For over twenty years, the DragonLance series has been selling millions of books all over the world. With well over one hundred titles in the series, it has challenged other genre-favorite series such as Star Trek and Star Wars books. The original authors, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, have gone on to write other successful and popular series in addition to their work with DragonLance but return now for another trilogy. Rather than adding to the end of the timeline of their books, they have chosen to fill in some gaps to their original series, The Chronicles.
Their new novel, Dragons of Dwarven Depths, picks up where Dragons of Autumn Twilight ended: with the heroes fleeing into the mountain valley with refugees after defeating the Dark Queen’s High Lord Verminard. Winter is fast approaching, and the heroes want to continue forward to escape further assault from the pursuing army. But with hundreds of adults and children to move, others are not as convinced, especially if it means navigating treacherous mountain passes with few supplies. Ultimately, the heroes must set out and find a way into Thorbardin, the ancient dwarven mountain home that has been closed for hundreds of years. Before they can enter, they must determine where the key is. That means they must rely on Raistlin, the suspect mage of the group, mistrusted by everyone save his twin brother, Caramon.
The story as a whole evokes ambivalence. Another story about the Heroes of the Lance (as they come to be known) is certainly to be enjoyed because so much of the love for DragonLance comes from the original trilogy. Having them all together, fighting side by side with their quirky nuances and personalities, certainly taps into nostalgic memories of the first time a reader picked up the series. Yet, it also feels a bit coerced. Because the authors know where the characters will end up even decades later, they overuse foreshadowing. Also, this idea of filling in little gaps of time can be tricky and almost feudal with compulsive fans who will see holes or problems with what Hickman and Weis write. Despite this, listeners won’t deny enjoying seeing their favorite characters back together again.
As an experienced narrator and director, Sandra Burr provides a somewhat disappointing performance. Her narration of the story is fairly decent, maintaining a good pace and providing good emphasis. But she falters with her voices. While this is a fantasy world and no one can really say what an elf, dwarf, or kinder really sounds like, Burrs voice makes them into comical caricatures rather than imbuing the characters with legitimate identity. She manages well with raspy-voiced characters, but the light-hearted kinder, Tasslehof, or even the half-elven Tanis are not nearly as well voiced as one might expect. It’s not so much that the voices are bad, but coming from a veteran narrator such as Burr, one would expect more attention to perfecting the character voices would have been made.
Despite less-than-desired vocal characters, the narration and the story still keep listeners by their headphones for hours on end. While new readers can get into the story and appreciate it, they will still feel a bit lost and would be better off considering the Chronicles trilogy first. However, well-read fans will certainly dive right in and finish sooner than they want.