Posted by : David Guyll December 12, 2010

I'd sworn that I'd posted a review of Mark of Nerath, but then I realized that I'd used it as an example of a terrible product in my Business class. When it comes to buying Dungeons & Dragons novels I'm always hesitant unless they're written by Don Bassingthwaite (whose name I can spell without looking), as like Jim Butcher and Aeryn Rudel, he's built up a reputation for quality. I've never read fiction by Bill Slavicsek, and at the time there weren't any reviews up on Amazon, so I figured what the hell, I'll take a gamble.

Thankfully it's been four months since I last read the book, so I can't recall many of the exact details. What I do recall is that the book opens up with a group of stock characters chasing a dragon because its been eating farmers or something. Suffice to say, most of them get killed and the survivors decide to keep at it despite the fact that their party is three and a half men short. But that's not all, the story cuts between an eladrin wizard also trying to avenge his master who was murdered by something that was never revealed, and a lich who made a deal with Orcus that would get him out of the Shadowfell. Oh, and a human chosen one cleric from some village that I guess is of noble blood that I think the lich was trying to kill.

All told, there was over ten characters, and I couldn't tell which--if any--was the main one, as they all got a fairly equal measure of screen time. Because of this, none every saw any real development, but Bill does make it a point to shove character quirks and traits down throat all the time (though to be fair, perhaps between all the characters Bill thought you'd forget who was who).

For example, after the eladrin's mentor is killed, he teams up with a dragonborn and tiefling that are there...because. He takes his master's familiar along, a pseudodragon, who spends all of her time reminding the eladrin just how incompetent he is. She wasn't cute, or funny, just an asshole. It'd be like if you were trying to learn to something, and a friend just kept parroting how bad you were at it instead of offering actual, constructive criticism.

The lich also tours around the world with his right-hand man, a death knight (I think). You'd think that being in the position that he's in, that he must have demonstrated some modicum of skill, right? Well the lich does the same thing that the pseudodragon does: he constantly berates the death knight for being useless. Then when he gets ahold of an iron golem, starts telling the death knight to his face how much better the golem is. Oddly, the death knight does his job and keeps him safe from harm, so...why?

The writing is just bad. I mean, wow. Here's the second sentence: The dwarf palain Cliffside, strong and confident, strode a few paces back, an axe in his strong right hand. That was really all it took for me to know that this was going to be a terrible book, but I kept at it in the vain hope that it would get better. To put it nicely, the dialogue is cheesy, the fare that players at a gaming table use because they know its cheesy. Here's something that the halfling rogue says on page 2: 'Lucky for you I spotted it on the path back there.  I do have excellent perception, you know."

Who the hell talks like that?

I cannot recommend this book, even for hardcore D&D fans. The characters are lifeless, the story is fractured, and the dialogue is choppy (to say the least). The only saving grace is that Wayne Reynolds did the cover, which looks pretty awesome. If you're a collector, I guess you could get it, but don't bother trying to read it. I really tried to finish it, getting through about two-thirds of it before I couldn't take it anymore. I'd give this book a 1 out of 10.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I am sorry, but I disagree with this review entirely. This is actually one of my favorite books. To address your points:
    The survivors go after the dragon for revenge. Sure they are at a disadvantage now, but the warrior is hotheaded and revenge can be a passionate, unthinking thing.
    This point of yours is just weird. The murderer and his nature is revealed, just not fully explained in this book, since his presence is actually a part of a cross-book story. This is a little weird too, but you learn enough in the story to settle your mind about it.
    "that I think the lich was trying to kill" - this was one of the main points of the story, and the failure to remember for sure about this shows that a review months after reading SOME of it shouldn't be done as it will not be reasonable or valid. Bill does a great job in tying the plot together at the end for your information. If you stayed with the book I am sure you would have given it a better score.
    There IS character development, especially in the cleric. He is quite likable too!
    The eladrin goes with the others because the eladrin admires them and needs their help.
    I somewhat agree with the psuedodragon, but this could be addressed by utilizing him more in the story,he is not a big drawback at all.
    The death knight has a duty to his emperor, and the emperor is essential to the knight. This is told many times in the story, actually. I actually really loved the emperor-lich character, he was great!
    I really liked the halfing and how he talks. It is awesome and spunky! As for who talks like that: It is a halfing. Do you know how that mythological creature talks and expect all to follow your vision? :| Also, I and others I know do have a penchant for talking like that.
    I heartily recommend this book (finished reading 2 weeks ago) and give it 10 out of 10!

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  2. A 10 out of 10? Really? You consider this book to be a flawless example of literature? Personally, I consider other D&D novels like City Under the Sand, Seal of Karga Kul, and anything by Don Bassingthwaite to be much, MUCH better, but would still not give them a perfect score. I will point out that others have expressed similar opinions about the number of characters, dialogue, and pacing.
    Your standards obviously differ greatly, but will stand by mine: this book scrapes the bottom barrel, but is just slightly better than Under the Crimson Sun (which I read even less of before having to drop it).

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