Dragonlance Preludes 1

Darkness and Light

settings 5e dnd review literature

Dragonlance Chronicles starts at the end of the 5-year personal quests of the book's heroes. It's an intriguing start, because you know that the quests happened, but you don't know anything about them, aside from a few hints from Flint Fireforge. The Preludes series provides some specific stories from the 5 years leading up to Chronicles, and the first book is about an adventure experienced by Sturm Brightblade and Kitiara Uth Matar.

Normally, I'm not a fan of prequels. I find that they tend to explain too much, ruining the intrigue and mystery of past events. It's the same principle as an unseen stalker in a slasher film. What you aren't shown, you must invent. And because it's your invention, however vague or lucid it may be, it lives in your mind and you grow fond of it. A prequel can only insist that your idea is wrong, and so it's almost always unwelcome.

Preludes isn't quite like that. In Preludes, you get just a snippet of what happens during those 5 years. There's still plenty of room for other events to have happened, including whatever you imagine.

Preludes does occasionally fall prey to those moments that make the world seem especially small, or very coincidental. There's a moment in Darkness and Light that feels a little suspicious to me, but overall it's a little bit of an invaluable Dragonlance book for the insight it provides on Sturm and Kitiara, and gnomes.

Sturm and Kitiara

There tend to be a lot of characters in Dragonlance books. In fact, you might argue that there are too many. In the original trilogy, it seems there's an endless barrage of names and subplots right up to the end. Considering how many characters there are, I think it's impressive that you come away from those books feeling like you really know both Sturm and Kitiara. In a way, they're pretty easy to sum up. They're polar opposites, so much so that they clash in the end. Sturm is the quintessential paladin and Kitiara is impulsive and self-serving.

So why not have a story that has them team up?

In Darkness and Light, Sturm and Kitiara have spent time together in Solace, along with Kitiara's brothers, and Tasslehoff and Flint, and Tanis. But Sturm's past still haunts him. He and his mother were forced from his father's estate in his childhood, and so he embarks on this quest to reclaim his birthright. And so Sturm and Kitiara head away from Solace to learn about Sturm's father. Kitiara accompanies Sturm mostly on a whim, out of the desire to travel and possibly to make some money as a mercenary, should anything come up.


Pretty early in their journey, though, they come across a boat that's inexplicably docked on dry land. It turns out that the boat is the invention of a group of Gnomes from Mount Nevermind. It's not primarily intended as a sea vessel, but as a flying one.

Sturm and Kitiara end up on the boat, the boat ends up in the sky, and Kitiara gets her first taste of flight. It's a big moment for her, and it's one of those rare moments in a prequel that actually effectively hearkens forward to a book. It works because it's indirect. Kit isn't mounted on a dragon flying through the sky, proclaiming that she'd really quite like to do this as a job one day. She's just on a flying boat, and you as a reader can envision her on a dragon later in life, but Kit herself doesn't envision that. All she knows is that flying is amazing, wonderful, extraordinary, beautiful.

The gnomes, Kitiara, and Sturm end up on Nuitari. There doesn't seem to be much there, at first, but eventually they discover some magical effects that give them each special abilities. They also discover a race of awakened plants, and, most significantly, a brass dragon.

It may seem odd that Sturm could have met a dragon (and a good one, at that) and then never mentioned it even in passing at a time in Chronicles when everyone was trying to fathom how there could be dragons on Krynn. But in Chronicles, the assumption was that all good dragons were gone from Krynn. If anything, meeting a good dragon trapped on Nuitari would strengthen Sturm's conviction that there was no chance of good dragons on Krynn. As far as he knew, he had confirmation that there were no good dragons on Krynn, and he had reason to believe that good dragons couldn't reach Krynn even if they wanted to.


The relationships in Dragonlance are complex. Caramon and Raistlin have probably the most complex relationship, and they each have a strange relationship to their half-sister Kitiara, and then there's Tanis and Kitiara and Laurana. It's not that it's tangled, by any means, but there's a lot to consider. Before this book, there was no relationship between Sturm and Kitiara. We knew that they knew each other, because we knew that Kitiara had been in the friend group before their 5 year quests, but that's the extent of it.

In Darkness and Light, Sturm and Kitiara spend nearly every page of the book together. This isn't a romance story, and that's refreshing. But you do get to know them each intimately, and you get to know how they relate to one another. And it's...complex. Whether or not you think they're good together, they have their own ideas about one another, and those ideas change over the course of the book. The plot is almost incidental to the character study, which is one of my favourite kinds of stories.

This book is a fun story, in no small part thanks to the supporting cast of the gnomes and its unexpected science fantasy setting. It's a good one.

Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.

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