Return to Xak Tsaroth

Author: Paul B. Thompson & Tonya C. Cook

In the original Chronicles series, Riverwind is the lesser-known companion – the gruff plainsman who barely talks and is distinguished only for his brawn and devotion to the Chieftain’s daughter, Goldmoon. All we know is that he had some prior adventure, some quest that led him to find the staff of Mishakal in the ancient, evil city of Xak Tsaroth. The very staff he gave Goldmoon; the glowing blue staff that started the companions’ sometimes ill-fated adventure and epic war against the evil to come. Goldmoon used the sacred staff to bring healing and usher the light of the old gods back into the world. And Riverwind? I guess he was kind of there too, grunting petulantly in the background.

In Riverwind The Plainsman, this unsung, broody hero finally gets to tell his story. And what a story! As it turns out, Riverwind is a better hero, a more compassionate, hearty, devoted, and spiritually strong person than the flawed Tanis ever was. This then is the story of his quest. Of what he lost and found in that ancient city, and, of course, of the awakening draconians and the beginnings of the evil that would lead to an all-out war and the return of the gods.

So far, the Preludes series has been hit and miss. Darkness and Light was a surprisingly good journey with Sturm and Kitiara, revealing some of the knight’s less noble secrets and rounding him out as a character. And then there was Kendermore and Brothers Majere, which were haphazard offerings that only fans would really enjoy. But Riverwind the Plainsman could stand on its own as an epic high-fantasy adventure with a complete story, plenty of danger, and characters whom we care about deeply.

Image by J B from Pixabay

Here we get to know Riverwind better and to understand the spirit that lives behind his later silence. He is a truly good person. A man who shows devotion and sacrifice and who is placed in some pretty hard situations against heartbreaking odds and frightful enemies. Alongside Riverwind, an outcast Que Shu man by the name of Catchflea joins, and he provides a surprising amount of wisdom, some prophecy, and all the comedy. And this is comedy which is needed to offset what the duo finds when a seemingly impossible quest leads them into an underground realm of an elvish race who are both enslaved and ensorcelled.

Finally, our third character joins. A barren child (you’ll find out what this is and why it’s so sad) named Di Ann. Together, these three adventurers unravel a story that ends up being the entirety of the tale and a true prelude to the war that the companions will later encounter in Dragons of Autumn Twilight.

At first, I thought that this travail in the underground realm of Helm was a side story, but the authors cleverly weave it into something that joins the entire story of The Chronicles and the evil goddess Takhisis’ return. The draconians play a big part in this story, as well as an elvish villain with a terrible past and some strong magic (think Drow).

Riverwind the Plainsman ended up being one of my favorite Dragonlance stories, and I hated to see it end. It rekindled my love for the series and evoked the original magic of Krynn. All three of the main characters were strong and endearing, characters you’d love to know, befriend, and adventure with in real life. The villains are suitably devious and terrifying, and the plots are evil on a grand scale, as they should be. The conclusion is a bit tearjerking, even if the reunion with Goldmoon happens all too quickly. Highly, highly recommended for fans and even those new to the Dragonlance series.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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