come near we'd quickly shove all the guides and papers under the bed and start playing the Nintendo again.  Because at that time my parents never gave us privacy, they'd knock but come right in after.

Ah memories.  I miss those days.  No cell phone to constantly draw your attention.  No social media to catalog your life and embarrass you.  Despite hating to run today, I even miss being on the track team in 9th grade, strangely enough.

Let's Do Something New

But the nostalgia doesn't end there!  Despite my complaints about some boring sections and how everything revolves around Tasslehoff, I genuinely felt sad when I got to the end of the book, and I finally found a soft spot in my heart for Caramon.  He's been fairly dopey for most of these six books, but to see him finally free of his brother and on his own path—that made for a good ending.

I didn't want it to stop, so I immediately went and bought the ebook of Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, the first volume of the Lost Chronicles that I mentioned back in the post for Dragons of Winter Night.  The Lost Chronicles fill in the gaps during the Chronicles trilogy that had originally been relegated to the gaming modules that were part of the original Dragonlance campaign launch.  Will they measure up to Chronicles and Legends?  I don't know, but the retrospective is not over yet.


Lost Chronicles
Book 1 — Dragons of the Dwarven Depths


Book 2 — War of the Twins

Book 1 — Time of the Twins

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