It’s a subject of debate what books launched the fantasy novel craze, but Dragons of Autumn Twilight is certainly a contender. The book is a nice break from modern fantasy, which has become increasingly obsessed with a single hero and a trite plot line. Instead the book features a band of protagonists, ranging from an ordinary barmaid to the first antihero- a tortured mage with eyes that force him to watch everything age and die.
The action packed plot does not lend itself to easy summary. A group of adventurers is meeting again after five years of exploring, but their plans are taken off track when a couple arrives bearing a holy staff. Unlike much other fantasy, the staff is not the magical item that will save the world, although it does provide a clue about the roots of the inevitable war that’s brewing.
The book does feature the classic fantasy races, in fact it was adapted from role-playing sessions played by a group of gamers running an AD&D module. The tortured mage, Raistlin, was inspired by one of the gamers who decided to run with his mage character to the point where he only spoke in a whisper. It’s a credit to the writers that the transition from gaming to novel doesn’t show in the storytelling. The fact that it was born in role-playing is a cool tidbit, once you know it’s there you can see how the plotline, formed by a series of quests, follows the classic AD&D module style.
Aside from being groundbreaking, and featuring an involved, plot driven narrative, the writing is superb. Descriptions are rich and inviting without being overwhelming or wordy. The book is a collaboration between Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and the presence of two talent authors is apparent only in the level of writing that is produced. The movement of the story is seamless and the voice is unified, the technical and artistic prose is the only evidence that multiple sets of man hours were poured into the work. The quality of writing, combined with the fact that it was revolutionary, make this a great solution to bad fantasy.