Darkvision by Bruce R. Cordell
Posted by travizzt on June 23, 2010
Darkvision by Bruce R. Cordell- This is the third book in a stand-alone series called The Wizards. The first book is Blackstaff by Steven E. Schend, the second is Bloodwalk by James P. Davis, and the final book is Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt. With this series, each book is a separate entity and can be read out-of-order. The only theme to mention is that each novel revolves around wizards and magic. Darkvision is set in the Forgotten Realms universe of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Bruce R. Cordell has written a number of book site in the Forgotten Realm setting, however, he’s written a novel under the pen name of T. H. Lain called Oath of Nerull. His Forgotten Realm novels include Lady of Poison (The Priests series), Stardeep (The Dungeons series), and is currently finishing The Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy (Plague of Spells, City of Torment, and Key of Stars [due out 9/2010]). He has also contributed a number of short stories to various anthologies. Darkvision was released in 2006 and published by Wizards of the Coast.
Ususi defied her people in order to discover relics and secrets that spelled doom for her ancestors. After studying her people history, she knows the dangers the lurk in the hidden and lost portals she seeks. But when her people send out a vengeance taker to bring her back, she’s learns that she’s her people’s only hope. At the same time, a geomancer named Thormud begins sensing that the earth is troubled and sets out to go investigate, taking along his grumpy, foul-mouthed elven bodyguard Kiril Dustmourn. As the geomancer starts to discover more about the disturbance, a sickness strikes at Thormud, leaving Kiril to try to take care of the mess and save Thormud’s life. We are also introduced to a self-imposed exile by the name of Warian Datharathi, as he discovers that his crystal prosthesis is more than it appears. Returning to the city, family, and family business he abandoned, he is shocked to see others with similar crystal prosthesis’ that decorate people bodies. After talking with his family, he realizes that something doesn’t seem quite right about the crystal the family mines and augments they create, and decides to investigate. Can Ususi save her people? Can Kiril stop drinking long enough to stop the taint that is afflicting the geomancer? Why is Warian’s arm acting oddly and why is his family acting weirdly?
1) Exposition. This was a real problem throughout the novel. At first, the reader is thrown into a world that seems very foreign and different from normal Forgotten Realms books. There are times when the novel seems to slip into Eberron (the Dungeons and Dragons version of a steam punk fantasy setting) territory. It’s not awful, just awkward. I know that the Realms have some ‘skyships’, but they are fairly rare and not widely known. The big problem I had is with the golem-like prosthesis’ that were described. It seemed really ‘out there’ and didn’t quite feel right. Well, at least it’s still better than a split-in-half golem-human. The other problem with exposition was barely there. I was extremely confused and lost for the first fifty pages. I had no real background in the history of Imaskar and whenever Ususi’s chapters came up, I couldn’t follow anything. The final problem is the random bursts of exposition. As the story progressed, you would get almost random bursts that describe what something was. There is one example that really annoyed me. Late in the story, we get some background information in Kiril and her sword Angul, that just gets inserted between two paragraphs that really had almost no connection to her and the sword other than her touching its hilt. It was awkward and immediately took me out of the story. Exposition is the key problem in this story.
2) Source Book. For half of the novel, it seemed like I was reading a Dungeons and Dragons source book or module. The worst part is, I’ve never read a source book or module, but the descriptions felt like it’s something that would be in them. Most of the time, paragraphs and sentences read like they were picture captions. Then parts of the story felt like I was reading a transcript from a Dungeons and Dragons game. However, most of these parts were early in the story and were quickly broken. Heck, there even was a scene where we see something being described with the use of parentheses. It was really bothersome.
1) Characters. I really, really enjoyed the characters. Each main character was unique and different. They had wonderful development and always made me seem to care about them in some way. The best characters had to be Kiril, Warian, and Zel. Kiril is a very different type of elf. She’s rude, curses a lot, and is a blatant alcoholic. I have yet to read an elf portrayed in this way. The best part was that her character really grew as the story progressed. When we first meet her, she’s an unlikable character, but as her journey with Thormud progressed, we started to see a different side of her emerge. Quite frankly she was just amazing. Warian is pretty much the same way, but he started off as a likeable character. He had this charm and charisma that you couldn’t help but like. Then after some events happen, we start to see a different side of him, a touching and heartfelt side. He was just plain charming. Finally, we have Zel. I will admit that he stole a lot of the scenes he was in. When we first meet Warian’s uncle Zel, we are lead to believe that he doesn’t care about Warian and comes off as a villain. I really don’t know why I liked Zel so much. He was basically forgotten toward the end of the story, but even then he had this presence you couldn’t ignore. He was the story’s scene stealer. The other main characters were good, but nothing really can compare to these three.
2) Plot. I have to say that the overall plot is really interesting, when you actually start to understand what was happening. I’m not going to give much away, but it was unique enough to set itself apart. There are three main plots going on and while the start off totally different, they somehow merge wonderfully. Honestly, when I hit page two hundred, I could never have guessed how Kiril and Thormud would meet up with Warian’s or Ususi’s group. It was a very nice surprise. It does have times it falters, but overall it’s good.
1) Magic. Honestly, for a book about a wizard, there wasn’t very much magic happening. Sure there were some spells here and there, but overall I was kind of disappointed by the lack of magical combat. Not to mention the real lack of a ‘wizard’ (I know that Ususi is one, but she didn’t seem to be the main focus and really never felt like a wizard).
2) Eberron. Now I mentioned this before in the Criticisms, but it needs mentioning again. This story felt like it belonged in Eberron. It just did.
3) Cover Art. I really like it but it’s flawed. The heroic pose of Ususi is really striking and eye-catching. The color scheme is nice as well with the usage of green. It really caught my eye. However, green IS NOT the crystal’s color in the story. In the story, they are more of a purple or violet color. Does that fact take down the coolness of the cover? Kind of. Would violet or purple work in green’s place? Probably not.
Darkvision is a decent story with some hampering problems. The major problem is the lack of exposition in the beginning and the random bursts of it. The other problem is that Darkvision felt more like a source book or module. However, the positives do balance out it’s faults! It has uniquely different characters that really stand out. Kiril and Zel need to be mentioned again. The plot felt fresh and came together beautifully at the end. Would a new or casual Forgotten Realms reader like this? I’d have to say no, due to the lack of background information on a lot of things in the first fifty pages. However, if you have some background in the Realms, give it a read.