We have been going through a definite dinosaur/dragon fest at my house lately. My son recently brought home a book titled “Bronze Dragon Codex” from his school library and showed it to me. I flipped the book over and started reading the back, mainly because you don’t hear much about bronze dragons outside of D&D, and quickly realized the setting of the book was Krynn, the world of Dragonlance. I also soon found out that the first book in the series was Red Dragon Codex by Rebecca Shelley and R. D. Henham, so my son and I went to the library website to reserve it so we could start at the beginning.
First off, if you are an adult and have never read any Dragonlance books, I implore you to get a copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Those novels are amazing and forged the world of Krynn into what it is in these Codex books. If however you are or have a young adult or you have already read the Chronicles then go ahead and pick up this book. It is completely enjoyable without any prior knowledge of Krynn and as such makes a great entry-point for new readers.
In basic story construction Red Dragon Codex is much like any other fantasy novel: a young protagonist who is bright and skilled is beset by a calamity, in this case a red dragon, and consequently sets out on a quest to reclaim what was taken and slay the dragon. In tone however this book is much different from what you would find in a standard D&D novel. Although traumatic things happen within the story the tone still manages to stay light and none of the evil that happens to the characters is undoable. This lightened tone I’m sure would bother some readers that crave a more gritty and “real” fantasy story but for a young adult audience or those of us that don’t necessarily need to be depressed by the books that we read, the tone is completely fine.
I found this book to be charming and somehow reminiscent of early games of D&D played when I was younger. It certainly didn’t hurt that the story stays true to the spirit of Krynn, including kender and draconians within the story as well as dwarves, elves and such places as Palanthas and the High Clerist Tower which I remember fondly from reading the aforementioned Chronicles years ago. There were also several nods to characters from those older books including Sturm Brightblade and a passing nod to Rastlin.
I would recommend this book to anyone, young or old, looking for a light story in the swords and sorcery vein. The writing is well done, the pacing of the story is very fast which should help keep the attention of younger readers, and the characters are intelligent and interesting.