The Good: Wonderful character development, Excellent plot, Decent level of diction.
The Bad: It's a middle act? None, truly.
The Basics: The very best of young adult literature - far more intelligent than most adult literature. Worth a read!
Chronicles is the essential trilogy in the DragonLance saga and by now half of the people who would most enjoy this novel have already stopped reading this review. Why? There's a stigma in our society against science fiction and fantasy works. It's hard to sell science fiction to the masses as drama, which is why the Emmys almost never have science fiction shows nominated for Best Dramatic Series (though seasons 5,6, and 7 of Star Trek Deep Space Nine certainly deserved a nomination more than the lame duck season of Star Trek The Next Generation, which actually was nominated). Yes, the DragonLance series is fantasy. But it's the top of its game. At least it was. Whenever a series expands too far, it becomes bloated, misshapen. It's usually up to the intelligent and discerning reader to know when to stop.
Chronicles is the basis of the DragonLance novels and Dragons Of Winter Night is the second act, the brilliant turning point. Taking a cue from the popular Star Wars Trilogy (and other dramatic sources), Dragons Of Winter Night" is dark. It's where our heroes are put in the greatest peril and it's wonderful.
The basic plot of the second act (which reveals nothing of the first act, Dragons of Autumn Twilight) puts a group of heroes led by Tanis out to save the word Krynn from the return of dragons. Like The Empire Strikes Back, our heroes get broken down into two groups.
One group, led by the half-elf Tanis, follows the best character from the first novel (Raistlin, a mage) and his twin brother on a quest to find a mythical magical object called the Dragon Orb. It is rumored to be able to control dragons and through the course of the novel it becomes more apparent that it is like a narcotic.
The bulk of the novel is about the other group. Led by Laurana the elf (she's on the cover of the original version!) and Sturm, a sort-of Knight, the group goes on a quest for the Dragon Lance, an object that can kill dragons. Actually a good amount of the novel is spent reconciling the "sort of" part of the knight. Sturm is one of the few characters you can read in literature (yes, all literature) and think, "Wow, this guy is truly principled, even noble."
Book 3 in the novel is the siege of the High Clerist's tower where Sturm and Laurana actually make the siege interesting.
Setting aside the stigma against fantasy novels, the only thing this novel has going against it is that its level of diction is not that of adult literature. But it is the absolute best in juvenile literature. There is none better.
Dragons of Winter Night is filled with vivid characters, excellent dialogue and a strong intelligence for the political. While there is a fantastic battle near the end, the novel is character-driven and tells the story of friendship during wartime and service for the society. There is a clash between fantasy and reality as well, conflicts of religion and secular thinking, in short, this is the best adult-scoped novel for those who are younger.
And it's not as predictable as most literature. There are elements of the fantastic and the characters of Raistlin and Sturm are pretty much unparalleled in fantasy and impressive in the literary world in total.
For other fantasy novels I've reviewed, please check out my review of The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner by clicking here!
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© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.