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Key of Stars by Bruce R. Cordell

Posted by travizzt on September 15, 2010

As the third and final book in the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy, does Key of Stars surpass the previous books? Or is it something you’d rather see thrown into the Outer Void?

Key of Stars
by Bruce R. Cordell- This is the third and final book in the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy. The first book is Plague of Spells and the second book is City of Torment. The trilogy is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Bruce R. Cordell has written a number of books set in this setting. These include; Lady of Poison (The Priests series), Stardeep (The Dungeons series), and Darkvision (The Wizards series). He’s also written a novel under the pen name T. H. Lain called Oath of Nerull. He has also contributed to a number of anthologies and written a few short stories, along with writing a few roleplaying adventures and source books. Key of Stars was released September 2010 and published by Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

The story picks up a few days after the events in City of Torment. The city called Xxiphu is now floating above the Sea of Fallen Stars after the heroes barely escaped. Now they are recovering from the ordeal at Anusha’s home. Anusha wants the group to try to stop the aboleth’s from whatever it is they attend to do to the world. However, the group wants to relax and reflect on what has happened. Japheth, a warlock, is down in the catacombs of the estate tinkering with a golem to be the body of Anusha’s friend’s, Yeva, soul. Raidon Kane, a monk and the barer of The Cerulean Sign and the sword Angul, is slowly falling into a depression over the loss of his daughter. He turns to the bottle for comfort. We then see Captain Thoster having repairs done to his ship. The mage, Seren, is trying to gather money to repay her debts to Thay. After they all take care of business, they return to Anusha’s home, only to find Japheth’s old master, Neifion in the catacombs attacking the warlock. The group comes to his aid, but it’s Raidon who finally drives the Lord of Bats away. After finally having everyone there, Anusha calls for a meeting to see what their next steps are. The group decides to go after Xxiphu and Malyanna, who is trying to bring about the Abolethic Sovereignty, however, Seren decides to take care of her business instead and departs. After the plans are made, the group sets off to save the world, but are they already too late?

1) Pacing. The biggest problem with the book is the meandering pacing. The story progresses at such a slow pace that at times I fell asleep while reading. For two-thirds of the story it seems like nothing is really going on. There were some times when the story did pick up, but it quickly became slow and plodding. Some of the blame can be thrown at the disappointing characters, but I’ll talk about that in due time. The pacing was so slow that at times I became increasingly frustrated during reading. It just seemed like almost nothing was going on and it was too slow to keep my attention focused on it for long stretches.
2) Characters. The characters have to be the biggest disappointment of the book. They didn’t have any real development, aside from Japheth’s and Anusha’s relationship. The biggest offender is Raidon Kane. For about eighty percent of the book, he came off as little more than an annoying and whiny character. I understand how the loss of his daughter would have affected him, and I was impressed during those times. However, instead of feeling bad about his daughter, he dwells on his long lost mother. All I have to say is why? He barely ever talked about her in the previous two books. He mentioned her once in a while, but he never brought up his feelings about his mother leaving him. That whole character point just came across as poorly planned and sudden. Malyanna is the only character that I couldn’t stand. Why? Because she was little more than a horribly cliché James Bond villain, hell-bent on destroying the world. In City of Torment she had an interesting personality, but in Key of Stars she has nothing. She’s little more than a generic villain. I didn’t feel anything towards her. She didn’t evoke anything out of me. Captain Thoster is a decent character that needed more time to explain things with. His hidden past/ background needed to be explored a little more for someone to understand what is going on with him. Instead, everything is left unexplained and unsaid. Yeva is just, well, there. She doesn’t do much of anything so I can’t really say much about her other than why was she even included? Taal, Malyanna’s assistant, was really hard to pin down. He had some good moments, but overall he was little more than what Yeva was. He had a bigger part, but ultimately I just didn’t care about him enough. Neifion, the Lord of Bats, is wasted. His total scene time is about twenty pages at best and he just shows up and leaves. He didn’t add anything and didn’t have that menacing presence he had in the previous books. Overall the characters were underwhelming, underdeveloped, and were extremely disappointing.
3) Confusing. Even with the slow pacing, I had trouble trying to understand what was happening. I still have no idea what the Abolethic Sovereignty is, what the Far Manifold is, or the whole point of the story was. This is where the frustration comes in. Nothing was explained, or if it was I don’t remember the explanation because it was either forgettable or poorly explained. I had no idea why the events were so important other than it could destroy the world. Which in itself, isn’t a good way to explain things. I can’t even accurately explain what was so confusing, because I was that confused.

1) Japheth and Anusha. The relationship between Japheth and Anusha was the only real good thing with the characters. Japheth had a very different personality then he did in the previous books, but you understood why and what caused it. You could almost feel the way Japheth loves Anusha, and that love improves as the story progresses. Anusha has the most development as the story goes on. You started to see her grow as a character in City of Torment and it only improves here. Now she acts almost like the leader of the group, taking charge of things. However, the story is almost yanked away from these two in favor of Raidon, which I think was a mistake. For me, Japheth and Anusha carried the story.
2) Climax. The climax of the story was very exciting and was a pretty epic moment, aside from the cheesy moment at the end. I really can’t go into too much detail, but this pay-off was worth the wait. The final battle was written extremely well with each person playing a specific role. However, the ending was very predictable, but it still was nail-bitingly good.

Side Notes:
1) Seren. What happened to Seren? She was an amazing secondary character, and I sorely missed her witty humor and presence. I just hope that somewhere down the line we see what happened with her and if she dealt with her problems. I almost think that if Seren stayed with the group, the story would have been better.
2) Stardeep. You may need to read Stardeep to understand some of the things that happen in the story. I have yet to read Stardeep so I may have missed out on some of the background of who the Traitor is. It shouldn’t be required to read however.
3) Cover Art. The artwork itself is pretty good. Seeing Raidon jumping through a sea of tentacles is pretty exciting. However, it’s too small. Way too small. The banner across the top is an eyesore and always seems to steal the focus. Also, the title on the bottom takes up too much space. Why couldn’t we just have a full-page of the artwork?

Overall: 2/5
Final Thoughts:
Key of Stars was disappointing. The previous book, City of Torment, was amazing, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting for the release of Key of Stars. However, Key of Stars never really improved on what the previous book did. In fact it seemed to have taken two giant steps backward. The story unfolds at a snail’s pace and almost seems like nothing is happening. It didn’t help that it was hard to understand the importance of everything and having almost nothing really explained. The characters, for the most part, were disappointments. Raidon was little more than a whiny annoyance, Malyanna was a generic Bond villain with little motivation, and the rest were shells of their former selves. However, Japheth and Anusha were great. You really do see the change in them. I have to ask again, what happened with Seren? I really missed her and her witty remarks. Also, the climax was very exciting and nail-biting. When all is said and done, is Key of Stars worth picking up? I’d have to say no, unless you want to finish the trilogy or are a fan of the Forgotten Realms. Otherwise, you may be as disappointed as I am.

3 Responses to “Key of Stars by Bruce R. Cordell”

  1. RobertH said

    I agree with you on some of your criticisms but I would give it a higher score. With the way the third book ended up it really could have turned into two.

    I agree that they could have done more with Seren and Captain Thoster.

    I also agree that overall Neifon, Lord of Bats, was a little weak in this book. I thought it was interesting that he “bequeathed” his remaining power to Japheth. Since he was an archfey I was hoping this would make Japheth a lot more powerful but it did not. Perhaps it was spent when he was trying to hold the Manifold together?

    I think they did enough with Yeva but would have liked for her to have received a better ‘body.’

    Oh, and I think I would probably rate the previous book better than this.

    • travizzt said

      I may have been a little rough on Key of Stars, but I was underwhelmed and totally disappointed.

      The Lord of Bats was wasted and I don’t understand why his power didn’t stay with Japheth longer. That just seemed like an easy way out.

  2. RobertH said

    Other than the first encounter with Neifon he really was not scary afterwards. I agree they played him short.

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