Monday, January 30, 2012

The Seal of Karga Kul

At some point last week--Wednesday night, I think, although maybe it was Thursday--I finished The Seal of Karga Kul, the second novel in the D&D "points of light" setting series, that comes between The Mark of Nerath and the Abyssal Plague trilogy.  Seal has no relationship really with Mark--it mentions Nentir Vale briefly although it takes place in a completely different part of the world--other than the standard 4e D&D tropes; it contains dragonborn, tieflings, the standard 4e pantheon of gods, etc.  It also appears to have no relationship to the upcoming Abyssal Plague series.  So actually, I probably didn't need to read it first after all.  But I'm not complaining that I did.

This book is quite a bit better than Mark was.  While it still suffered from being rather blatantly a D&D novel in it's prose (you can actually "see" mechanics happening at various points in the novel) the plot and writing were vastly improved.  The characters were a bit more wooden and disposible than I would have liked, but one or two of them actually were interesting--at least a little bit.  Like some of the better Eberron novels I read, I felt the novel suffered from the apparent mandate that it be within a few pages of 300 as printed; I wouldn't have minded seeing the characters further developed.  It races forward more on plot than on character, which always makes for a weak novel.  But not necessarily one that can't work in a limited sense, and it does indeed manage to work in a limited sense.

Where I can see folks most liking this book is where said folks are D&D players who like seeing novels that really reflect the game, and use a fair bit of esoteric game knowledge as background.  Where I see people least liking this book is where said folks are fantasy novel fans who don't play D&D and aren't very familiar with the 4e game in particular, who may find all kinds of references to things that really aren't explained or developed--because it's assumed that as a gamer you're already familiar with them.  Because I'm somewhere in the middle of that--I don't really know 4e specifically very well, but I otherwise know D&D lore fairly well--I can "get" the novel, but I can't ever really love it.  I just don't like seeing the game reflected so blatantly in the novel like that.

Despite that, it was at least good enough that it inspired me in a moment of weakness to go find the last War-Torn novel (with its Wayne Reynolds cover)--the one I never read the first time around, Blood and Honor.  Hopefully it won't take me too long to read, because I also grabbed a Garrett, P.I. omnibus of the first three novels.  Yikes.  So much for making progress on my own books.  Of course, there's a good chance that I won't even pick that up before it's due, and if that happens, mostly likely I'll just take it back and try again some other time.

1 comment:

Erwin said...

Thank you for the book review with no plot revealing and the explanation about books relationship between The Mark of Nerath and the Abyssal Plague trilogy. Although I am just an ordinary reader and never play TRPG before plus know nothing about 4e D&D, yet I find your review intriguing and informative. Then I decide to just give this book a try and see how far I can go.
Again I want to say thank you and your helpful review, this is the kind of book review what ordinary readers need, thank you.

Erwin / Fantasy novels could be a way of learning English. :)