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The Rite by Richard Lee Byers

Posted by travizzt on November 15, 2010

With dragons going on a rampage, and a hope of a cure in sight, does The Rite do everything right? Or does it give into the madness?


The Rite by Richard Lee Byers- This is the second book in The Year of Rogue Dragons trilogy. The first book is titled The Rage and the third book is titled The Ruin. The Rite is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Richard Lee Byers has written a number of books, mostly focused on the horror genre; Deathward, Fright Line, The Vampire’s Apprentice, Dark Fortune, Dead Time, The Tale of Terrible Toys, and The Children of Gaia and Uktena: Werewolf, 5. His also contributed a number of stories to other series including; three Nightmare Club novels (Joyride, Warlock Games, and Party Til You Drop), three World of Darkness (Caravan of Shadows, Netherworld: Vampire, On a Darkling Plane, and Wraith: The Ebon Mask), a X-Men based  novel titled Soul Killer, and a Warhammer based novel titled The Enemy Within. His also written a trilogy for the Scarred Lands called Dead God trilogy (Forsaken, Forsworn, and Forbidden). He has written a number of Forgotten Realms novels as well; a novel and a short story in the Sembia: Gateway to the Realms series (the short story is found in the first book of the series, The Halls of Stormweather, and wrote the third book, The Shattered Mask), wrote the first novel in R. A. Salvatore’s War of the Spider Queen series called Dissolution, a novel in The Rogues series called The Black Bouquet, a book in The Priests series called Queen of the Depths, The Haunted Lands trilogy (Unclean, Undead, and Unholy) and he is working on finishing The Brotherhood of the Griffon trilogy (The Captive Flame, Whisper of Venom, and The Spectral Blaze). He’s also contributed a vast amount of short stories to various anthologies. The Rite was released in January 2005 and published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

The lich Sammaster is not very pleased that someone is discovering and stopping him in his goal, having dragonkind turn to him to help quell the rage that is turning them insane. But he realized a grave mistake, he forgot to destroy everything he has learned, so no one can stop him. However, a group of hunters have started searching for answers and begin traveling to the sites the lich used to uncover the same clues he should have destroyed. The half-human, half-golem Dorn and the arctic dwarf Raryn travel with the song dragon bard Kara and a bronze dragon named Chatulio to one such site. Before arriving to one of the sites, the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, they discover that it’s under attack by a group of evil chromatic dragons tasked to destroy everything in the monastery by Sammaster himself. The group decide to help the monks protect the monastery, while looking for the valuable information that is stored there. However, as the rage gnaws on Kara’s and Chatulio’s minds, will they be able to hold that back along with the attackers long enough to find the answers? On a similar quest to one of Sammaster’s locations, the halfling Will and the priest of Lathander, Pavel seem to be lost trying to find the lost temple. Thankfully, after helping a tribe of ogres kill a dragon, the tribe decide to take the duo to the ruins of the hidden temple. But how long will it be until the ogres turn on the two? Elsewhere, war is brewing in the country of Damara. Their king, Gareth Dragonsbane, falls due to a traitor and is seemingly dead. With no king to lead, the country has no hope in stopping the hordes from neighboring Vaasa, unless someone knows how to help the fallen king. The problem is, will the people of Damara trust in the help? In the city of Thentia, Taegan Nightwind arrives to help aid the hunters and their mage allies, but discovers that they left to search for some of the sites Sammaster visited. However, after meeting with the mages he discovers that there may be a traitor in their midst. Taegan and his faerie dragon friend, Jivex, decide to found the traitor before they could do serious harm. But are they too late?

Criticisms:
1) Deus ex Machina. The Rite is riddled with a lot of things, big and small, that seem to happen for the sole purpose of moving the plot along. While some of the smaller instances of deus ex machina can be forgiven, however the amount of it is just too much to simply ignore. It seemed like every major part of the story had something that suddenly appears and move it along, only to have to disappear a few chapters later. In the Will and Pavel part of the story, a the sudden appearances of dragons helps them out in a bind. In the Dorn and Kara part we see something similar but with the unlikely discovery of a hidden passage. Even in Taegan’s part, he learns a lot of information about a type of dragon offscreen on the off-chance he will see one. But that said, these small things barely compare to the massive convenience of Brimstone, who seems to know everything and has all the answers. When he appears to help Will and Pavel, I didn’t give his appearance that much of a thought. But after that initial appearance of the vampire dragon, he quickly became the ‘god of knowledge’ telling and doing everything that others couldn’t. It was just so sudden and unexpected that I hardly believed that he knew the exact spell and the exact way to right things. It just got tedious and annoying to see everything being solved with either off-screen information or by sudden appearance of something, only to have it almost disappear later.
2) Dorn. Dorn is actually bearable in this book, but he still has a long way to go. He doesn’t bring down any of the other characters, but he still comes across as a whiny character. For the first half of the novel, all Dorn seems to do is complain and whine about how he looks and that he knows that no one would love a ‘freak’ like him. It quickly becomes annoying after seeing him put himself down continuously. Even towards the end, when the complaining, thankfully, becomes less frequent, it just gets to ridiculous levels of complaining. Dorn’s problems just don’t stop there. In The Rage, Dorn’s and Kara’s relationship just kind of happened out of the blue, with no build up or reason for attraction. With this novel, it’s the same story. The relationship is developing a little better, but it still comes across as sudden. there is still almost no build-up in the romance and it’s so off-putting that it’s unbearably stupid. It’s just a half-brained attempt at a love interest and it doesn’t seem be ‘real’ or sincere. Overall, Dorn has improved, but he is still a long way to go before becoming a decent and likable character.

Praises:
1) Main Characters. The other characters, aside from Dorn and the amazingly easy to forget Raryn, do get some good development and do start to shine a little more. It also helps that most of the characters are in smaller groups, allowing some actual growth and development from these characters. It’s just easier for them to share the spotlight now. The situations also allow the characters to grow a little more easily. The best example of this is with Kara. With the rage gnawing at her mind, you can see her become more frustrated and downtrodden when she is dealing with simple situations. It’s easy to see her frustrations and because of this, she does grow into one of the more interesting characters of the trilogy. With Taegan, well, he’s still Taegan. I did lose a bit of that mystery and uniqueness from the previous novel, but his sections were just plain awesome. He was more of a detective in this novel and it was fun to see him try to piece together the mystery. It really does add a new dimension to his character. However, in terms of ‘natural’ development, Will and Pavel really do take the cake. From the previous novel, you really only had the friendly banter to go off of these two, there really wasn’t much else. Now they really do grow into very interesting and complex characters. After seeing some of the things they say and do, I did get a better understanding of the two. But the one character who is the most memorable from the novel is Chatulio. He is an amazing character. Each scene he’s in, he seemed to steal it. Also, Chatulio has to have the most memorable scene of the novel, but I can’t tell what it is. It’s just a shame that their wasn’t more time to get to know the dragon. All in all, the main characters have a bigger impact in the story and do become more interesting.
2) Multiple Stories. The Rite has four main story-lines going on within the novel. The first is Dorn, Raryn, Chatulio, and Kara are off to a temple in search of some knowledge concerning the rage. This story was a little more basic, but it was undeniably attack pack. Then you have Will and Pavel looking into another lead, and it was pretty much the same. It was action packed, but it seemed to have something more added in. We also have Taegan traveling to Thentia to meet up with the hunters and offer his assistance, and that was a different type of story. It comes off as more of a mystery and adds something very different to the novel. Finally, we have war ravaging the country of Damara. Now, I will say that the final story-line is by far the weakest of the bunch. It seemed like it was thrown into just to help pad out the plot, but it still was exciting to read. With so much happening, one would think that it would be hard to follow. But this wasn’t the case. Everything was pretty easy to follow. I had no trouble recalling some of the events that happened a chapter ago. It was especially helpful when each story-line is distinctly different. However, it doesn’t really come together quite as smoothly at the end. In fact, the epilogue felt more like a rushed recap of everything. But, having multiple story-lines felt like I was getting more out of the story.

Side Notes:
1) Dragons. There are so many types of dragons that it’s getting a little ridiculous. I’m starting to get a little sick of seeing a new kind being introduced almost every other chapter. It’s got to stop or down the line we’ll get something like a ‘wood dragon’ that’s made of wood and breathes out splinters.
2) Editing. Did anyone really edit this book? Seriously, I’ve found so many misspelled words, misplaced words (saying so instead of do or to), and a major lack of indenting new paragraphs. It does get bothersome, but it was easy to read over some of these mistakes.
3) Cover Art. The Rite‘s cover art is okay. The warriors in the foreground don’t really look that good and seem a little odd to me. The dragon kind of looks silly and not as threatening as it should be. The scene on the cover doesn’t happen in the novel, to the best of my recollection. Also, is it just me or is the colors needlessly dark? However, it does do a good job and drawing you eye with the lightning bolts. Overall, it isn’t that impressive, but it does its job with drawing your eye.

Overall: 3/5
Final Thoughts:
The Rite is a definite improvement over the previous novel, but still has a number of issues. The worst thing that I found was the amount of deus ex machina going on. With the small things, it wasn’t that much of a problem. However, after ‘the god machine’ himself, Brimstone, makes an appearance, it become unbearable and annoying. It just gave me a headache seeing all these ‘random’ things start happening to either help out the characters or move the story along. Also, I am still not liking Dorn. He comes across as too whiny about his lot in life and it started get on my nerves. Also, the relationship between Dorn and Kara have is as awkwardly unnecessary as possible. However, the rest of the characters really do shine. They all seem to have a bigger and more important role this time around and it really helps in their development. The multiple story-lines also help in this regard. With the group of characters split up, they each got a moment, or two, to really shine and become more than what they were. It also helps that while reading it felt like I was reading shorter stories combined into one major story. However, with that said, I am still reluctant to recommend this. While The Rite is an improvement, I think it still has a long way to go.

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