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Cannonball Read 09/10 VI

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 6: The Orb of Xoriat by Edward Bolme

    Yeah, yeah, I know. Another fantasy novel, another Eberron novel. Suck it. I'm a fan of that setting. But this one's got one new feature: it isn't part of a trilogy, only part of a series of standalones called The War-Torn. The series served as an introduction to the world of Eberron when the setting came out. It's theme is – obviously – telling stories of people who fought in the Last War.

    The Last War of course is an allusion to World War I, also called The War To End All Wars. In Eberron, it was a major conflict between the five member states of the Kingdom of Galifar, and lasted about 100 years. The War broke out over an dispute between the potential successors to the throne, each of who ruled one of the states. It only ended when Cyre, also called the jewel in the crown of Galifar, was devastated by the Mourning, a nation-wide catastrophe that left only desolation in it's wake. The other rulers where shocked, all the more so because no one knows what or who caused the Mourning. The few Cyrans left are scattered across the continent of Khorvaire. They were lucky because they weren't home.

    But other states have their scars, too. One, the Crying Fields, exists in Aundair. This field of battle saw several major engagements, because the region was a weak point in the nation's defense. It's only feature was a monastery dedicated toe the worship of Dol Arrah, the sun god. The monastery housed an order of warrior monks that defended their home against all incursions from the rival states of Karrnath and Thrane. But shortly before the War ended, there came a last expedition of Thrane troops. And they brought some kind of weapon with them that they couldn't control. It killed not only the defenders of the monastery who desperately charged their foes, but also the Thrane army. The result was a stretch of land where nothing grows, and where the ghosts of the fallen are doomed to re-create their battles every night.

    The monastery was destroyed that day, but the few survivors returned and now live in it's ruins, determined not to re-build, for their home now serves as a reminder how destructive war can be. But it also hides a secret: the weapon the Thranes used. As far as the monks are concerned, it must never resurface. Unfortunately, two parties learned of the weapon, called the Orb of Xoriat. One is the gnome sorcerer Praxle d'Sivis, who claims that the Thranes stole the Orb from the gnomish library of Korranberg, and who wants it back. The other is a group of displaced cyrans who want to use the Orb to resurrect their homeland. The latter actually succeed in stealing the Orb, and Praxle and the warrior monk Teron join forces to recover it.

    The Orb of Xoriat is a nice book. It's certainly not great, but keeps you entertained for a few days. The story is pretty ordinary, and serves the crossing and double-crossing relations between the characters as per the setting's main themes of pulp action and noir story-telling. The characters are believable. You'll learn to mistrust gnomes immensely. They are not the punching balls of over fantasy worlds here. The monk Teron, who is one of the name-giving War-Torn, comes across as a naive and unworldly monastic who has to learn the basics of civil interaction when thrown out into the world.

    If you don't like your fantasy with eastern elements, this book isn't for you. The monks of Dol Arrah are eastern monks, as per the D&D template. Sometimes, Teron is somewhat too Jet Li for me, especially when engaging multiple armed opponents. But if you can overlook this detail, you get a nicely written, ordinary fantasy novel where intrigue, action, magic and betrayal are so well balanced that you don't really notice how the pages turn.
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