on February 7, 2002
So at this point there are 167 other reviews of this book on Amazon, why should you read this one? Simple, I'll give you the straight dope on it.
To start, the three Dragonlance Chronicles (I'm reviewing them together) are a strongly recommended read. I've read many of the other reviews here and there is commonly reference to how this book is clichéd, how it "stole" from Tolkien, and most popularly, how the characters are either amazing or flat. Permit me to address these concerns...
This is a standard fantasy epic. A group of heroes, diverse in skill and personality, meet and decide to face the growing evil in the world. They eventually find out they are among the chosen and meet the most powerful beings in the land, and inevitably face the evil and defeat it. To say this is cliché is in itself cliché. If you are a fantasy reader you are obviously not averse to authors adopting conventions, any more than fans of other "formula" genres are (Crime, Law, Romance, etc). It's like giving a poor review to a car because the engineers had the lack of creativity to give it four wheels and to put the steering wheel on the same side as all the other cars.
As far as stealing from Tolkien, I have this for you: whatever. Tolkien defined a genre and others have followed in his footsteps (hence the reason it is a genre). Keep in mind that Tolkien didn't exactly invent elves and goblins either, but adapted and shaped them to his own purposes. While this trilogy isn't as much of a milieu piece as Lord of the Rings, it has other strengths. As far as exploring the environment itself, you can see the visible hooks throughout the series for the other (future) books to latch onto. There are now over 100 if you really want to explore the world of Krynn.
And finally we come to the characters. I strive to be objective of others opinions, but to say these characters are flat is ludicrous. The depth these authors have achieved is that of long books with one or two characters, not the 6+ this one utilizes. Are the characters themselves cliché? Yes. Keep in mind this world is defined by and for a role-playing game, where you are given finite choices of roles to play. To step outside those roles would cause dissention among both readers and players. However, instead of begrudging these boundaries, the authors revel within them. We find the conflict of the characters themselves with these roles, something rarely seen in this genre. Sturm, the knight, is bound by a code and not only do we see the conflict of a rigid code with a changing world as we would expect, but we see the struggle of the character himself with his beliefs. I won't go through each character but suffice it to say that several are explored in depth, especially Weis' "signature" (or for those more cynical, "franchise") character Raistlin. For most, we find their strengths, weaknesses, fears, loves and hatreds. To ask more is a little much I would say.
The above points are valid discussions, but most people seem to miss the real strength of this series, perhaps because they were too concerned about evaluating its "quality". To put it plainly, its fun! I read these books soon after they came out in the mid-80's, and have just re-read them, finding myself surprised to find they were as enjoyable now as they were then. On top of the character development, we have lots of action in various environments; we have an appropriate amount of comic relief that is well spaced and spread among a few characters. We follow the characters through times of happiness and times of horror. I'll make no claims at this point of how good or bad Weis and Hickman are as writers, but I can say they know how to tell a story.
So the short and sweet of it is: read the books and enjoy them. If you aren't so overly concerned with ranking them and evaluating them (as you should never be on a first reading), just follow the tale as the authors spin it for you. I can say that you will definitely have fun if you let yourself. I would give it 4.5 stars, but that isn't an option, so I'll round it up to 5.