Chapters 1 & 2:
So the companions return home and find it destroyed. The interesting thing about the start of this chapter is that it mimics the opening of the book (a nice text structure) and that despite the madness of what happened to Solace, some of the people are trying to carry on their day-to-day lives. It plays with the trope of the inn being the center of the fantasy universe quite well.
We get some well done flashbacks in these chapters too (I'll comment more about this later), especially this one as we get Tika's POV of what happens. The dragon carrying the inn down from the trees is actually that comes across as brilliantly terrifying.
Tika is a nice point of view. It's another attempt by the authors to give us a "non-D&D" perspective as she is not a warrior or magic user (I know, I know, she's a low level fighter). She's a "normal" person coping with this almost better than our adventurers. Granted, Tika is the cliched fantasy (dare I say buxom) barmaid that exceeds our expectations immediately. What is the damage for a frying pan in an AD&D game?
Then we get the most thinly veiled Gandalf expy in the history of fantasy lit. I know that Fizban is a more significant character, but he's almost note for note Gandalf the Gray, isn't he?
And by the end of chapter two, they are captured again. Sometimes it feels like they should be called the Prisoners instead of the Companions.
The one other thing that really strikes me about this chapter is for the epicness of the story so far, it's really taken place in a very, very small area of the world. And there is a lot going on in such a small space. I'm not sure what I think of that. I get that it's sort of a hobbled together D&D world, but it comes across as kind of sloppy: the mostly human Solace near barbarian tribes near elves (we'll get to that later) near a dead city near the sea where there seems to be very little mingling between these groups. Just some pretty sloppy world building.
Chapters 3 & 4
Over on Tor.com, Gilthanas seemed to catch some hell from people, but I'm going to be honest, I like some of the characterization of him in these chapters is pretty different for elves, who are usually described as these aloof super magic using warriors. In this, Gilthanas is presented for what he is: the second son to a monarch, more interested in being an academic than some kind of warrior. Kind of like a certain, wildly popular Targaryen prince we all know and love.
Tanis has finally gotten under my skin the way he has everyone else (it seems) on Tor.com. For a man supposedly in his early 30s (or whatever the half-elf equivalent is), he's a whining little teen isn't he? I can only imagine how emo (to use Justin and Mahvesh's expression) he was back then...I'll bet he wore skinny jeans and a Golden Girls t-shirt while trying to diddle his cousin....ewww...but to be fair, there is no blood there, so it's all good...am I right people??
The rescue this time is another cliche and reads like another random encounter from a chart in a module. I've extolled how one of the strengths of AUTUMN so far has been the action sequences. This one falls flat. It's slow and takes to long when compared to the rest of the book. It reminds me a bit of a movie that needs to be 90 minutes and needs about 5-10 minutes of filler, so we get Sturm's depression at being caught, Caramon's hunger, Tas's boredom,
That last bit is important and kind of annoying. She just died. She watched her man die. She brought the gods back into the world and she's not the leader. She's not good enough to be the leader of the people. I mean it's bad enough that the best she can be is the "Cheftain's Daughter" but this is overkill Jesus. (See what I did there?) Come on. There are tropes I can excuse or defend, but this isn't one of them. It's actually kind of a bummer to read it now. I wonder what my 13 year old self thought. Hell, I'd love to read the damned editor comments on this that made this decision.
The rescue finally comes and this time it's the elves as we've come to expect them. A bunch of Legolases in the woods picking off the enemy while freeing the prisoners...with no plan beyond that. Jeez, elves are obnoxious everywhere, aren't they?