I'm discovering one of the hardest part of this endeavor is that I find myself becoming overly critical and even snarky about what I'm reading instead of enjoying the books and reveling in how important they were to me in my younger days. Obviously my reading eye and mind have changed, I have a vastly larger pool of literature to compare to Dragonlance and 30 more years of personal experience to haze my view of the world.With that in mind in these chapters we come to one of the early attempts by the authors to do something mature in their books.
Up to this point, for the most part, the book has been little more than a documentation of an old school AD&D game session. There's another blog post in me about this phenomenon. It seems to be the first, early fumblings of many young writers is to transcribe their tabletop game adventures or, worse, their video game adventures. I'll admit this last bit is purely personal as I'm not a gamer. There's one book in particular that I quit on because it read this way...especially the first 100 pages seeming like an endless transcription of every video game fight they'd ever had. Anyway, I digress. Back to Dragonlance.
The conversation between Goldmoon and Riverwind is a real attempt at doing something with a little depth and maturity. I applaud the intent and the effort, but the execution falls flat. It's stilted, awkward and a little hackey. And, as was said over on Tor.com, creepy. They had a chance to do some really interesting things at this point: some real deep worldbuilding, some discussion on what it means to be a ruler/leader that has to choose to be in love or to lead and talk about the sacrifices people have to make sometimes make for the people they love, but miss the opportunity completely. And that's a shame. I'm sure at 13 or 14, I didn't notice it then and thought that was normal, but now, it's noticeable.
The city of Xak Tsaroth continues to fascinate me on a worldbuilder level. The structure of it, what happened to it and its occupation both past and present, is riveting. While I have a Flint-like disdain of the gully dwarves, their occupation of the city makes perfect sense, though there is a little infodumping about the gully dwarves, they are one of the more fascinating parts of Ansalon. It also makes sense that they are subjugated by the draconians and don't even realize it.
The other thing these chapters do really well is ramp up the conflict between Raistlin and Caramon and the rest of the group. Caramon is loyal to his brother first then the others, but they are blind to it, being too busy waiting for Raistlin to betray them, which he doesn't exactly do ...I mean he had his own motivations for wanting to go through with this plan but don't all of them have their own, sometimes selfish, motivations? Sturm is desperate (I would say psychotic) to prove his bravery against a dragon, as much a creature of legend in their world as it is in ours, and Goldmoon is ready to sacrifice her life to face the same creature that's killed her love not once but twice in the name of what could have been a hallucination caused by errant gasses (not out of the possibility in an AD&D game)? So far, Raistlin is the kid they HAD to play with because they all wanted to play with Caramon and they are really resentful about it, whether that was because he was a dick (self-defense mechanism) or because he couldn't keep up with the rest of them. It's a nice touch that the only way he gets the spellbook is by an act of kindness.
The fight with the dragon has some tense moments, but it feels like after three chapters in Xak Tsaroth we want to destroy it and move along. It is another nice touch that the "damsel in distress" is Raistlin and he is prepared to make a final sacrifice, whether that's out of spite or to save his friends is left ambiguous, At the end, the thing that ruins the dragon fight seems to be a little bit of laziness as it's a very heavy handed example of dues ex machina if there ever was one.
We end Book One with the chilling words "Solace is burning."