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Swordmage by Richard Baker

Posted by travizzt on February 16, 2010

After paying his respects to an old friend who was murdered, Geran Hulmaster returns to a vastly different Hulburg than when he left. He sets out to investigate it.

Swordmage by Richard Baker- This is the first book in the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy. The second book is Corsair and the last book is called Avenger, which is due out in March of 2010. This trilogy is set in the Forgotten Realm universe. Richard Baker has written numerous novels for the Forgotten Realms and others. Some of his notable works in the Realms include; The Last Mythal trilogy (Forsaken House, Farthest Reach, and Final Gate), The Shadow Stone (part of The Adventures series), Easy Betrayals (a book in the Double Diamond Triangle Saga), The City of Ravens (part of The Cities series), and the third book in the War of the Spider Queen series called Condemnation.

The story follows a swordmage named Geran Hulmaster on his return to his home, a port city called Hulburg, to pay his respects to a friend who was murdered. He is accompanied by a ghostwise halfling named Hamil, who is Geran’s business partner and friend. We find out that Geran is related the harmach, or ruler, of Hulburg. As he reacquaints himself with his family, he and Hamil do some investigating into his friends murder. After exploring the funeral burrow where Jarad, his friend, was found, he discovers that a foreign merchant company in Hulburg might be behind the murder and recent breaking into the funeral burrows around Hulburg. After Geran and Hamil find out why the merchant company is desecrating the barrows, they are stopped by the company and through a series of events, Geran becomes imprisoned. While all this is going on, we learn that a clan of orcs are preparing to attack Hulburg, along with a plot against the harmach and how the city is falling into the hands of the foreign merchant companies. Will Geran be freed in order to save his uncle, the harmach? Can Hulburg withstand a orc assault and the merchant coasters taking over the city?

1) Slow. The story has this story, plodding pace that causes it to take forever for something to happen. The first two hundred pages are just full of this slow pace and it quickly becomes boring and at times I lost drive to read much more. This is mostly due to the fact that there is just too much description, which is rare in a lot of books. When Hulburg is being described the same way over and over, it just became too much. All the street names became a blur and it was hard to follow where Geran was or why he was even there. Along with that, there is very little excitement to be found. There are a few exciting duels and scenes, but for the most part it’s just exposition and forced dialogue.
2) Villains. The villains were, quite frankly, pathetic. They weren’t interesting and I didn’t ever really have the sense of menace I had from them. For example, Sergen, the step-nephew of the harmach was obviously the ‘bad guy’ and at times I did really hate him (in the good way). But there was no real mystery in that he is a villain. I mean it’s so obvious that I’m surprised that the other characters couldn’t tell he was up to no good. It just didn’t work. Then the war chief of the orcs, Mhurren, was just a generic villain. He was just not interesting and very bland. The only other interesting ‘villain’ was the King in Copper, Aesperus, who is a lich and from reading the back of the book, you would assume he is supposed to be the main villain of the story. But nope, he has one scene and is only mentioned here and there.
3) Too Many Story Lines. To me, there was just to many story lines. First you have the investigating Jarad’s murder. Then you have the subplot of Sergen trying to get rid of the harmach tied into that one. Then you have the whole orc attack along with Sergen using the undead to kill the harmach. Then you have the city falling away from its native citizens. It just was too much. Most of the plot lines were at least wrapped up in the end, but it felt like every other chapter added a new problem or a new issue to the story. It was a little hard to keep up with at times.

1) Geran and Sarth. For a story basically following Geran, he was the only main character that you kind of liked. It was hard to like him, seeing as he doesn’t seem to have any real personality and he was at times dull as a doorknob, but for some reason I enjoyed him. The other characters didn’t really have much to offer. I really found it hard to like Kara, Geran’s cousin. I don’t know why but she just wasn’t interesting. Then Hamil was enjoyable at times, but at others just dull. The only character, for me, that really stole the scenes is the teifling named Sarth. It seemed like every scene with him in it was just a little more interesting and exciting. There was a surrounding mystery behind him, with his lack of back story and his unknown reasons for doing things, that made him the only character I really liked.
2) The Last One Hundred Pages. This is where the story picked up a lot and it was hard to really put down for to long. Maybe it’s because of the orc battle, the harmach’s ‘castle’ being besieged by the undead, Geran’s imprisonment, or the showdown between Geran and Sergen. Wait, maybe it’s because Sarth is present. But everything was exciting and fast paced. It did fizzle out a little towards the last few chapters, but it was a better ride then the majority of the story.
3) Descriptions. Even though there were way too many, they still were wonderful descriptions. They did paint a great picture of the landscapes and the city, even if at times it was too much. You could see places like Griffonwatch, the harmach’s ‘castle’, and the various barrows the main characters enter. Everything was well detailed.

Side Notes:
1) Spellscar. This is really the only story in which a lot of people feared the spellscarred. I didn’t quite understand it. This is the first novel set after the Spellplague, and yet the other novels I’ve read seemed to not really fear them. I do understand the fear someone may have with not knowing what they could do, but it just didn’t feel right to me.
2) Spellplague. Like I just mentioned, this was the first novel to take place after the Spellplague in the Forgotten Realms universe. So why is there not any real in-depth descriptions of the event or what changed with the onset? Yes there are a little tidbits here and there, but not much explanation.
3) Cover Art. While I like the art, it just has too much going on. Not to mention the scene depicted never happened in the story. Yes, Geran faces the King in Copper, but it was more like him taking the book you see in his hand and leaving, with Geran staring with his chin to the ground. It’s a nice, action oriented cover, but it just has too much stuff going on in the foreground with the debris flying.

Overall: 3/5
Final Thoughts:
The story has many faults. It’s way too slow, is bogged down in wonderful descriptions, and there just is way to much going on to follow. No wonder why it’s a three hundred seventy-five page book. The characters, for the most part are bland and unexciting. Geran, for example, isn’t that great, but he has something about him that makes him a little likable. The only character I thoroughly enjoyed was Sarth, for all his mystery. While the descriptions felt like ninety percent of the story, they still were great. This is just a mediocre book to say the least.

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