After the setback at the end of book two, hope finally dawns on Krynn. For the rediscovered dragonlances and the return of the good metallic dragons are finally turning the tide of fortunes against the forces of darkness in the War of the Lance. In the north, under the leadership of a new general, none other than one of our familiar companions, victories follow victories, cities are retaken, enemy commanders are captured, and for a time, evil seems to be on the verge of defeat. Nevertheless, the Dark Lady has a devious ruse of her own that would deal a devastating blow to the forces of good from which they may not recover. Meanwhile, the other half of the sundered fellowship struggles to bring back the Silvanesti dragon orb and reunite with their friends. Their efforts are meaningless to Raistlin, who already have found a way to wield the power of the orb and whose mind may have turned to darkness. The end comes in a frantic rush as the companions fight to rescue their friends in the evil lair of Takhisis, prevent the Queen of Darkness from gaining corporeal existence in Krynn, and finally escape with their lives. All the while, the nightmare that they all shared in the twisted woods of Silvanesti would come back to haunt them in the waking world.
The thrills are not diminished from book two. One of the hallmarks of this book, and perhaps of the series, is unpredictability. Character make decisions out of love, fear and remorse, that seem to be unwise from the reader’s standpoint; yet at the same time, these are the very marks that make them human (or otherwise). On the flip side, while some antagonists may come off as irreconcilably evil, the Dark Lady is more complex. Her insatiable thirst for power makes her callous, yet there are times when one can’t help but feel some sympathy for her.
The climax takes place in several places at once and comes in a frenzy of actions that are as exciting as I’ve seen. Despite the somewhat happy ending, there is still a dark overtone. Evil is not wholly defeated and still reigns supreme in some parts of land. Victory is paid for at great costs, and there is little cheer and much poignancy as the companions gather for the last time before going their separate ways. The sweetness of victory is tempered by the memory of those who are gone and by the knowledge that those who remain are no longer the same. Nevertheless, the end is also uplifting by the realization that true friendship and love can endure.
The Chronicles has left a legacy of memorable characters. It’s unfortunate that, despite the many DragonLance sequels, many of them won’t play a major role again. Thus the Chronicles can be said to be unique and special in this sense. Other fantasy works have left me impressed, awed, even shocked, but few have been as moving as the Chronicles. If any work can be said to have captured the spirit of Tolkien, the Chronicles would have my vote.
Originally posted April 8, 2003 on Amazon.com