What is Dragons of Dwarven Depths?
Join Tanis, Flint, Tasslehoff, and other classic Dragonlance characters on a new adventure, in this series kick-off set after Dragons of Autumn Twilight
The Companions are back—and facing new challenges together and alone. While Tanis and Flint seek out a haven in the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin, Raistlin is strangely drawn to the haunted fortress known as Skullcap. Elsewhere, Strum seeks the legendary Hammer of Kharas, and Tika embarks on a perilous journey to rescue those she loves from certain death.
But it is the dwarf, Flint Fireforge, who faces the most crucial test. The heroes race against time to save the lives of those dependent on them, forcing Flint to make a difficult choice—one on which the future of mankind may rest.
DRAGONS OF DWARVEN DEPTHS is the first of the “Lost Chronicles” trilogy for Dragonlance. They basically are a series of novels meant to fill in the material left “off camera” from the original Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy. Now if you’ve always wanted to know how Tanis Half-Elven and Flint Fireforge acquired the Hammer of Kharas, that’s probably a great selling point. If you have no idea who either of those people and think Raistlin is a type of candy, then I’d argue this book is still for you. It’s surprisingly easy to follow and might lead you to check out the other books. However, as a rule, I recommend you check out the original Chronicles first.
The premise is pretty simple and picks up directly after the events of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The simple version is that a bunch of adventurers are leading a bunch of refugees through the wilderness while being hunted by dragon-themed bad guys. The safest place is a nearby dwarven kingdom but it’s been sealed up for centuries. They need to figure out something the dwarven kingdom wants to get shelter before the bad guys or winter finishes them off. The complicated version requires explaining centuries of backstory that isn’t actually necessary to explain the story but ties together a dozen other books.
This is what I like about Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman at the height of their game. When they are at their best, you don’t need to know all the backstory and lore to understand the story. The first fantasy novel I ever read after The Hobbit was The Time of the Twins and I actually thought the big epic war was just backstory invented for the book. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the book at all to be introduced with them and I feel the same for this one. If you’ve never heard of these guys, this would be a decent way to meet them for the first time.
Part of what makes this book work is the heavy focus on characterization and seriousness of the problems both mundane as well as exotic. A bigger issue than ghosts in the ruins of Skullcap is that Raistlin’s resentment of his brother and his dependence on him drives him to emotional abuse. Something that helps cause Raistlin to lose the trust of everyone who would be otherwise more willing to listen to his (often sound) advice. Flint, Riverwind, Tanis, and the others take the threat of winter as seriously as draconians. It grounds them and makes them likable in a way that lots of other fantasy, particularly Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, doesn’t.
Flint Fireforge never got that much character development in the main books and was sort of regulated to being “Team Dad” and “Token Generic Dwarf.” This book doesn’t so much challenge that as fill it out a bit. We get to see how the bigotry against Hill Dwarves (and by them) has affected all of his relationships. The rest of the characters are somewhat stuck with their characterizations from Chronicles, for better and worse. Raistlin bullies Caramon, who is horny for Tika, and Tanis has a bizarre belief that his ex-Laurana wants to romance the preacher Elistan. Still, it’s some good characterization and watching the noble knight Sturm get tempted with glory as well as power is always good.
The villains for the book are serviceable but entertaining with a pair of draconians impersonating Verminaard, the antagonist from Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I think this is a reference to how Verminaard was referenced as being alive somewhere after the first book but I, sadly, failed my Dragonlance lore check. Still, they provide a decent enough threat and it’s always good to note that even though our heroes “beat” the Red Dragon Army in the previous book, they are still able to mount a horrifying threat. My only real regret is that the book brings back Hederick the Theocrat and doesn’t horribly kill him. I thought he was an unrealistic cartoon in the original trilogy and unfortunately, now I know he’s all too realistic but that just makes me hate him more.
Dragons of Dwarven Depths is probably up there with Legends in my mind for best Dragonlance book and is among the better Dungeons and Dragons fiction as a whole. It’s a bunch of extremely likable fantasy protagonists and gives them enough depth to move them beyond the stock archetypes that they may have started as. In other words, if you’re a fan of Dragonlance or interested in checking it out then try it.