The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek
Posted by travizzt on August 12, 2010
The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek- This is the first book in a new setting of novels in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, which is conveniently called Dungeons and Dragons. This book is also a stand-alone novel. This is Bill Slavicsek’s first full-length novel, but he has worked on a number of role-playing game modules and co-authored Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition For Dummies and Dungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies. The Mark of Nerath was released in August 2010 and published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Magroth wants to escape his banishment into the Shadowfell. The once alive ruler of the kingdom of Nerath was slain by one of his personal guards, and was somehow transported into the Shadowfell. After an enticing offer from a priestess of Orcus (the demon lord of the undead), he readily agrees to the terms. After easily accomplishing the first two tasks, Magroth now has to find and kill any remaining descendants. At the same time, a group of adventures are hunting down a green dragon that is terrorizing the countryside. After encountering the dragon, three of the five people in the group are killed leaving a warrior woman named Shara and a rogue halfling named Uldane. After losing both her father and her beloved, Shara now wants to seek out and slay the dragon who did this. At the same time, an apprentice priest of Erathis (the goddess of civilization) named Falon is attacked by a group of undead, only to be saved by an old dwarf named Darrum. After the dwarf discovers who Falon is, and after Falon’s mother tells him who he is as well, they set off to keep Falon hidden. At the same time, a corpse awakens in a graveyard being compelled to action by the Raven Queen (the goddess of death). The revenant named Erak sets off to finish an unknown goal. Finally, a young eladrin wizard named Albanon, after a night of hearing of dragonborn named Roghar and tiefling named Tempest’s adventures, returns home to find his teacher slain. He quickly leaves to find the killer and the two adventurers tag along to help him. What do all these people have to do with one another? Does Magroth find and kill his descendant? Does Shara and Uldane get revenge on the dragon? Who is Falon and why does he need Darrum’s protection? What does the Raven Queen want Erak to accomplish? Does Albanon avenge his masters death with the help of Roghar and Tempest? Can this be anymore confusing?
1) Characters. The main problem this story is its characters and there are a few reasons why the characters are the story’s biggest weakness. The first thing, as you probably can see from my plot summary above, is that there are way too many characters. The story follows about thirteen characters; Magroth, Erak, Kalaban, Falon, Darrum, Roghar, Tempest, Nu Alin, Albanon, Shara, Uldane, Splendid, Tiktag, and Vestapalk. Thirteen characters, and not one of them could be considered the main focus. Sure Magroth and Falon may have headlined the most chapters out of the group, but I still refuse to call them the main focus. Why would I say that? There are thirteen characters! And because there are thirteen characters, no one is developed enough to be considered as the main character(s). Each character has one personality trait. Just one. Magroth is insane. Erak is the stoic character. Kalaban is Magroth’s sidekick. Falon is naïve. Darrum is loyal. Roghar is something and honestly I really don’t know what he is. Tempest is levelheaded. Nu Alin is pure evil. Albanon is also naïve. Uldane is energetic and carefree. Splendid is annoying. Tiktag is just a follower. Vestapalk is full of himself and a little crazy. However, Shara may be the only deep character, due to losing both her father and beloved. You actually see her try to hide her pain but that is soon forgotten and not further explored after you hit the halfway point in the story. None of these characters are really that deep or even likeable. They are all horrible in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t help that you can easily forget who is who. The characters are just terrible and what causes this story too really fail.
2) Dungeons and Dragons Session. The other main problem with this story is that it reads like someone’s notes on last nights Dungeons and Dragons adventure. When you have lines that sound like someone right out of a game session, you have problems. As soon as I heard Uldane say, “Lucky for you I spotted it on the path back there. I do have excellent perception, you know.” I knew that something was extremely wrong. That was on the second page. Then upon further reading, I ran across other such wording and sentences that just screamed that it came directly out of a gaming session. When things like this came up, it just took me right out of the story and it should have never been worded in those ways.
3) Choppy. The dialogue is just awful. It does not flow naturally. It also does not accompany what is happening. For example, when someone is in a fight someone else will say a smart remark that doesn’t even pertain to what is happening in the story. It doesn’t help that this is how the majority of the dialogue is handled either. It read sloppy and just didn’t match up at all.
4) Reiteration. The final major issue with the story is the amount or reiterating everything that happens. This bugged me like nothing else. For one thing, the chapters are only between a few paragraphs to five pages in length so what’s the point of saying Nu Alin over and over during a chapter? Also, because the chapters are so short, only a chapter or two may pass between a certain character’s parts, and reintroducing them quickly became annoying and bothersome. It made me feel like the author thought that the reader was stupid and had to be reminded of who this person was or what this is. It was insulting half the time.
1) Funny. There was two funny moments. That’s it. Just two.
1) Erak. Even though I hated the character for his lack of personality, I really liked the idea behind him. To bad he wasn’t utilized very well.
2) The Gates of Madness. This story comes with the second installment of a five-part novella called The Gates of Madness by James Wyatt that has to do with something called The Abyssal Plague. The first part is found in the paperback version of R. A. Salvatore’s The Ghost King. It’s billed as a worlds-spanning event. Anyways, the short little story is really interesting, except I have no idea what is happening. I didn’t pick up the first part so I am a little lost. However, I will say that in these ten or so pages, there was more cohesion and character development than in the entire story of The Mark of Nerath.
3) Cover Art. It’s interesting and does catch your eye. There are problems however. It’s a little too busy with Magroth and Falon fighting, Erak jumping behind Magroth, Shara and Darrum destroying skeletons. It’s just busy.
The Mark of Nerath is terrible, frustrating, annoying, and disappointing. The only thing that is good about the book is the inclusion of The Gates of Madness and the two funny parts. Everything else is just awful. The characters are one-dimensional and have little to no personalities. The plot is a mess and boring. The pacing and flow is chopping and confusing. Nothing works. If the goal of this new setting is to be a written version of someone’s Dungeon and Dragons campaign, then this idea itself should be scrapped. There is nothing original or interesting happening. There were some neat ideas, but they weren’t explored. I just hope the next book in this setting is leaps and bounds better. As for a recommendation, what do you think? No. Do not pick up this book. Only pick it up to read the short story but do not buy this. It’s not worth the purchase.