Thursday, July 15, 2010


A few days ago, I finished the last book of the Twilight War trilogy, Paul S. Kemp's Shadowrealm. As I've already reviewed both Shadowbred and Shadowstorm, I feel that in a way, there's not a lot to add just because another volume to the series. It obviously follows in much the same vein as it's predecessors, and has many of the same strengths and weaknesses. If you haven't already seen them, I'll refer you to linked reviews I wrote for the earlier two volumes.

In Shadowrealm, Kemp manages to give us a suitably epic and exciting conclusion. The action is pretty fast and furious, the amount of time that takes place over the same pagecount as the previous volumes is really compressed. There's some really great action/battle scenes that take place, and the redemption of some interesting characters who were fallen or falling, as well as the suitable comeuppance for some(but not all) of the villains of the piece. Overall, I'd definitely say that the end result was a dark one. If it was a victory, it was a Pyrrhic one in many ways. As a self-professed fan of grimmer sword & sorcery and dark fantasy stories, that certainly didn't bother me, and in fact I found it a pleasant and completely unexpected surprise for a book series set in the Forgotten Realms, which was infamous not too many years ago for pushing so hard the other way that the villainous characters and organizations were almost a joke; a mockery. Wizards of the Coast (or maybe it was late-era TSR back then) were so concerned that if "bad guy" characters had any successes, or looked at all competent, that they would be promoting evil or something.

Certainly, that's not something Paul Kemp's worried about.

Unfortunately, this book continues the trend of the last few of being probably a bit incomprehensible to anyone who isn't familiar with Dungeons & Dragons conventions, rules, and details. Since it's a D&D tie-in novel, that may not be the worst thing in the world, but it certainly isn't a great one either, and it limits the potential appeal of the novel. Since, for the most part, the audience probably can deal with that without any problem... well, I won't make a big deal out of it.

The thing that did start to bug me after a while was the emo nature of the some of the characters. A good emotional backdrop for your characters is a good thing to have. You want to see them struggle with things that are difficult, or else the story probably gets really boring. However, it can go too far and start to sound whiny and unlikeable. Also, if it's obvious (and has been for a long time) what needs to be done and the characters are just being stubborn about it because they don't want to, that starts to be less attractive a trait in a protagonist character too. I think Kemp drew the emotional baggage out too long, or just didn't handle it very deftly, or something. I didn't really like that angle of the story (and it applied in variations to several different characters simultaneously, too) and it became more frustrating and annoying rather than interesting after a while.

Dialogue still stank, too, but I won't rehash that.

All in all, I think it was a satisfying conclusion to a satisfying trilogy. It's somewhat disposible, and won't go down as a classic anytime soon, but it's still pretty good stuff, and I don't feel at all like my time was wasted reading it, or that my money was wasted buying it. And although I don't think I'll be rereading it anytime soon, when my kids get a little bit older, if they still like reading fantasy, I'll let them read it too. (As an aside, I'm trying to get my oldest son interested in reading my original Weis and Hickman Dragonlance trilogy, or the original R. A. Salvatore Forgotten Realms trilogy. Those aren't great books either, but at his age, he should love them. If only he'll get off his butt and finish reading the Inkheart trilogy already...)

Anyway, there was an anthology that came with the trilogy. It's called Realms of War and it says it's a Twilight War anthology. The first story is a Paul S. Kemp story that fills in a few blanks around the trilogy. From the looks of it, though, the rest of the stories in the anthology have nothing whatsosever to do with the Twilight War, so... yeah, WotC. That sucks. Bait and switch is bad. Anyway, I'll dutifully report on that when I'm done too...

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