Friday, May 29, 2009

The Orb of Xoriat

Although it took me a few weeks to read it, that was a factor more of my distractedness by other things than a commentary on the quality of Edward Bolme's The Orb of Xoriat. Orb was actually one of the better D&D fiction novels I've read, and miles above its predecessor, The Crimson Talisman. It really "gets" the Eberron vibe too... it reeks of The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca... basically the main character is a spy/assassin, who's on the lookout for a magical super-weapon that was stolen by another spy from another nation. The structure of the book is not too unlike Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal where you go back and forth from the Jackal himself and the gendarmes officer who's leading the charge to find and stop him. This book goes back and forth between Teron, an Aundairan monk, and The Shadow Fox, a Cyran spy, who's stolen the titular Orb of Xoriat.

Nobody's really a good guy. There's a megalomaniacal gnome that gets involved and becomes part of Teron's group. He, in turn, has a half-orc butler/bodyguard called Jeffers who becomes one of the most sympathetic characters of them all.

The book is fast-paced, it's an interesting twist on the fantasy genre, it's reasonably well-written, and I don't hesitate to recommend it.

The only thing it lacks, is some more development. All of the books in this "series" are within about 5 pages of each other in page-count, so I presume that a strict wordcount quota was given to the authors. And, although I won't say this much in the fantasy genre, which I believe is flooded with over-written, needlessly verbose, overly long stuff, in this case, the book felt rushed. The characters were under-developed, and the plotline raced forward leaving behind too many unfinished and unresolved loose threads. If you look at mainstream thrillers, which the structure of this book quite remarkably resembles, you'll see that most of them are longer than this book too.

This, sadly, leaves us with a book that's pretty good... but I can sense an even better book struggling to get out, but perhaps stunted by the formatting requirements of the publisher. Pity. Another aside of an observation; the scene on the front of the book never actually occurs. Those three characters are recognizable (sorta) as Teron, Praxle the gnome and The Shadow Fox, but at no point do the three of them engage in combat with ghosts. In fact, only extremely briefly are the three of them on screen at the same time at all, and when that happens, they're fighting with each other.

Anyway, I've already started on the next book in the "series", James Wyatt's In the Claws of the Tiger, which also (so far) seems to scream the Eberron-vibe really well, and seems to also be more engagingly written than much of this subset of the genre tends to be. I'm hopeful that it'll turn out well too.

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