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Cannonball Read 09/10 II

Discussion in 'BoM Blogs' started by Fabius Maximus, Nov 7, 2009.

  1. Fabius Maximus Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine

    Feb 18, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Book #2: Son of Khyber, by Keith Baker

    If you followed the development of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons in the past several years, you probably know the name Keith Baker. In 2002, he won a contest in which D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast sought for a new original RPG setting. In 2004, the new Eberron Campaign Setting was published and since then spawned several other related books.

    Of course, WotC expanded on this new and relatively successful setting with starting a novel line. There are some 20 novels on the market to date, and the line continues. Naturally, the setting's creator was asked to contribute. Baker's first trilogy – The Dreaming Dark – was well received by the fans, as his writing got better with each book. In 2008, Baker started a new series called Thorn of Breland, of which Son of Khyber is the second book.

    The trilogy centers on Nyrielle Tam, also known as Thorn. She is an agent of the Dark Lanterns, the secret service of the nation of Breland. As the situation between the various nations of the continent of Khorvaire is pretty volatile (the Last War ended just a few years ago), her assignments are usually very dangerous. Recently. Thorn developed a reputation for finishing such missions to the full satisfaction of her superiors. But she also did not remain unscathed, both bodily and emotionally. In one mission, she not only lost her lover. The explosion that he triggered left two magically imbued crystals embedded in her spine. They are a constant reminder of her loss and cause her considerable pain. Also, Thorn seems to have developed a new set of abilities after this incident. They frighten her, as she can barely control them.

    In Son of Khyber, Thorn's task is to infiltrate a criminal organization called House Tarkanan. It is an unusual gang, because it's members all bear so-called Aberrant Dragonmarks. These marks look like tattoos, but develop on their own and give their owners an array of magical powers. The origins of this organization lies in the War of the Mark, a conflict fought hundreds of years ago.* House Tarkanan has a new leader, the Son of Khyber, who supposedly is very charismatic and changed the outlook of the organization.

    Thorn manages to gain access to the House and meets the Son of Khyber. She know has to determine whether he is a genuine threat to her nation and if she has to kill him. Or are his motives related to her personal struggles and will she abandon her mission?

    Keith Baker uses Thorn as the lone focus of his book; he has no other protagonist. The result is a pretty personal story, in which Thorns internal struggles with her mission, her constant pain, and her identity are the main issue. Baker describes them convincingly and keeps them in relation to the world he created.

    Thematically, the book (as the world) uses both pulpy and noir themes, as well as the typical fantasy standards mixed with quite a bit of something that can only be described as magipunk. (That's like Steampunk, only with magic instead of steam power.) There is no black or white, only shades of grey. Every being has it's own motives and is ready to backstab others to gain what they want. Corruption is wide-spread.

    Son of Khyber certainly is not a great book. But it is good read nonetheless. Baker knows how to write an engaging story and characters you can relate too. If you like the fantasy genre, this book is an enjoyable, albeit short read. But if you like it, you can always buy or lend others of Baker's Eberron novels. (Rich Wulf and Don Bassingthwaite are also very good writers.)

    *There are two kinds of Dragonmarks. The regular ones look always the same (blue and green lines in various sizes) and give their owners powers that can be used to heal, repair, defend themselves, and other useful stuff. The Aberrant Marks are more destructive and often come with deformations. They are also unpredictable in what powers they grant. In the past, the bearers of the regular Marks banded together according to the powers the Marks gave them. These 'families' became economic powerhouses that dominate the economy on Khorvaire. The War of the Mark started when the Dragonmarked Houses began to see the Aberrants as a danger. The latter were defamed and hunted, until a General Halas Tarkanan organized them. But the Dragonmarked Houses had the support of the then-unified kingdom of Galifar on their side. When all was lost, Tarkanan and his associates brought down a whole city around them with the combined power of their Marks.
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