Dragonlance Preludes 6

Tanis the Shadow Years

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Dragonlance Chronicles starts at the end of the 5-year personal quests of the book's heroes. The Preludes series provides some specific stories from the 5 years leading up to Chronicles, and Tanis, the Shadow Years, the sixth and final Preludes book, is about Tanis Half-Elven. In this story, Tanis goes on a quest to rescue a woman named Brandella on the behalf of a mage named Kishpa. His greatest enemy? The mage Kishpa.

Definitely not time-travel

The trick to this story is that Tanis is asked to travel back in time to find Brandella and bring her into the present. Except, Tanis isn't actually traveling back in time. Instead, he's traveling into the living memories of the dying mage, Kishpa, to find Brandella and magically rescue her from the mage's mind. He agrees to the task because Kishpa is dying, and he takes pity on the old mage. But the Kishpa of the past doesn't know any of this, and only sees Tanis as a stranger trying to steal his wife.

Krynn is a setting of at least two times: Before the Cataclysm and After the Cataclysm. You feel it during Chronicles because there's always an emphasis on the Cataclysm having happened. The cities and fallen fortresses remind us that there was a world-changing event in the recent past. Even Tasslehoff's maps are pre-Cataclysm. This is brought into reality for us in Legends, which is entirely a time-travel story. For this book to "want" to time travel makes a lot of sense. And it makes sense for it to refrain from actually doing it, because after all time travel ought to feel unique in Legends.

So this book cheats time travel by invoking memory travel, and that's easily the most interesting aspect of the book.

Krynn wars

There's another interesting aspect of the book. Krynn is a setting of war, as the latest release has pointed out. The time period that Kishpa's memory encampass is during the human and elf wars. This unfortunate part of Krynn's history is the reason that humans and elves are still wary of one another today (and by "today" I mean during the Chronicles).

This book doesn't give much insight into the wars, or how the different societies reacted to them, but it's interesting nevertheless to experience it through the eyes of a half-elf. Or at least, it would be if the book went into Tanis's feelings about a conflict that should obviously be uncomfortably relevant to him. Tanis does look for his father, and apparently finds him, but it's pretty unremarkable and is overshadowed by the Brandella storyline.

Searching for something

As i've mentioned in my other Preludes reviews, the five years leading up to Chronicles were presented to us as our heroes searching for a sign of the true gods on Krynn. We were told that in the very first chapter of the very first book. There was a lot of time before the Prelueds books were released for fans to imagine what those quests must have been like, and to formulate what the Seekers must have been up to, and how Theocrats rose to regional power. And sadly, not one of the Preludes books comes close to even suggesting that storyline. Riverwind's book comes the closest, because he actually does make contact with Mishakal, but awkwardly he wasn't among the heroes we knew to be on a five-year mission to seek out the old gods, so of all the books it's the least significant in enforcing that story.

Tanis doesn't spend this book looking for the true gods. Worse yet, he falls in love with Brandella, rebounding back from his break-up with Kitiara. I don't disbelieve that it's possible for a man to fall inappropriately in love with the wife of the man whose dying wish he's trying to fulfill. But I choose not to believe that Tanis would do that, and I choose to believe that from Kitiara Tanis goes to Laurana, because throughout all the Chronicles books I never heard about a conflict with Tanis's feelings for Brandella.

The sixth book of Preludes is a disappointing end to the series, but like most of the Preludes books, I think it would have benefitted from being a story about some other person on Krynn. I don't think the Preludes series had to be preludes. A quick find-and-replace of the names of our favourite characters with random Krynnish names would work perfectly well.

I tend to treat these books as alternate history fiction. They're fun stories, and good stories, but they're not the five years that actually happened. They're the five years that happened at somebody's gaming table. Role-playing games are nothing if not flexible, so it fits that these books would deviate into imagined timelines and false memories.

Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.

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