Trent: Arm yourself with your strongest lance, because we’re going on a dragonlancing journey- with 1984’s “Dragons of Autumn Twilight,” the first book in the “Dragonlance Chronicles”! Now, I don’t usually go for all that “Lord of the Virgins” stuff, but I gotta say that authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman started a lot of trends with these “Dungeons and Dragons” novels. I mean, sure, there had been novelizations of movies before, but only these two geniuses would have thought to novelize a frikkin BOARD GAME! It is thanks to Weis and Hickman that today we can read such amazing novels as “Life of Pi” (inspired by the board game “Life”); “Agatha Christie” (inspired by “Clue”); and “The Hunger Games” (inspired by “Hungry Hungry Hippos.”)
Anyway, the story begins when there’s an attack on the forest village where the Smurfs live, and THEREFORE an unlikely ragtag team of misfits must set out on a quest to save the world from the Evil that comes from the North, where Evil tends to have its headquarters in fantasy epics. Our HEROES OF THE LANCE TM are:
Tanis Baratheon, half-human, half-elf, and fully bearded!
Flint Fireforge, the Eighth Dwarf from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”!
Caramon the Conan the Barbarian! His brother, Raistlin the Creepy Mage, who is probably dying of jaundice, and has been cursed with deformed pupils that look like hourglasses and let him see only doom. But somehow, they don’t burn this guy at the stake on Chapter Two.
Aaron Burr Tasslehoff, a kleptomaniac, who is definitely NOT a hobbit, but a “kender,” whatever that is!
Goldmoon, the hot blonde cleric–
Beatricia: Oh, look, Stevie Nicks got her own role-playing game!
Trent: — And her boyfriend Riverwind, the Native American who somehow wound up in the Magical Land of Krynn!
Sturm Brightblade, the sword-swinger with the big mustache!
Three or four other unforgettable characters I’m forgetting right now!
Also starring: Fizban the Befuddled Wizard, Tika the Hard-Working Waitress, and Bupu, the Love-Struck Gully Dwarf!
Grandpa Felicius: They should have added a knight named Lance Strong Arm. That would be a most suitable name for a hero of yore, but the authors of this novel settle for an obvious homage to everybody’s favorite “Baywatcher” in the form of the diminutive thief Tasslehoff Burrfoot. Don’t hassle the Tasslehoff! Don’t scoff at the Hoff!
Cousin Franz: “Dragons of Autumn Twilight” is one of those entertainments that the young fantasy-lover stumbles upon before developing such a thing as discernment. There is, however, a charming simplicity to many of these “Dungeons and Dragons” products, (and they ARE closer to “products” than to actual works of literature.) You like dragons? Who doesn’t! Here’s some! You want your goofy Gandalfy wizard? You got it! Elves, dwarves, goblins, knights, trolls, buxom tavern wenches? Yup. Hobbits? No, sorry, those are copyrighted by the Tolkien state, those greedy Smaugs. But you can have “halflings,” or as in the case of “Dragonlance,” “kenders,” which are basically hobbits who wear shoes on their hairy feet.
Tracey: It’s derivative, sure, but these warrior princesses are more developed than anything you get in Tolkien, and the co-authors juggle the multitude of characters more elegantly than you would think. (I mean, it’s not Akira Kurosawa methodically arranging his “Seven Samurai” on a cinematic tableau, but still.) I guess I do give a Cherry to the fact that a woman, Margaret Weis, wrote half of this, (the darker half), making her at least as powerful a name in 80s and 90s fantasy as Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, or Marion Zimmer Bradley. Tracy Hickman, despite having a misleadingly wonderful name, is sadly a male.
Hank: Look upon my works, ye mighty, and realize that for better or worse I have two kiddos. Therefore I have gotten laid. Therefore I don’t care what goes on in the silly, silly world of “Dragonlance.”
Beatricia: But Hanky, didn’t you run the Drizzt Do’Urden / R. A. Salvatore Fan Club at your alma mater?
Hank: Oh, come on, babe! You know that’s not “Dragonlance,” that’s “Forgotten Realms”! Much, much grittier game setting!
3 out of 6 Cherries