The Companions (Forgotten Realms: The Sundering, Book One)

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Companions (Forgotten Realms: The Sundering, Book One)
R.A. Salvatore, 2013

New Release! I received an electronic copy of this book via Netgalley for review.

Premise: Dungeons and Dragons is coming out with a new edition next year. This series of books (each focused on a different set of characters) takes place during the in-world adjustments necessary so that the abilities of the characters in the novels will match the adjustments to the rules of the game. Yes, really.

Have you ever read a book starring Drizzt Do'Urden? If the answer is no, then stop right here. Do not pass go. Do not read this book. This is a terrible, horrible jumping on point. It made next to no sense to me for large chunks of the story, and I’ve read and enjoyed books with these characters, in this world. There are some small spoilers in this review, because superfans have already pre-ordered their copy, and people with no knowledge have already clicked to something else. So a few more details for those of you on the fence:

The premise is completely inane. Until I realized what the plot of the book was going to be, I was actually intrigued, but upon the reveal, I almost quit reading right there. Now, I only read a few of the early Forgotten Realms books, so I missed all the plot that came between then and now, but apparently most of the characters died variously, and Drizzt was either killed or left for dead or something at the end of the last book. I’m just extrapolating from context here, though, that last part was unclear. However, in this book, all the main (read: popular) characters are reborn! Yay? Except Drizzt, he’s just still around.

Despite being on the cover, Drizzt is in very, very little of the book, and that’s for the best. In truth, once I got past the idiocy of the premise, the book wasn’t bad. Each character has a subplot. They’re reborn as infants, but with all the memories of their previous life. They have to walk a careful line to learn about what’s happened in the world, regain the strength or knowledge they need, and just survive when forces on the lookout for godstouched heroes or just damn bad luck could take them back out of the game.

Each storyline had aspects that I enjoyed and aspects that fell flat. As I read I remembered a little more about the characters, but Forgotten Realms was never a passion of mine, so most references to past happenings were just backstory to me.

The climax is a non-starter: nothing really happens, but the melodrama works. For a workaday fantasy novel, something light to read during my commute, it wasn’t that bad in the end.

2 Stars - An Okay Book (Feel free to add a star for every 3 Forgotten Realms books you’ve read and loved that were published after 1991, so not counting The Icewind Dale Trilogy or the Dark Elf Trilogy.)

Morning Glories, Volume 1: For a Better Future

Monday, August 19, 2013

Morning Glories, Volume 1: For a Better Future
Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, Robin Esquejo, 2011

Premise: Collects issues 1-6. Six teenagers have been accepted into one of the most exclusive prep academies in the country. Morning Glory Academy isn’t an ordinary school, though, and if the new kids want to figure out what’s going on, they’ll have to work fast. First they have to figure out who to trust, if they want to stay alive.

I definitely see why Morning Glories made a splash when it first appeared. The first issue throws you into the action, telling you just enough to be creeped out and/or horrified, then introduces the main characters. We get a quick, effective intro to each teenager, then things go south fast when they arrive at Morning Glory Academy. My only problem with this volume is how few answers we get by the end.

I like the characters; I like the way they balance between playing into stereotypes and a modern teenage self-conscious self-awareness. The art is wonderful too, evocative and easy to follow. The plot twists are continually shifting the floor under our protagonists’ feet, the mysteries are intriguing and alliances are never to be trusted.

However, the last issue doesn’t feel like part of the same plot, and made it clear to me that it would be a long time before any of these mysteries became clear. After that... I wasn’t so interested in continuing the story. Maybe I’ll backtrack once the story is done and I know whether or not it pays off.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Locke & Key: Volume 5: Clockworks

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Locke & Key: Volume 5: Clockworks
Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, 2012 (issues originally 2011)

Premise: Sequel to Keys to the Kingdom. All the players take their places as we hurtle towards the final struggle with Dodge. First though, Kinsey and Tyler will discover one more key, and this one will show them the dark history of Keyhouse, the secrets of their father's past and finally, what the Omega Key does and why Dodge wants it so badly...

For an arc that is largely exposition, this was extremely gripping. We finally get many the answers that have been teased the whole time: how all the minor characters fit together and the history and origin of the keys of Keyhouse.

Now that I have that history, I want to go back and read the whole thing again from the start, because I'm sure I'll catch new wrinkles and more pieces of the mystery will make sense. I loved how well everything fits together, all these seemingly disconnected bits of magic and history and various parts of Dodge's motivation. I wasn't expecting his story to take the turn that it did, but I enjoyed it.

Small spoiler: I'm not sure whether I like Lovecraft Massachusetts being quite so literal a name, but at least it was planned from the start, and I guess makes the name of the first arc less silly in hindsight. End small spoiler.

There's only so many ways to say this: Read Locke & Key. Well, not if you don't like gore and nudity in your comics. But so long as you like paranormal horror more, I'll still say: Read Locke & Key.

The series is ending soon, and the final issues will be collected in Volume 6: Omega & Alpha.

4 Stars - A Great Book