This week’s Flashback Friday: Dragonlance.
I vividly remember the first book I bought. Not the first book I read, mind you. But the one I actually counted out my few tattered dollar bills for. I was eleven years old and by that point, I loved all things fantasy. Most kids at that age spent their money on video games and candy. Not me. I wasn’t your typical kid. While they were playing Nintendo, I was reading Lord of the Rings or Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain.
About two weeks before the end of sixth grade, I faced a devastating crisis. I reached the end of my tiny school library’s fantasy section. I’d even gone back and re-read my favorites, but while I loved returning to familiar worlds they lacked the thrill of discovery that I’d come to love.
In desperation, I decided I needed a job, and quickly landed myself an after-school paper route. Exactly one week later, I took my six dollars in profits down to the local book store, more giddy than I can ever remember being.
I spent the better part of an hour exploring the fantasy book shelves, carefully reading the back cover of dozens of books before I found something that intrigued me. An entire shelf was devoted to books labeled Dragonlance, and that got my attention. Here was a series I could lose myself in for weeks, longer than anything else I’d ever encountered.
It took almost ten minutes before I figured out which was the first book in the series, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I found the idea of two authors really intriguing and was absolutely mesmerized by the cover. The characters looked wonderful, and by this point, my love affair with dragons was in full swing.
So I bought it. Six hours later I returned to the bookstore and bought the sequel. Within three weeks, I owned twelve Dragonlance novels, and the only reason I didn’t own more was lack of funds.
I ended up taking on a second job, this time mowing lawns for neighbors. Then a third job as caretaker of the local park, which basically amounted to opening and closing the gate each day. Every spare penny went into books, and for the first two months, every book was Dragonlance.
So what was it about this series that so enthralled me? Why did I love it even more than Lord of the Rings or Dune? Because the characters were flawed in believable ways. Because the series muddied the waters between good and evil, and for the first time I really understood the villains even if I couldn’t quite root for them.
Fast forward twenty-six years and hundreds of novels later, and I still have the same dog eared copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight that I bought when I was eleven years old. I’ve read it maybe a dozen times, and each and every time, I smile the first time we see Tasselhoff Burfoot annoying the poor dwarf Flint. My breath catches the first time the party is bathed in acidic dragon breath that nearly kills Riverwind.
This series, more than any other, is responsible for me becoming an author. If you read my Deathless series, you’ll find notes of Tanis in my main character, a hint of Sturm’s honor in my own Trevor Gregg.
I owe Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman a great debt, not just for their wonderful Dragonlance novels, but to those that came after–to the Death Gate Cycle, and all the other wonderful tomes that they penned.
I have to wonder how the series holds up, if modern readers would enjoy it as much as I do. I know that I still love losing myself in those tattered pages, and after reading this, I hope you join the companions on their journey to find the fabled Dragonlance.