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The Left Hand of Death by Parker DeWolf

Posted by travizzt on March 28, 2010

Ulther Whitsun fixes people’s problems, so when he’s sent to track down and heirloom should be easy, right?

The Left Hand of Death by Parker DeWolf- This is the first book in The Lanternlight Files trilogy. The second book is called When Night Falls, it is currently available, and the third book is called Death Comes Easy, it is unknown when it will be released. The series takes place in the setting of Eberron, a setting of Dungeons and Dragons. The Left Hand of Death was released in 2007 and published by Wizards of the Coast. This is Parker DeWolf’s first novel.

Ulther Whitsun does things that not many people can do. He can find things that were lost or stolen. But when an acquaintance comes to him on his dying breath with a mysterious silver ring, Ulther’s world becomes a little more complicated. It doesn’t help that he is hired by a mysterious woman who is looking for a family heirloom that was stolen from her. His search for answers has him travel up and down Sharn, and the further down, or up, the city he goes, the more corrupt things get. It doesn’t help that people he goes to for help end up in worse circumstances than before he met with them. What exactly is this heirloom and the ring and why does it seem like everyone wants it?

1) Descriptions. The descriptions felt really rushed and, at some points, incomplete. It felt as though not everything was being told that needed to be told. Most of the descriptions were lacking and not really vivid enough to picture what was happening. Most of the time, I was lost in some of the action scenes. They weren’t described to well and it was very hard to follow the action. Then the descriptions of the surroundings were, for the most part, just breezed over and very vague. The real lack of descriptions give the book a rushed feel to it.
2) Dialogue. The dialogue, for the most part, read sloppy. This could be attributed to the rushed feeling of the novel. But it just was sloppy. There were times when I wasn’t even remotely sure who said what, and had to re-read the page in order to follow the conversation a little better. I wasn’t even sure if who was speaking was Ulther or his companion, Glustred. Then there were a few issues with dialogue and descriptions. What I mean is, when someone is talking at doing an action, there is a break in the dialogue to describe the action and the dialogue is picked up after the action is complete. But there were a few cases in which there was no quotation marks to indicate resuming conversation. It was odd to read that Ulther was thinking to himself what an idiot Glustred is and then having Ulther say, “Don’t you agree Glustred?” Mind you, that wasn’t the exact conversation, but a simple example of the problem.
3) Cliffhanging Chapters. One of the things I loathe about novels is how chapters end on a cliffhanger, only to be resumed on the next page. It doesn’t build anything up at all and is, essentially, useless. What should have happened is have a chapter in-between the cliffhanging chapter to build the suspense up of what will happen. I mean what does it accomplish if I just have to turn the page and see that Ulther dodged the knife aimed for his neck? It’s a shameful tacit. The problem with this usage here is that, the story only follows Ulther’s travels. There are no other chapters or scenes that are focused on another character who isn’t close to Ulther. Yes, Glustred has a few chapters where he is the focus, but in every one of those he is within an arm-length of Ulther. So that means that there is no way to build up suspense, so why included these pointless chapter endings? Why couldn’t the chapters just end the day or something similar to that?

1) Ulther Whitsun. He was and wasn’t a good character. What made him a wonderful character is his cool-headed manner of approaching things. It really gives him a unique perspective that he goes with the flow, or knows how things will turn out. But that’s also a problem. At no time did I feel like Ulther was ever in any real trouble that he couldn’t talk himself out of or figure out how to leave. Another interesting aspect was that Ulther is mostly a mystery. You never really know who he is, and when you think you do, something else throws you a curve ball. I’m really impressed by how this is done. You are given clues to his past, but never any answers. It really builds more mystery around Ulther and makes you want to find out more about his past.
2) Middle. While still plagued by poor descriptions and sloppy dialogue, it was a lot of fun reading through it. It really starts to be more of a mystery type of novel, with the main characters trying to figure out these things and finding who stole one of the artifacts. The pacing is better and everything has a sense of excitement to it. I don’t know why this feeling wasn’t present in the beginning and towards the end, but it should have been. Then the twists that were thrown in later in the story were fairly good, some are painfully obvious and others come out the blue and are really a shock. If anything, the story should have been more like the middle.
3) Corruption. I really do like how Sharn was portrayed. The city oozed of corruption and hidden agendas. This is the only spot were the descriptions were near perfection. I really was impressed with how the Watch was described. They are presented as these corrupted officers who don’t do things unless some sort of bribe money involved and it really gives a great image. Then the way the lower parts of the city were explained gave them a really rundown, dirty atmosphere that I’d hate to see. Even the people themselves gave off a sense of ambiguity of their morals that I really enjoyed. I just was very impressed by how the corruption of the city was presented, and it really did give some more life to the story.

Side Notes:
1) Women. The women in this story were portrayed awfully. They just seemed like a stereotype. I just don’t know how to really explain it, other than they just seemed to be there for eye candy (if you can have eye candy in a novel). Then the ones that had a bigger role just seemed weak-willed and pathetic, needless to say I was disappointed in this fact.
2) Mystery. To me, this story should have really been more of a mystery novel, instead of what it was trying to be. It really never felt like a mystery novel, it felt more of an adventure novel instead. And it didn’t really work to well when it was in the adventure mode.
3) Cover Art. What can I say. It’s generic and boring. The women on the cover (who I have no idea is), looks okay, except for the forehead which looks like you can land a plane on. Then Ulther is barely visible hidden by the shadowed hand. It’s just not exciting or even remotely good.
4) Eberron. This is my first Eberron novel that I’ve read. While I have to say it’s not great, it has peaked my interest in checking out other Eberron novels. I will say that this did do a good job in explaining things that I wouldn’t know what they were.

Overall: 2/5
Final Thoughts:
This story isn’t anything but below average. The characters, for the most part, were cliché along with the story. The descriptions were rushed and sloppy, along with the dialogue. Even though Ulther was interesting, he still was a generic hero stereotype. The only thing I was really impressed with is how Sharn is described as being this corrupt place in the lower levels. I can’t really recommend picking this up, but you can if you want to. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t awestruck either.

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