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review 2019-09-04 20:36
Sea of Death, Blade of the Flame #3 by Tim Waggoner
Sea of Death: Blade of the Flame, Book 3 (The Blade of the Flame) - Tim Waggoner

 

Fear the Drowning Deep Square: A lich summons a plague of were-sharks to bring down civilization.

 

At the end of 'Forge' the party has befriended a war-forged with psionic powers, so you think that their missions would be getting easier. However, the dragon wand that was snatched from them and the loss of Makala to darkness means the party has a lot of work to do.

 

An ancient demonic curse, an island plagued with undead, unholy pacts, and just the existence of were-sharks makes for a compelling adventure on the sea. Waggoner fit a lot into these stories and provided satisfying conclusions to character's individual story-arcs, two romantic plots (and a bromance), and makes a case for returning to these characters.

 

I'm not sure they did. Waggoner wrote one more novel for Eberron, 'Lady Ruin', which doesn't name-check any of the characters from the 'Blade' trilogy. With these tie-in novels to D&D, Wizards of the Coast tries to be crafty and instead catches itself in a trap. 'Dragonlance' and 'Forgotten Realms' were dominated by characters created by one or two authors - this created internal consistency and reader loyalty, but also meant that the campaign setting was beholden to creative that may not want to write the stories they're told to write. To avoid this Wizards pushed out a LOT of novels in a short period by many different authors. This mixed bag probably created some short-term cash-flow, but the market was saturated and the books quickly went out of print.

 

I for one would have been happy to see a core story-line produced. It would only increase sales of the core product (the pricey D&D manuals) and keep the brand alive. There is a new Eberron Adventure coming out for 5th edition this fall, we'll see if there's any novel tie-ins.

 

Anyway, this is the strongest group of Eberron novels so far. Obviously recommended to D&D and Eberron fans, but also fans of fantasy-horror.

 

The Blade of the Flame

 

Previous: 'Forge of the Mindslayers'

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review 2019-09-03 18:33
Forge of the Mindslayers, Blade of the Flame #2 by Tim Waggoner
Forge of the Mind Slayers - Tim Waggoner

Some months after the events of 'Thieves of Blood' the remaining party members led by Diran take are on an aggressive campaign against evil. Their travels have led them across the Principalities into an obscure corner where two small baronies locked in a trade stalemate, an old curse prevents cooperation.

 

In the mountains they cross paths with the lich Lathifa in her lair, and she is fascinated by the dragonwand the artificer Tressler carries. It was apparently fashioned from a powerful and lost magical artifact. The lich sends her barghest servant after the party to get the wand at any cost. In those same mountains an orc rival of Ghaji is working for a mad assassin from Diran's past and a Kalashtar. The terrible trio are working to rebuild an abandoned experimental Cannith forge.

 

There are a lot of coincidences going on, but a lot of it can be explained as the manipulations of Vol, who, admittedly, has had 3,000 years or so to line things up. In the shadow of her plans the struggle for the psi-forged facility pales. Waggoner continues to dig deep into the character's pasts with well-timed flashbacks and broadens the character's relationships with each other. The villains are hardly bungling, but there was something funny about how these five scheming villains could hardly stop plotting and backstabbing and rubbing their hands together to get REVENGE and be the BEST at being EVIL!

 

This was really enjoyable - I had to dive right in to the next one. 

 

The Blade of the Flame

 

Next: 'Sea of Death'

 

Previous: 'Thieves of Blood'

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review 2019-08-31 20:47
Thieves of Blood, Blade of the Flame #1 by Tim Waggoner
Thieves of Blood - Tim Waggoner

Diran Bastiaan is a priest of the Silver Flame with a dark past and is travelling in the Lhazaar Principalities with his friend the half-orc Ghaji on a general quest to root out evil wherever they find it. In the city of Port Verge Diran runs into an old colleague and former lover, Makala.

 

Shortly therafter the city is raided by the Black Fleet - black ships that come in the night and take nothing but people - and after a fight with a vampire Makala is taken.

 

Teaming up with an elf woman, Yvka, with an agenda of her own (and a fast ship) Diran and Ghaji set out across the cold Lhazaar sea to find out the truth of the Black Fleet and to rescue Makala.

 

Despite the never-ending quest to save my girlfriend plot, 'Thieves of Blood' is an excellent adventure with elements of real horror. Eberron often touches on elements of the genre - but when you have rabid ghouls tearing people apart and vast quantities of blood magic, I'm going to look at the book differently. The Blood of Vol always have potential, but Waggoner nails it.

 

Diran and Makala's complicated back history as former assassins, Ghaji's reflections on prejudice, and great use of the settings own character without suborning the plot makes this a winner. Along with Yvka the addition of an elderly artificier and a Ravenloft-level traumatized halfing to the party make things more interesting. Makala, even as a captive, is allowed heroism, but I could have used more time with her and some more thought-out motivation for the female antagonist. This stands on its own well, but there's real potential for development as the trilogy moves forward.

 

The Blade of the Flame

 

Next: 'Forge of the Mind Slayers'

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review 2019-08-21 15:41
Rise of the Seventh Moon, Heirs of Ash #3 by Rich Wulf
Rise of the Seventh Moon - Rich Wulf

The crew of the Mourning Dawn have pieced together what Ashrem's Legacy is, gone through some major battles in the Frostfell and Mournland, but there are major revelations left and there are a few surprising additions to the crew as well. This was a great conclusion to a trilogy that had some rough starts. Recommended to any Eberron fan who can muscle through two and a half books without a decent copy editor. I swear, it's worth it.

 

I may be overcompensating with this rating the same way I undercut 'Flight of the Dying Sun', but the story really came together here. Wulf had made use of a lot of secondary characters and flashbacks throughout, but they all serve a purpose by the second half of 'Seventh Moon'. A very nice juggling act.

 

This was a good book and in the denouement there were several meta jokes that absolutely referred to the typographical errors and other "rough" patches to the book. It's pretty funny - there must have been just enough lag time between publishing the books for the author to see the finished product of at least book one and inserted some commentary.

 

I'll continue to read Eberron novels, but I'll try to scope out online which series were plagued with publisher-errors and read with appropriate caution.

 

Heirs of Ash

 

Previous: 'Flight of the Dying Sun'

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review 2019-08-20 00:35
Flight of the Dying Sun, Heirs of Ash #2 by Rich Wulf
Flight of the Dying Sun - Rich Wulf

So this was an enjoyable enough parade through Eberron, the quest is sufficiently high stakes, and the characters are beginning to come into sharper focus. However, that focus is all sneers, and I just can't reward that kind of behavior.

 

Wulf relies heavily on sneering. Characters sneer at each other when they make witty ripostes, when they mock each other, when they monologue, when they accept a plate of stew for dinner. Even when it seems like a nice, friendly conversation, a sneer creeps in.

 

On top of that, this trilogy is riddled with typographic errors: words repeated, words omitted, words misused - the best being a flag described as hanging 'limpidly' in 'Voyage'. The flag was translucent? Is this some magician's trick? I expect errors in these tie-in, mass market books, but there are so many errors.

 

Another potential issue is that 'Flight of the Dying Sun' makes heavy use of flashbacks, but with little warning and without the usual narrative tricks that signal the reader to what's going - a little bit of white space is mostly all we get.

 

I was surprised, in a good way, that we got as open and candid an explanation as one could ask for about the Day of Mourning - the magical event that left the entire nation of Cyre dead and surrounded in mist - as I thought that was going to be a deep secret forever. This doesn't have to be canon, many DMs will continue to offer alternative explanations in game, but it was nice to have an answer laid out like that.

 

Another book will round out the trilogy, let's hope people start smiling, or even grinning.

 

Heirs of Ash

 

Next: 'Rise of the Seventh Sun'

 

Previous: 'Voyage of the Mourning Dawn'

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