Posted by : David Guyll March 17, 2011

I knew going into this book that it would be picking up where Mark of Nerath left off in terms of overall plot and cast. Not because I finished it (Mark of Nerath), but because I read the preview blurbs for Temple of the Yellow Skulls. I just hoped that if anyone could make me give two shits about the, Don could. While he is usually pretty good in this regard--and I highly recommend The Dragon Below trilogy (as well as the trilogy that follows that)--I felt that this one just wans't up to par. To be fair I really don't fully blame Don for this, because it's not his story with his characters, which is the cause for most of my grievances with the book.

For the most part, the pacing and writing was alright...except for the parts where monsters were referred to directly as brutes and soldiers. That, and at least one part where Hakken tells the other people he's delving with to "save their most powerful attacks for later", like he's telling his fellow players to not blow their encounter and daily attacks. It would be one thing to tell a spellcaster to not use their highest level spells, but to basically tell a rogue and fighter to save their "special moves" for later? I think it would have been better if he'd told them to try not to exhaust themselves too soon, or something like that.

The big problem with the book were the characters. I didn't like anyone in Mark of Nerath, and nothing changed here. On the plus side, the main cast gets cut down to a more manageable 3-5 (depending on where you are in the book). Mostly it's Albanon, Shara, and Uldane, others come and go, and no one sees any development. As before, Albanon is continuously derided by everyone for basically no fucking reason. Anytime he says or does anything, he gets called a moron, or someone suggests that he "actually use his goddamned brain".  Usually its Splendid, though when Kri shows up he happily joins in to keep me guessing why exactly Albanon hangs out with all these assholes.

This book would have been a lot better if the characters had changed, or we got some depth or history out of them. Anything to connect me with them and make me care. Hell, I would have been happy if Splendid had shut the fuck up, or Albanon blasted her with a magic missile. As it stands, we don't know anything about them, and they barely have any identifiable personalities (well...except for Splendid's inability to say anything nice). That being said, I think Don did a fair job with what he was given: I'd give it a 6 out of 10.

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

  1. Huh uh. Only Albanon, Shara, and Uldane.

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  2. If you've read several d&d books, could you please make some sort of summary post about them and tell which ones are worth reading in your opinion?

    I bought the Mark of Nerath blind and was sorely disappointed since it was so craptastic.

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  3. @Pekka: Admittingly, I only started to get back into D&D novels about five years ago, after being turned off by Marked for Death (The Lost Mark, part 1). It was absolutely terrible, and I only picked up The Binding Stone on a trusted recommendation, which proved to me that yeah, they can be good. What follows is a list of recent novels that I've read AND liked:

    *The Dragon Below trilogy (The Binding Stone, The Grieving Tree, and The Killing Song)

    *The Legacy of Dhakaan trilogy (The Doom of Kings, Word of Traitors, and The Tyranny of Ghosts)

    *The Dreaming Dark trilogy (The City of Towers, The Gates of Night, and The Shattered Land)

    *Taint of the Black Brigade

    *City Under the Sand

    *Seal of Karga-Kul is so-so. You could do worse, but you could also do better. It's nice for a vanilla, Points of Light setting and a few ideas, but not much else.

    I'm not the biggest fan of R.A. Salvatore, mostly because I stopped caring about Drizz't a long time ago, but he seems to get positive reviews. Personally, I like Don Bassingthwaite more, though as mentioned Yellow Skulls just isn't as good as I'd expected.

    If you can get your hands on the IDW D&D Comics, I cannot recommend them enough. They are simply awesome. If you're into the older stuff, I recall enjoying stuff like Pools of Darkness, The Legend of Huma, The Crystal Shard, and some others that I can't quite recall (and might be hard to find).

    I'll keep buying the novels and reviewing them (though probably not Forgotten Realms stuff, as I really don't like that setting much).

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  4. So why no March of the Phantom Brigade, Week 7 (or 6)?

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  5. I agree completely that it walked the line entirely too close to using game terminology. I seem to remember the term "extended rest" being used in there. I half expected to turn the page and see a stat block.

    I thought that the pacing left much to be desired as well.. there were several fight scenes thrown in seemingly to eat up page count.

    I actually read all of the parts of the prologue, and thought it was great... darting off to Sigil, etc. I wish that this book had carried on with the story and tone better from the 5 serials.

    I saw where you mentioned not reading the Realms stuff, and I largely agree. But do yourself a favor and check out the Erevis Cale books by Paul S. Kemp. For the first time in a long while, there are original, compelling characters in a D&D novel series.

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