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Novel D&D Dragonlance Dragons of Winter Night Retro Read

A slingshot kender sits next to an elf princess and a mysterious knight in blue and black armor on the illustrated cover of Dragons of Winter Night.

Insert of the original Dragons of winter night cover by Larry Elmore. LR: Tasslhoff, Lorana and a certain Dragon Lord.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

At the end Dragons of winter night, second book in Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickmanbeloved first Dragon spear I realized that I had a problem: I did not know what it was about. Rather, I do not know what it is not O. So many characters have been added, so many new plots have been started, and the huge deviations are taken from the story I thought the trilogy told was a mess. So why Dragons of winter night yet good?

If you haven’t read the first Dragon spear trilogy, you can remember the second volume as a continuation of the adventures Dragons of Autumn Twilight a group of half-elf Tanis, a sullen knight of Sturm, the elven princess Laurana, the barbarian cleric of the Golden Moon, her guardian and husband Riverwind, who was always considered an evil magician Raistlin and his sturdy twin brother Caramon, the gnome Flint, the former Tiki and Tiki-Barrfut. You would be technically right! But the book also about Laurana’s brother Gilthanas, a priest of Elistan and a fucking knight named Derek, who for some reason hates Sturm as hell. Oh, and then there’s a wild elf named Sylvanas, and then Raistlin and Karamon’s older sister Kitiara. And many of these new characters have more screen time than some of the characters in the first book.

It was confusing at first and then confusing for a while as new storylines piled up around them. But eventually I realized that it reinforced the quality that I found so attractive in Autumn twilight… Weiss and Hickman make Krynn feel like a living world. While Tanis and Raistlin fight nightmare dragons in the twisted land of Silvanesti Laurent and her team find the legendary Dragon Orb, two races of elves try to decide if the return of the dragons is somehow humanity’s fault and should be abandoned to their fate, while the Knights of Solamnia are reduced to political controversy, powerless to fight with the greatest threat to Krynn since … well, the last time the goddess Queen Takhisis and her minions arrived. It is, of course, dirty, but the setting and the plot are much richer for him.

All these people and events influence the travels of the characters in interesting and surprising ways. In addition, the authors split the group very early, shrinking the groups to allow more interaction with the characters and enrich their relationship better than it did in the first novel. Weiss and Hickman’s ability to keep juggling their countless storylines reminded me of George R.R. Martinwith A song of ice and fire series. It’s not done as skillfully as Martin’s, but we can ease Weiss and Hickman a little. Winter night was their second novel, published in 1985.

Cover by Matt Stawitzky for the 2000 reissue of Dragons of Winter Night featuring Sturm, Laurent and Tasslhoff.

Cover by Matt Stawitzki for the 2000 reissue Dragons of winter night, in which Sturm, Laurent and Tasslhoff participate.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Character serves best Winter night unambiguously Lorana, who appeared in the first book as a completely naive, enamored princess of the elves, chasing Tanis. During the second volume, she becomes the leader of her half of the group, tearing asses, naming names, uttering really incendiary fighting speeches and not fainting when Tanisa’s ex-girlfriend Kitiara appears as Dragon Lord and taunts her that Tanis has joined the bad guys. … All this is very pleasant. It is also pleasant for Sturm to have business in addition to speculation, such as when he is reluctant to fall into the political machinations of the knights and is forced to watch Derek lead most of them into a failed suicide charge against the armies of Takhisis. He must then lead his few remaining soldiers to hold the tower against the three blue dragons and the High Lord. Those who remember the novel probably also remember how shocking the battle is and how it ends, and heck if it doesn’t hold out, despite the fact that almost none of it was covered in the first book.

But this is true for many things! The Dragon Orbs, which are literally presented in this novel as powerful magical artifacts that no one has bothered to tell us about before, are the focus of much of the story. However, after a wild, shared nightmare of horror for the entire “mainstream” group, which includes almost all of their gruesome deaths, Raistlin defeats the green dragon in some completely opaque scene where he bargains with a thing to get … what something that gives him the Orb. Then Lorana literally gets another one and also defeats the Dragon Lord. between chapters! after Tasslhoff breaks one during a world council to assert himself and unite elves, humans, gnomes and gnomes against the forces of Takhisis. Orbs are just McGuffins that would seem to be thrown away after Winter nightbut they all still serve such a clear purpose in history that I cannot find myself dissatisfied.

The Dragon Spears, which also appear for the first time in this volume, are a completely different story. Somehow they are given to the heroes even more randomly and haphazardly than in The Legend of Humwhere they already felt like an afterthought. But at least in the prequel about the legendary hero, he and his army used them to fight air dragons, a hallmark Dragon spear– here they are simply used to poke the captured dragons when one of the spheres summons them. Only the bad guys have dragons to ride. (At least for now.)

There are so many plot threads that not all of them are neatly tied, and even if they will be continued in the sequel. Dragons of Spring Dawn, it is difficult to imagine that they will all be well woven. And Dragonlances should get a little cool if the trilogy works as a whole. But hell if Winter night still does not go beyond many of its shortcomings, I cannot help but put it just a little lower Dragons of Autumn Twilight… It’s more messy, but much more ambitious, and even if character growth suffers (without Laurent), character development seems richer, even if it’s simply because they don’t sit around hating each other all the time. It means Dragons of winter night rolls a 17 on his 1d20 — but since he has no -2 penalty for focusing so much on ravine dwarves, that means he is one point higher than his predecessor. To be honest, I cannot imagine how and even if Dragons of Spring Dawn manages to tie it all together, but I really want to know. When D & D & N returns, we’ll complete the trilogy!

The art of Tas and Kitiara Larry Elmore from the Masters of Dragonlance artbook.

The Art of Tas and Kitiara by Larry Elmore from Dragonlan Mastersce art book.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Assorted reflections:

  • I finished this book last night and cannot remember what the Golden Moon, River Wind, or Tika did. The only thing I remember is how Caramon cared about Raistlin and refused to have sex with Tika.
  • Lest you think that self-loathing is gone, here’s a little inner monologue from Tanis: “The sight of their faith in him infuriated the half-elf.” For the record, Laurana has self-doubt, but no self-loathing, and that is much nicer.
  • Just like when I was a kid, I really don’t know what happened when Raistlin made a pact during the green dragon’s dream attack, and I don’t understand what happened when he got his hands on the Dragon Orb. I am have assume it will be paid in Spring dawn.
  • Lorana’s father almost called her a “human whore” for chasing Tanis in Autumn twilight and in that sense she says “fuck them” and takes on the full mission of saving the world.
  • V Dragon Ball the manga (and later its popular anime) was created in 1984, the same year as Dragons of Autumn Twilightbut a year earlier Winter night… Given the complete absence Dragon Ball being in the US at the time, I feel safe in saying that the Dragon Orbs are the result of parallel thinking.
  • I won’t go into details, but The Legend of Hum seems much, much, much less original if you read this trilogy before the prequel.
  • Fizban, completely crazy, but extremely powerful wizard who died in Autumn twilight returned and expresses the hope that at his funeral he received “a 21-gun salute.” All around: “What are cannons?”
  • Speaking of confusion, I completely forgot about the existence of a man with a green stone in his chest, because he shows so late Autumn twilight and does almost nothing. Then it pops up about half a page in Winter night and later Kitiara says he is the key to letting Takhisis take over the world. I have no idea what they are talking about, why he is important or why we still know absolutely nothing about him after 66% of the story has been told. Let’s see, I think …?

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