The third book in the original Dragonlance trilogy is Dragons of Spring Dawning and it's one of those concluding novels that just doesn't pull any punches. Takhisis is real, Lord Soth is lurking in the shadows, Tanis has ruined the party's chance of success, Laurana is kidnapped, and Raistlin wields a powerful dragon orb and wears black robes. For most of the book, you're reading about best laid plans falling utterly apart. There's really no guarantee that it's all going to work out the way you want it to. And frankly, in some ways it doesn't turn out the way you want it to.
One of the many things I love about the original Chronicles trilogy is its layers of plot pacing. The first part of the first book starts the heroes out on the back foot. They find themselves strangers in their own homeland, and then they're chased away by hordes of occupying forces. It's pretty relentless, with the persistent long plot being the mystery of Goldmoon and Mishakal. Once that mystery is resolved, the plot shifts to bigger problems, including Verminaard of Nidus, and then Kitiara, and ultimately Takhisis herself.
With each book, the threat grows. In this book, it's an unfortunate, humbling, and terrifying foregone conclusion that Krynn is crawling with dark forces. Draconians, dragons, dragonlords, a death knight, and legions of evil humans are preparing Krynn for all out tyranny. For most of this book, like Warhammer's Empire of Man, they've essentially won, it's just a matter of bringing the lands they've conquered into "compliance."
As with previous books, this one has dragons in it. This time, though, there are metallic dragons. I haven't done the research to know whether D&D is the origin of metallic dragons, but I think it is. Either way, Dragonlance was definitely my first encounter with the concept. Metallic dragons aren't just amazing to imagine, but some of the heroes of the lance actually ride dragons in this book.
There's a dragon fight. In the sky.
With a dragon lance.
Admittedly, it focuses on Flint and Tas, so it's got a lot of silliness in it, but it's still an exciting scene.
We all know the relationship tropes to expect in fantasy. Except in Dragonlance. In this series, character relationships don't go the way you think they're going to go. People die when they're not supposed to, sometimes in ways that aren't all that heroic. People who shouldn't fall in love end up falling in love, and people who are supposed to be in love are kept apart. And then it all reverses, and you're not sure about it any more.
Dragonlance isn't a collection of tropes. The closest thing to tropes are the elements of D&D scattered throughout, and those are only tropes because they're mechanical techniques repeated throughout a tabletop game.
The Dragonlance Chronicles story is about a lot of people. Some of them get what they want. Some of them don't. Some of them think they do, but they're wrong. Others want more than they get.
And that includes you, the reader. You get some things you want from this book, and other things are withheld from you. Because even though this is fantasy, it's talking about real life, real struggles, real fears and aspirations.
Dragonlance Chronicles is complex. There's not a single hero nor a single villain. It's as much about faith as it is about action and personal initiative. It's about selfishness and charity. You're not going to find a simple, distinct message at the end. You will find a great story, you'll make new friends, and you'll probably fall in love with either the world of Krynn, or dragons, or at the very least, kinders.
Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.