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Reviews of 'The Best of Tales, Volume One'

The Best of Tales, Volume One

by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, Editors
Tales, Volume 7

Reviews of 'The Best of Tales, Volume One'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of The Best of Tales, Volume One. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.

Reviewer: Matt Lynch

Rating: Stars

The book on the chopping block this time is none other than the recently released The Best of Tales book, a collection of multiple short stories from the original Tales trilogy and a new one by Margaret Weis and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's own Aaron Eisenberg (Nog).

"Riverwind and the Crystal Staff," originally found in The Magic of Krynn, by Michael Williams:

First off, I am not a huge poetry fan, so I tend to skip over them in Dragonlance books. I skimmed this one, however, for the review, and found it quite interesting. Aside from the typo on page 2 ("The counthrly" instead of "the country"), this poem is decent. It gives a bit of biographical info on Riverwind that is, depending on your view, non-canon or an interesting twist. The poem implies he was found orphaned somewhere in Abanasinia by the Que-Shu and became a member of the tribe under Wanderer's care. It also says he was raised by leopards, another interesting idea and one that may lend credence to his stoic side and his affinity for animals (being a ranger). Beyond that, the poem basically tells the story we've heard a thousand times over, but, once more, a different version. Non-canon? Maybe, but Michael Williams also professes to be the Bard of Krynn, which implies that all of his poems and songs are ones known to the people of Ansalon as part of folklore. In all, a good poem, in my opinion, and a good setup for the anthology.

"A Stone's Throw Away," originally from DRAGON Magazine #84/The Magic of Krynn, by Roger E. Moore:

One of the series most popular short story writers's debut Dragonlance story is the next tale in the book. It tells the story of Tasslehoff's teleportation ring, one of the many stories he kept mentioning in Chronicles. The story ends up being told by Tas himself to Sturm and Kitiara. In Tas's version, he finds the ring and it begins bouncing him from location to location, eventually bringing him to the Tower of the Magus, a powerful wizard who's first and last appearance is in this story. The wizard has managed to summon Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons (1st Ed. reference- check your Monster Manuals!) and make it his slave. The ring ends up being a creation of Demogorgon to remove himself from his slavery. Tas forces the Magus too close to the circle of summoning, and the rest is history. Now, Demogorgon, Moore says, was never supposed to be in Dragonlance, but a one-time cameo can't hurt his publicity too much. Moore is a great story craftsman, and the skill with which he delivered such all-time greats as "There is Another Shore, You Know, Upon the Other Side" and "Through the Door at the Top of the Sky" can be seen here, as his affinity for surprise twists and suspense-building are highly evident herein. This is a great story and, what's more, he makes sure that it's validity or lack thereof can never be called into question, as it begins and ends as a kender tale, told by the premier one himself, Tasslehoff.

"Love and Ale," originally found in Love and War, by Nick O'Donohoe:

A story of the Inn of the Last Home's earlier days, this tale tells of one wild night in the Inn when a love potion gets mixed into Otik's ale supply and wreaks havoc among the patrons that night. The story has some hysterical moments and is a nice change of pace from the action-packed affairs of the Heroes of the Lance throughout most of these stories and the novels. Anyone who's ever had too much to drink, or been around those who have can sympathize with Otik and Tika in this story. One of O'Donohoe's best work, it is followed in the book by his most-controversial, I'd say.

"Dagger-Flight," originally found in Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes, by Nick O'Donohoe:

This story has oft-before been a point of controversy. The story is basically that the dagger Tas swiped from Flint at the beginning of Dragons of Autumn Twilight comes alive after tasting blood. It is apparently a creature called The Feeder and is a servant of Takhisis. The Queen of Darkness has foreseen the power of the Heroes of the Lance over her, so she sends this dagger after them in an attempt to kill them. However, it manages to accidentally save them as much as it tries to rub them out. In the end, it is slain when Riverwind kills a Baaz draconian with it, and the stone form falls and breaks the creature's body. Now, ideas of non-canon aside, the story presents a cool idea and also serves to add to the (correct) idea that a greater god knows all and sees all. Plus, it clears up some possible sticking points from Dragons of Autumn Twilight (why didn't anyone see them and call the guard in Solace? Because The Feeder killed the only one who might have). The story is cool, but at the same time, we knew how it was going to end, simply because none of the Heroes of the Lance died of a dagger wound in the Chronicles trilogy.

"Harvests," originally found in The Magic of Krynn, by Nancy Varian Berberick:

An author who has never let us down with a short story (in my not-so-humble opinion), "Harvests" is a good one, centering around an earlier adventure of Tanis and Flint, wherein they stop Gadar from draining the lives away of three (actually, they only save two) commoners. This storyline is found also in Tales of the Lance, but NVB added the twist that Gadar does it to prolong his son's life, a child who is incredibly infirm. The story is very cool, with a great mix of suspense, drama, and action. Her write-ups of the spectral minions are positively chilling and her villain is well fleshed-out, seeming almost like an antihero and not a bad guy. Good choice for the anthology.

"Hide and Go Seek," originally found in Love and War, by Nancy Varian Berberick:

Another story about the earlier days of the Heroes of the Lance, NVB centers this story around a kidnapped child and kender (Tas), while Tas's friends give chase. The two brigands, one a goblin, the other a scarred human, are fairly simple-seeming villains, but the way NVB has written them, the danger factor is easily seen. It is almost comparable to (good) serial killer movies like The Bone Collector, The Silence of the Lambs, and Kiss the Girls, wherein the main bad guy is not particularly dangerous in appearance, but has a cold mind and knows how to use it. A pair of simple thieves is made into some of the most-deadly sounding villains DragonLance has perhaps ever seen. Granted, their names won't go down in the annals of Krynn's greatest plagues, but perhaps that is the rub. They are great villains, but are small-time nonetheless. Anyway, getting back on track, the story is touching, as we see Tas almost single-handedly save his child-friend, endangering his life most of the time. There is almost a sense of time ticking away the whole time, as we don't know what will happen to the child or if the villains will get away or not. Very well done.

"Finding the Faith," originally found in The Magic of Krynn, by Mary Kirchoff:

Everyone knows this story as the one that filled in the gap in the Chronicles trilogy that is the Heroes of the Lance's adventure in Icewall Castle. Told from the POV of Raggart Knug, actually told as an anecdote to some Ice Folk children, the story tells not only of how the Heroes of the Lance retrieved the dragon orb and slew Feal-Thas (and avoided Sleet), but also of the cleric's spiritual awakening and embracing of Paladine's faith. Everyone knows the story, so I won't go into a blow-by-blow of it, save to say that I am still waiting for the similar tales for the Hammer of Kharas and Sanction parts of Chronicles! This is a good story that gives us the story many of were wondering about before The Magic of Krynn came out. Luckily we didn't go too long without seeing it, but it was appreciable nonetheless. It ties will into the previous work "Song of the Ice Reaver" by Michael Williams, which is a song/poem that tells the story.

"Into the Heart of the Story: The True Authorship of the DragonLance songs By Virumsortiticorporafurtimincludum(1)" originally found in Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes, by Michael Williams:

A serious departure from the normal storytelling fare, this gnome story is one of the funniest accounts Dragonlance may have ever seen. In it, the author (writing under a pseudonym, of course!) tells the "true" story of the Heroes of the Lance, claiming that a "Tenth" hero was actually among the party, but was left out by some bizarre anti-gnome conspiracy. The gnome in question was named Armavir and supposedly wrote all the songs about the Heroes of the Lance. The entire tale is written much like an annotation to "The Song of the Nine Heroes," but there is plenty to laugh at, especially as the "author" of the story leaves us with no doubt as to who he really is. Williams did a superb job with this story and I'm glad it made it in. At least we now know the proper way that the final line of the chorus in the "The Song..." should read!

"The Exiles," originally found in Love and War, by Paul B. Thompson and Tonya R. Carter:

A story about the way Sturm departed Solamnia and arrived in Abanasinia, this is a departure from just about everything we know about Sturm's earliest days. Seemingly non-canon, it is a cool story nonetheless, centering around a cult of Takhisis on a previously-unheard of island called Kernaf, ruled by a wizard who calls himself the Lord of the Sea, in reality named Mukhari Ras. The story also features references to a half-orc, so that may lend credence as to its believability. It features a cool artifact, though, the wind cord. In all, this was perhaps a bad choice for The Best of Tales, considering the Thompson/Carter team have had many stories. If this is based solely off of the Tales trilogy, I would have chosen Barbara and Scott Siegel's "The Storyteller" over "The Exiles" and saved Thompson/Carter two slots in The Best of Tales, vol. II.

"Heart of Goldmoon," originally found in Love and War, by Laura Hickman and Kate Novak:

DragonLance does romance! This is a great "date" story, I guess one could say, as it has it all: drama, romance, and action, and all for the love of one woman. Anyone who's read Chronicles knows this story, as Goldmoon sings of it in Dragons of Autumn Twilight and the aforementioned "Riverwind and the Crystal Staff" alludes to it. The setup for Riverwind the Plainsman (this story was better, though), this is a great read, and a recommended one for all fans of the Heroes of the Lance, especially those who like reading about barbarians. Plus, Laura Hickman and Kate Novak don't write a lot of Dragonlance stories, so this one is a rare treat. Good choice!

"Wayward Children," originally found The Magic of Krynn, by Richard A. Knaak:

I thought this story was very cool and Knaak did a good job of not betraying anything in the telling. However, the question need be asked: when was this story set? The "Good" dragons didn't find out the truth until the early weeks of 353 AC, yet this story seems to suggest it is near the beginning of the war. Anyway, I thought this was a very cool story, touching in its own way, showing clearly the pain the adult dragons felt upon realizing their "children" could not be reclaimed.

"Definitions of Honor," originally found in Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes, by Richard A. Knaak:

My all-time favorite short story, this one has some very deep, very philosophical themes in it. The basic story is that a Knight of Solamnia travels to the backwater village of Dragon's Point (any owners of Rise of the Titans should recognize the name) to rid them of a minotaur that has been plaguing the town. Upon his arrival, the townsfolk -- all rather unsavory fellows -- regale him with celebration in his honor. Then he goes after the minotaur... a hermit living on the beach, who has, by its accounting, never bothered the townsfolk. To make a good story short, the Knight learns that the minotaur is no different from any other being. When those who exiled it arrive days later, they kill it and leave it to rot on the beach. The Knight buries it, then departs, as the townsfolk celebrate some more over the death of their bane. This is your classic take on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with the minotaur being Quasimodo, and the mayor (along with the townsfolk as a whole) being the corrupt Judge Frollo. The story is told from the point of view of the Captain Phoebus-esque Knight. As far as Esmerelda goes... there was no romantic interest in the story. However, even though it is comparable to Victor Hugo's acclaimed (and oft-movie-ized) novel, it is one of the first (as it was a fairly early tale) Dragonlance stories to actually deal with the idea of prejudice and racism (actual racism) on Krynn. Xenophobia, while touched upon, has never really been given a good look under the microscope in Dragonlance. If there was mass genocide, or racial hatred, it was because that particular people stood in the way of a greater conquest. This was not a greater conquest, this was, pure and simple, fear of that which was not the norm and the urge to destroy it. That the Knight walked away with opened eyes was an ending we all saw coming, but it made it no less touching when we saw the reaction of the townspeople when they discovered the "beast" was dead. This is an excellent story, and glad I was to see it included.

"The Test of the Twins," originally from The Magic of Krynn, by Margaret Weis:

I was a bit surprised this story was included, seeing as how The Soulforge has effectively -- according to Margaret -- replaced all earlier accounts of Raistlin's life. Nevertheless, though short, the story is quite detailed and gives us a (up until recently) accurate picture of the way Raistlin's Test went down. A surprise entry, but a decent one.

"From the Yearning for War and the War's Ending," originally from Love and War, by Michael Williams:

Williams's third entrant in the anthology (why weren't they all grouped together?) is one of the few non-Heroes of the Lance-related stories in the anthology. Almost All Quiet on the Western Front-esque, the tale is told by a convalescing soldier of Whitestone as he relates his experiences in the war beneath the Golden General. Williams waxes philosophical (much like Knaak in "Definitions of Honor"), and the end product is a great tale that, again, I'm glad made it in. Now, I'm not going to go as longwinded as I did two stories ago. Suffice to say that this is a cool story, one which is of a rare breed, and that is a look into the so-called "common man" of Krynn and his various conflicts. The backdrop of the War of the Lance provides a great text to draw from. Great choice!

"The Traveling Players of Gilean," originally from The Best of Tales, vol. 1, by Margaret Weis and Aaron Eisenberg:

Wow, this one actually was NON-Heroes of the Lance-related! However, beyond the central plot theme, this was the only notable thing about this story, I thought. Don't get me wrong, Weis and Eisenberg crafted a decent story, but it doesn't hold a candle to some of the earlier works in the book. It just didn't have the "oomph" needed for a "main event" story. Anyway, the story is told through the eyes of a dark elf who comes to be in the audience for a play depicting the casting out of Dalamar Nightson (neé Argent) from Silvanesti (albeit in a different manner than is told in Dalamar the Dark). Coincidence? I think not. But here's the kicker -- the cast is multi-racial! It turns out the show is run by a bard-like guy named Sebastius. Apparently the elf was supposed to come, which was why he put on the play. The story is that all the players in the plays are immortal for as long as the travel in the group, leaving when they feel they have done the best work of their career. The elf is offered the job of the replacement for the "Dalamar" of the play, whose work that day was the best he would ever do. How does Sebastius do all this? Well, he's Astinus's brother, and they are -- are you ready, cuz this is the answer to one of Dragonlance's oldest mysteries -- Gilean's sons! The elf signs on, of course, and the story ends. Pretty blase, in my opinion, save for the revelation of Astinus's true origin. Well, at least we know now, and that factoid alone makes The Best of Tales (vol. 1) worth buying.

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