Mar 29, 2008

What Do I Read Next? (Part One)

A Short Guide to the "Core" Dragonlance Novels

As of 2008, Dragonlance novel series (or more accurately "series-es") now numbers close to 100 books, so for the new reader the confusion of what to read is a genuine concern.

Consider this... if you pick up the wrong book you could find yourself at the dawn of the world, in the middle of the reign of the Kingpriests, in the time just before the War of the Lance, decades after the "last war" (be it the War of the Lance, the Chaos War, or the War of Souls), or even on a totally different continent!

If you survey a bunch of fans, you'll come up with a lot of variation on what to read and what not to read, but there are a few consistent responses, most of which I agree with, so here's a chronological list of a portion of the Dragonlance saga:

The Meetings Sextet and The Preludes Sextet

These books detail the early stories of characters that appear in the Chronicles trilogy. While set before Chronicles, all of these books were written after both the Chronicles and Legends series and none of these stories are considered "must-reads". The quality of the novels varies among the different authors on the series, and the tales themselves often contradict events in Chronicles, which is often considered more "official" than these tales.

Final Recommendation: Read about any favorite characters you liked in Chronicles, skip the rest, and definitely read these after Chronicles and Legends.

The Chronicles Trilogy

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning
Without a doubt, this should be the starting point for any reader interested in Dragonlance. These three novels, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, were the original story for the setting, caught up in a time when dragons were only myth and the continent was in the middle of an all encompassing war.

Final Recommendation: This is the starting point for all things Dragonlance.

The Lost Chronicles

Dragons Of The Dwarven Depths and Dragons of the Highlord Skies
These are the latest books by Weis and Hickman and attempt to fill in details and stories not included in the original Chronicles trilogy. Even the authors recommend that readers NOT read these books till after they've read the Chronicles and Legends trilogies, as there are details or hints in these books that may spoil plotlines in the other books.

Final Recommendation: Read these after the core trilogies, NOT before.

The New Adventures

This is a recent addition to the Dragonlance book line, having just come out within the last few years. It takes place just after the Chronicles trilogy with an all new cast of characters. The original storyline comprised 8 books. Afterward, several of the characters went off on their own adventures in various separate trilogies.
The books are aimed at a slightly younger audience--think "Lord of the Rings" meets "Harry Potter". The characters are all "young adult" and the violence is toned down a bit compared to the "grown up" novels, but the stories are just as interesting and satisfying as any of the other books.
Final Recommendation: Very few people would consider these as must read books, but if you're interested in this time period (just after the War of the Lance), it's a very good collection of stories.

The Legends Trilogy

Time of the Twins, War of the Twins, and Test of the Twins
These books, also by Weis and Hickman, were written shortly after the Chronicles trilogy and detail Raistlin's growing power. The books also jump around in time and detail such events as the Cataclysm and the Dwarfgate War. These are generally considered the first books one should read after the original trilogy.

Final Recommendation: This is your second stop on the Dragonlance journey!

The Second Generation

This book is a collection of short novellas, most written by Weis and Hickman (are you starting to notice a trend here?), that detail the exploits of some of the children of the Heroes of the Lance (Tanis, Kitiara, and Caramon's kids). Three of the stories had been previously released in earlier anthologies, while two are original to this collection.
One of the purposes of the book was to bridge the gap between the previous novels and the then-upcoming Chaos War series. Two interesting bits of trivia... this was actually the first Dragonlance book to be released in hardcover. The original printing of the book had an appendix of AD&D (second edition) rules for new Dragonlance character classes. This was at a time when TSR was not creating new game material for this setting.
Final Recommendation: While interesting, it was obvious that the new stories in this collection are just setting the stage for what will be the next novel. If you plan to read Summer Flame, then you need to read this first, otherwise, it's not a critical book.

Dragons of Summer Flame

This is another book by Weis and Hickman, set about 2 decades after the original stories and involving many of the children of the original heroes (as introduced in The Second Generation). Weis and Hickman only wrote the first book, but they submitted ideas that became several of the other books in the Chaos War series.

Final Recommendation: This book is crucial if you want to follow the timeline into what is known as the "Fifth Age", though there are enough novels set in other times that one could avoid this period and never run out of books to read.

In part two, I'll look at other "core" and non-so "core" Dragonlance novels.