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Cannonball Read 09/10 V

Discussion in 'BoM Blogs' started by Fabius Maximus, Jan 13, 2010.

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

    Feb 18, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Book 5: Storm Dragon by James Wyatt

    I already reviewed this book for another website over a year ago, and gave it 1.5 points out of five. After looking for a filler book for the Cannonball Read, my eyes fell on Storm Dragon and I thought „It can't have been that bad.“

    I was wrong.

    Nevertheless, I worked myself through the novel again, because I considered translating my old review to be cheating. Sigh. So, where to begin?

    James Wyatt is one of the game designers at Wizards of the Coast, producers of Dungeons & Dragons. He contributed a lot of really well done material to the already mentioned Eberron Campaign Setting. And he wrote this novel, also set in that world. Inexplicably, it got the rare hardcover treatment, despite being only Wyatt's second novel ever. You can't complain about the production value. The book's got a nice cover artwork, although it's got little to do with the story. The content is much worse.

    The thing is: James Wyatt is a good RPG designer, but sucks at writing stories. I.e., he does descriptions of locales and background lore very well and fails at everything else.

    The story revolves around a certain half-elf called Gaven, formerly of House Lyrandar (see my footnote about dragonmarked houses in the Son of Khyber review). He was to be one of the prodigies of the house, but hated this role and intentionally failed at a test that was supposed to help develop his dragonmark. Gaven settled for the role of a prospector for dragonshards, crystals that the houses need to enhance their magical abilities and create magitechnical wonders like airships and elemental-powered galleons.

    Gaven found a special dragonshard and changed. He became mentally unstable and dangerous to his house and family. His fiancee and partner Rienne betrayed him so that he could be treated. But Gaven was locked up in Dreadhold, a high-security prison maintained by the dwarves of House Kundarak, specialists in keeping things safe. There, the half-elf not only became a prophet, but also developed a Mark of Syberis, the most powerful kind of dragonmark known. It made him able to summon and command storms. But due to his mental state, he didn't use it to break out.

    In Dreadhold, he was thrown into a cell close to the one of General Haldren ir'Brassek, a war criminal and powerful sorcerer. Haldren became very interested in Gaven's visions and arranged for their prison break. That's where the book starts. A short aerial assault later, ir'Brassek's associates, a dragon among them, take off with the general and the prophet. It turns out that Haldren somehow connected the dragon Vaskar who thinks himself to be the focal point of the prophecy about the Storm Dragon. Essentially, he wants to become a god. Haldren helps him in return of the promise of rulership (of course). After this, the group flits all about the world, collecting artifacts and clues, all the while pursued by a collection of pretty incompetent hunters from several dragonmarked houses. And of course, Gaven's former fiancee involves herself because of remorse. In time, Gaven becomes sane again, and takes off on his own.

    Following the various paths of the characters becomes quite complicated. It doesn't help that Gaven is the only one who does not feel like made out of cardboard. Unfortunately, he's the very image of a Mary Sue: being of prodigal strength and magical power, he has daddy issues, is an misunderstood outcast, gets the girl in the end, and moans and *****es about his lot in life. And of course, Gaven is the real focal point of the prophecy about the Storm Dragon.

    What? Did you think that he wouldn't be, after I recited that list of character traits?

    Anyway, Wyatt's prophetic texts are so clear that they only can point to Gaven, so that a reader of average intelligence comes to the same conclusion very quickly.

    Saying something about the other characters is moot, since they only exist as plot devices. On to the story, then. I does not make much sense. Think about it: Dreadhold is supposed to be the most secure prison in all of Eberron. They have a very powerful sorcerer interred in there and don't stop him from casting spells, so he can arrange for a break-out? And then a group of three people and a dragon fly in there, break open the walls of the prison and just like that take off with two inmates? The books is full with these nonsensical events, big or small. It doesn't help that the story is one giant convoluted mess. Reading becomes hard work if you have to track seven or eight different characters.

    If James Wyatt actually knew how to write, at least you could finish the book quickly. But no, he doesn't even manage that. The text is full of redundancies like the following one:

    Yes, thank you, Mr Wyatt. We noticed that Rienne procured the airship because you already spend the whole prior paragraph to describe her view from the freaking airship. The whole book could have been much shorter, damn you!

    Also, Wyatt has the annoying habit to end his chapters very abruptly. In these cases, there seems to be missing something from the story.

    Surprisingly, I don't advise buying this book, nor it's two sequels. (Yes, of course it's a trilogy.) I'm just glad that I got my copy for free.
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