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The Seal of Karga Kul by Alex Irvine

Posted by travizzt on December 18, 2010

Remy was just supposed to deliver a box to a town along the coast, but instead finds himself in a conflict between good and evil.

The Seal of Karga Kul by Alex Irvine

The Seal of Karga Kul is the second stand-alone novel in the new setting of novels based on the Dungeons and Dragons universe called Dungeons and Dragons. The first book released in the new line is The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek, but you do not need to read it to understand what is happening in The Seal of Kara Kul. Alex Irvine has written a number of novels and has worked on a number of comic books. His original fiction includes; A Scattering of Jades, One King, One Soldier, The Narrows, Buyout, and a novella called Mystery Hill. Most of his work is with licensed novels which include; a novel in The New Isaac Asimov’s Robert Mysteries series titled Have Robot, Will Travel, a Batman novel titled Batman: Inferno, a book based off Marvel Comics’ Ultimates series called The Ultimates: Against All Odds, two novels based of The Supernatural television show called The “Supernatural” Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls and Supernatural: John Winchestor’s Journal, two novels based off of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man titled Iron Man: Virus and Iron Man 2: The Junior Novel, a Transformers based novel titled Transformers: Exodus, and he has an upcoming novel in the Star Wars universe which is expected to be due out sometime in late 2011. He also worked on The Vertigo Encyclopedia. He has written for a few comic books and they are; Hellstorm: Son of Satan, Daredevil: Noir, The Murder of King Tut, Iron Man: The Rapture, and the upcoming Dark Sun: Ianto’s Tomb series. He has also written a number of short stories. The Seal of Karga Kul was released December of 2010 and published by Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

A young messenger named Remy finds himself nearing death alone in a wasteland. Thankfully, he is saved by a group of adventurers, lead by a dragonborn paladin named Biri-Daar. Feeling like he owes the group for saving his life, Remy follows them to a trading outpost. Along the way, the group learns of the box that Remy is to deliver to a near-by town. After finding out that Remy has no idea what the box contains, Biri-Daar tells Remy that whatever it is, it can’t be good and urges him to travel with them to the city of Karga Kul. Remy is hesitant, but soon gives in do to feeling like he owes the group for saving his life. During the journey, Remy finds out that everything he thought he knew was a lie and he finds himself caught up in a conflict bigger than he could imagine.

1) Writing Style. The writing style is hard to follow and very frustrating. It’s full of short, quick scenes that don’t offer up much description. It comes off as rushed, but without feeling the need to hurry up and read. Basically, it’s fast on action, but slow on delivery. Because of the lack of description, it is really hard to know who is who. After a while, I couldn’t tell who was who between the two elves of the group, Lucan and Iriani. What’s worse is that one of them is a half-elf and I still couldn’t tell them apart. It was hard to figure out who the ranger was and who the wizard was. The way battles are described is another problem I had. The fight scenes were very hard to follow and picture. Things happened at a random pace, with not a lot of description to back up what was happening. Instead of the a fast-paced, exciting battle, it’s a mess of clunky scenes and random events. So when Remy attacks a hobgoblin, it seems like he is attacking twenty of them along with his allies instead of one. Then when everyone else is tossed into the fight, it becomes even more crazy and confusing. Also, the segues into most of the fights and battles were horrible. They just come off as just plain silly, with saying things like, “Little did they know, what awaited them down the river” or “They will find out the truth of the stories”. It’s silly and very annoying. Thankfully, the writing style does become slightly easier to read as the story goes on, but it’s still horribly frustrating and very hard to get into.
2) First Half Dialogue. The dialogue in the first half of The Seal of Karga Kul was just plain terrible. It’s choppy, bland, and seems to jump around when people are speaking to one another. Conversations don’t have any pacing or natural flow to them. Which makes it hard to follow what is being said and what the point of it is. This also causes there to be a lack of camaraderie between the characters. I couldn’t believe that these characters even cared about one another. In fact, when a friend and companion dies, they barely say anything or even emote sadness at the loss. Instead, they just continue on their way with maybe a word or two said in the characters honor. But, the words said don’t convey any sense of sadness nor loss. It’s frustrating to say the least. In the simplest terms, the dialogue is there to just tell the reader what they need to know in the most simplest terms possible. However, even with how simple things are, they are still conveyed in the most ridiculous and round-a-bout way imaginable. There were even times when the dialogue didn’t really match what was going on. Thankfully, the dialogue does become more bearable later in the story, but it’s still plagued with unemotional deliveries and round-a-bout ways of saying things. Overall, the dialogue was horribly written and doesn’t seem like anything a rational, nor real, being would say.
3) Characters. The characters in The Seal of Karga Kul were one-dimensional, unemotional beings. There is almost no emotion that these characters show. They come off as robotic in their delivery. It seemed like the characters never really cared for what was going on. When Remy was saved from the edge of death at the beginning, I never felt like he was grateful towards the group. When a party member and friend dies, no one even bats on eye at it. They just roll with it. It’s like no one even cared about the person enough to stop and mourn the loss. In fact, these characters just seemed to just be concerned about themselves. Another issue is that the characters all seemed to have one distinct quality about them. Remy was the aloof character who just went with the flow of things. He did have his moments, but they didn’t create any new perspective towards his character. With Biri-Daar, she was almost the same as Remy, aloof. However, she also seemed the most emotionally distant of the group. She didn’t care when someone was injured, all she thought about was her mission and her mission only. It’s annoying and I couldn’t believe that anyone would look to her for leadership. The ranger of the group, Lucan, was slightly better out of everyone because he had a tempter and he used it at the right times. That’s his defining trait. The wizard, Iriani, was just forgettable and blended in with the background. It’s almost not worth mentioning him. The groups thief, Kithri, was probably the best of the original group, but still was pretty bad. She was the funny one, but she wasn’t funny and her joking manner became annoying quickly. Soon she also found herself lost in the scenery of the story. Finally, the groups priest, Keveral didn’t really do much and was little better than Iriani. He did have some interesting things to say, but he never had a presence in the story. However, two other characters show up towards the end and where the best characters of the story, by far. One was interesting, mysterious and had complex motivations. The other was probably the most rounded character in the story, but I’ll talk about them later. Overall, the characters were terrible and didn’t really add anything to the story, the really just made things worse with their attitudes and lack of emotional depth.

1) Paelias. Thankfully, Paelias, the eladrin, does help the story become slightly better. He was memorable. He was complex, interesting, and fun. He’s jokes never came off as terrible. He was the only character out of them all that had a personality that seemed more real. He had an interesting back story that made him all the more interesting. Why was he as carefree has he seemed to be? He brought a lot to the story in terms of character depth. He didn’t really show any emotions, but he was still a blast when he spoke up. For the short time he is in the story, he really does make a huge impact.
2) Obek. The other interesting and memorable character is the tiefling Obek. He brought something different to the group. Between Paelias and him, they give life to the personality-dead group. When he joins the group, there suddenly is a sense of camaraderie between the members. It’s amazing what one character can do. He brought some more humor, but with a serious side to him. He’s likeable and has a lot of mystery behind him, which helped make him much more interesting. He also helps in making the story more readable.

Side Notes:
1) Lore. The tales and stories that are told within The Seal of Karga Kul were really interesting. They do help in being the world some much-needed life. I would almost say that it would have been more interesting to read about the Road-builder or the war between the dragonborn and tiefling empires.
2) The Appendix. There is an appendix that talks about the dragonborn race. It’s interesting seeing how they came to be and how their gods work.
3) Cover Art. The Seal of Karga Kul has some action heavy cover art and it’s good. Seeing Biri-Daar go up against a male dragonborn does look pretty impressive. It’s also interesting to see the group behind them trying to take out a lich. This scene also happens in the story and really does help bring that scene to life. The colors are eye catching as well. The greenish-blue background, the red shields, and the purple armor really do a good job at catching the eye. All in all, it’s a good cover.

Overall: 2/5
Final Thoughts:
The Seal of Karga Kul isn’t very good. It’s better than the first book, Bill Slavicsek’s The Mark of Nerath, in the new novel line, but I was hoping for something more readable. The problem with The Seal of Karga Kul starts and ends at the beginning of the book. It’s rough to get through. The writing style is hard to get into and follow. Things happen at such a rapid pace, but it seems like nothing it going on. It does get a little better towards the last half, but it’s still very noticeable. The dialogue is clunky and doesn’t flow. There is no emotion behind anything that is said. It almost seems like the characters are robotic. The characters are almost all one-dimensional and bland. Even with added two interesting characters in Paelias and Obek, they couldn’t save the story. There was just too much wrong with it. I can’t help but feel very disappointed in this new novel line. I just hope that the next entry makes things better. I can not recommend The Seal of Karga Kul to an average reader. I can not recommend The Seal of Karga Kul to a Dungeons and Dragons fan. However, I will recommend it to those extremely well versed in Dungeons and Dragons, I hope that they can find more enjoyment out of this than I could.

2 Responses to “The Seal of Karga Kul by Alex Irvine”

  1. Gilgondorin said

    Dude, totally. I can’t agree more with like, 95% of what was said here, the 5% being that most of the deaths of the characters in this book were almost completely pointless. Iriani AND Kithri both died because of a fluke that Biri-Daar caused (still halfway cool character though, only on the novelty that she’s part dragon), and Paelias and Biri-Daar both killed themselves for no reason; in fact, Biri-Daar’s death was probably the most needless death I’ve ever read in any book yet.

    Someone somewhere said that the author tried to make the book deep and dark by killing off characters, and I agree that he blew it. They also said this storyline, while golden otherwise, would have been great stretched out across 2 or even 3 volumes; I guess either the author just wanted to get the book over and done with, or he got screwed on the book deal with the publisher (which I’m more willing to believe, considering this is already part of a stand-alone series).

    • travizzt said

      Exactly what I was thinking. I really do believe that Wizards of the Coast dropped the ball on this book and The Mark of Nerath when launching this new novel line. I really do think that the publisher had everything to do with it, which is sad. This book could have been a wonderful series, but alas, it’ll never be.

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