This review is going to be on the whole series, so it’s going to be one of my longer ones.
This series will always hold a place in my heart. I first read it the summer before 6th grade as I moved from Alabama to North Carolina with my family and loved it. I still love it. I have found that there is a difference between loving a character and finding a character lovable. Often times, you love the lovable character, but sometimes you love a character but you wouldn’t call them lovable. I guess some wouldn’t see the difference, but to me there is one. I believe that there is a shortage of lovable characters in fantasy novels. Plenty of ones that you love, but not lovable. Dragonlance has both. Let me try to explain this by using the characters in this series as examples.
Now, I love most of the characters in this series, but in different ways. I don’t love Raistlin’s character because he is a good person. He’s really not, but he is fascinating. We are constantly left wondering what he is planning and whether or not he is a good guy or not. He doesn’t play well with others and often treats his brother horribly despite all that Caramon does for him. He is an intensely flawed character that we can’t quite hate. This is a character that one would love because he is well written and interesting. This same goes for Tanis and Laurana. They are incredibly flawed characters that we love to read about.
Tasselhoff on the other hand is a lovable character. He doesn’t have the flaws that make the others interesting, yet he has a curious and innocent outlook on life that makes you fall in love with him. Now, the fact that he’s not really a flawed character (unless you count being overly curious and optimistic a flaw) does not mean that he does not grow as a character. Tasselhoff shows a huge amount of growth in this series. It just takes a different form. He’s the little fun-loving ball of energy in the group who often times keeps the others from wallowing in despair. This makes him lovable.
This being said, I do believe that the strongest part of this series was the characters that Weis and Hickman created. Despite the fact that this is a fantasy world, we can pretty easily relate to them. They struggle with some very human emotions that are all too familiar to many readers which makes it that much easier for us to fall for them.
Tanis is constantly struggling with his feelings for two very different women while also finding the strength to lead this band of heroes to save the world from the Queen of Darkness. He never wants to be the leader, but everyone looks to him for answers, and sometimes this pressure becomes almost too much to bear. It is difficult and sometimes heartbreaking to see his inner turmoil that seems so familiar to many of us. Granted, none of us has had to lead a group of friends to fight away an evil goddess bent on destroying the world (at least I’m assuming no one has) but we can still think of times when our heart was divided on something or when we were forced to make a decision that we didn’t feel we were qualified or confident enough to make.
This is also one of the better fantasy series as far as female characters go. Granted, I did find Goldmoon a little flat as a character and she kind of fades out of the books by the end of the series. (Actually, her absence near the close of the series makes sense for reasons I won’t reveal here since it’s a spoiler.) Goldmoon feels a little too perfect to me, but at the same time, it almost seems fitting that she is that way. I would also make a case that she is the female opposite of Sturm, since he also doesn’t really change much through the series and remains pretty stagnant. We like them, but they aren’t as interesting as the others.
Yet, I believe that Kitiara and Laurana are written incredibly well. Both of them are love interests of Tanis and while most of the history behind their relationships happen before the series, we get a decent idea of how both of these relationships began and grew. Laurana was the childhood sweetheart that we all remember fondly, while Kitiara was the first highly sexually charged relationship that many of us regret.
We get a glimpse of Laurana’s youthful idealism when the group is forced to go the elven kingdom in which Laurana royalty. When she sees Tanis, Laurana attempts to rekindle those feeling within Tanis (which are shallowly buried) but ultimately reveals that she has not done much growing-up since Tanis left. She stills believes in the childhood infatuation they had and believes it to be love, but Tanis knows better. Laurana then runs away from home to follow the group despite Tanis’s objections and thus the level of her immaturity makes itself apparent. However, as the series continues, we get to watch Laurana turn from an immature, lovesick girl to a woman able to lead armies and win battles against evil forces and seemingly impossible odds.
Kitara is a very different story. She never lacked in confidence, never acted like a lovesick girl, and this one reason Tanis fell for her in the first place. Kitara never let anyone walk over her, however, her intense thirst for power ends up consuming her, but despite this fact, Tanis can’t help but love her. There are many scenes in which Kitara disturbs. She is often so absorbed in struggle for power that she often loses hold of any humanity she has left. However, it’s the times when see this humanity leak through her rock hard persona that makes her a fascinating character to read.
I was worried that re-reading this series as an adult would ruin it. Kind of like how you watch a movie you loved as a kid and you just have to sit there and shake your head at your complete lack of taste. (And than call your parents because they were saints for sitting through that movie with you so you feel they at least deserve a phone call.) However, I found that this series still holds up, maybe even a little more than it did before. I was better able to appreciate just how well these characters were written and also how this series has some moments of light humor that many fantasy series lack.
I recommend this series to anyone who is a fantasy fan as well as those are just getting into epic fantasy. It’s a great read and I guarantee that there will be at least one character that you become super attached to and will want a spin off series just about them.