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review 2020-03-31 21:43
Lady Ruin by Tim Waggoner
Lady Ruin - Tim Waggoner

One of the very last Eberron novels published and in many ways the only true standalone novel, 'Lady Ruin' runs only 250 pages and does not make the best use of its brief time. 25 additional pages are given to the 'Abyssal Plague' prelude cross-over event, but as there's no sign of it having anything to do with Eberron I'm skipping it. Waggoner's 'Blade of the Flame' trilogy is strong writing, but I can't say the same here unfortunately. 


A Karrnathi warlord sponsors a secret weapons-development scheme involving bonding soldiers with symbionts to create a powerful army. The problem is that symbionts are creations leftover from the Daelkyr War nine thousand years ago. Products of chaos, the symbionts are dangerous to their hosts and nearly-impossible to control.


Captain Lirra is second in command of the effort, working under her father and supervising her artificer uncle in his experiments to master these weapons. An experiment goes wrong...and Lirra is the only one strong enough to do what must be done to prevent A Daelkyr from crossing over into Eberron and remaking the world in its twisted vision.


Lirra is our primary viewpoint character with only the occasional visit to other officers in the Outland Guard and the baddies scheming to unleash chaos. The story make little attempt to follow a "party" structure, Lirra is mostly on her own, and Waggoner can't seem to carry the story without it. There was little time for development of character relations, so when we reach climactic fight scenes I didn't feel any attachment to the characters. The book's saving grace is the examination of how symbionts behave with hosts and several scenes of horror as people and monsters are molded like play-doh to suit the needs of the villain.

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text 2020-03-28 17:12
#FridayReads (On Saturday!)

It's a solo show at the bookstore, minding phones and e-mail, but I have fuzzy company:



Bella, the store cat, is a big softy.


Lady Ruin by TIm Waggoner is a late Eberron novel, and so far, so good.



Mostly though, I've been digging in the DVD drawer and rewatching old favorites


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review 2020-03-06 21:27
The Killing Song, Dragon Below #3
The Killing Song - Don Bassingwaite,Don Bassingthwaite

With the binding stones in hand, Dah'mir heads to Sharn to twist more kalashtar into service of the Master of Silence. To save innocents from madness he must be stopped. At the same time warnings have to be given to the orcs of the Fat Tusk to prevent Dah'mir's return to the Bonetree Mound if he succeeds in Sharn. Singe, Dandra, Ashi and Natrac head to Sharn, while Geth, Ortrac and the Dhakaani hobgoblin Ekhaas head overland back into the Shadow Marches.


Splitting storylines in books is always tricky (and breaks a D&D house rule - you never split the party!). Its hard to sustain action more than one direction without resorting to cliff-hangers and/or leaving a thread hanging for a hundred pages. Bassingthwaite keeps things interesting and rolls more interesting characters into the mix.


Up until now Bassingthwaite has avoided Sharn, but he does the city justice and with his portrait of the kalashtar district and its ways provides another look at an 'other' community in the Eberron world. I won't spoil anything, but all in all this was a spectacular finish.


A new adventure begins with these characters in Bassingthwaite's follow-up trilogy 'The Legacy of Dhakaan', first volume: 'The Doom of Kings'.


Dragon Below


Previous: 'The Grieving Tree'


Next: 'The Doom of Kings'

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review 2020-03-01 20:24
The Grieving Tree, Dragon Below #2
The Grieving Tree - Don Bassingthwaite

After the climactic fight with the dragon Dah'mir, Singe, Geth and Dandra retreat to Zarash'ak to recover. With them for the long haul now are the half-orc Natrac who has his own secret past, and the young orc Gatekeeper druid Orshok. Best of all is the former Bonetree hunter Ashi who transformed from a leading stooge into an ally to the cause. Bassingthwaite has a tendency to treat all of his characters as opportunities, they serve a function to the plot, but at any time a casual encounter with an NPC turns into an important character. It makes the reader pay attention and adds depth to the world and the story.


I loved the time spent in the 'City of Stilts', Zarash'ak is the unofficial capital of the independent territory of the Shadow Marches. The story also leads on to the nation of Droaam, a nation of monsters. A clue in the oral tradition of the Bonetree people points the party into that nation to get ahead of Dah'mir's plans to free the powerful Daelkyr Master of Silence from its ancient prison. The threat of the Daelkyr and the close proximity of various planes of existence - some defined by elements such as air or fire, others by concepts such as dreams or madness - is well expanded upon.


Geth and Singe are beginning to trust each other, but their mutual past comes back to haunt them and there are secrets that must come out if their mission has any chance of success. Look out for new, unexpected allies. I don't want to spoil things, but I was especially impressed with the chilling development of the Lyrandar ship's captain as he's drawn further into the madness of the plane of Xoriat.


Give me ancient ruins and prophecy any day, this is still some of the best fantasy to come out of Eberron.


The Dragon Below


Next: 'The Killing Song'


Previous: 'The Binding Stone'

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review 2020-02-25 20:53
The Binding Stone, Dragon Below #1 by Don Bassingthwaite
The Binding Stone - Don Bassingthwaite

Eberron is celebrated for its urban settings, magically infused technology and the sentient construct Warforged. There are other layers to the setting, however, and Bassingthwaite takes full advantage. There are elemental-powered ships, and Sharn is a known location, but the story delves into the deeper lore of the ancient Hobgoblin empire that predates human civilization by thousands of years and the extraplanar struggle that destroyed it.


The first volume of the 'Dragon Below' trilogy starts in the rural nation of the Eldeen Reaches. Dominated by forest and governed by druids, it held itself apart during most of the Last War once it had established its independence. The action continues in another neglected area of Khorvaire: the Shadow Marches, the marshy homeland of most orcs.


This is one of the most interesting Eberron series yet. On top of the little-used settings, Bassingtwhaite has a great party of characters - the shifter Geth on the run from a shameful secret, the fighter/wizard Singe who has been seeking him out, and the Kalashtar on the run from a sinister cult. Everyone has secrets. A great fantasy that highlights the diversity Eberron has to offer.


The Dragon Below


Next: 'The Grieving Tree'

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