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Forsaken House by Richard Baker

Posted by travizzt on December 22, 2010

Ancient evil has return and is seeking revenge. It’s up to the elf mage Araevin to unravel the mystery and save the elves of Faerûn.

Forsaken House by Richard Baker

Forsaken House is the first book in The Last Mythal trilogy. The second book is titled Farthest Reach and the final book is titled Final Gate. The Last Mythal trilogy is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Richard Baker has written a number of books, most of which are set in the Forgotten Realms. His Forgotten Realms work includes; the eighth book in the Double Diamond Triangle saga titled Easy Betrayals, a stand-alone book titled The Shadow Stone, a book in The Cities series titled The City of Ravens, the third book in R. A. Salvatore’s War of the Spider Queen series titled Condemnation, and the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy which includes Swordmage, Corsair, and Avenger. He has written another book outside the Forgotten Realms for the Star*Drive series of novels titled Zero Point. Forsaken House was released in August 2004 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

After a brutal attack on a wizards tower on the island of Evermeet, the elves of the island learned that something important was stolen from the tower’s vault. Araevin Teshurr discovers the exact artifact that is missing, a shard that is capable of removing any magical ward. He also discovers the body of one of the towers archmages, and finds a hidden gemstone on the body. The gemstone, as Araevin discovers, is called a telkiira and holds information within the gems depths. After unraveling the mystery encased in the gem, Araevin goes off to seek another telkiira to hopefully shed more light on attackers. He brings along his betrothed, Ilsevele, with him and goes to Faerûn to find the gem. He also puts a call out to his old traveling companions in hopes that they will assist. However, the beings who attacked the tower and stole the shard are planning something bigger. Revenge. They prepare for an all out war on the elves of Faerûn. After catching wind of the march against the elves of Faerûn, the elven refuge of Evermeet has a decision to make. Send help to their brethren or offer them to retreat to the island and prepare for an attack there.

Criticisms:
1) Amount of Characters. The biggest problem I had with Forsaken House is the vast amount of characters that are in the novel. There are about fifty-seven people brought up throughout the story. About ten of those only appear once or twice during the story, and were easy to forget. They didn’t really play any major part and were just there to fill in a need for a name. Then you are left with about forty-seven characters. About twenty of those characters are just bit players. They are seen once or twice, say their parts, and leave. That leaves about twenty-seven characters left who play a big role. Some may not have that as much scene time as others, but it quickly became hard to remember who was who. What’s worse is that a lot of the names are very similar to one another and it can cause a bit of confusion. Another major draw back due to the vast amount of people is that there is hardly any character development. For example, let’s take the easiest character to remember, Araevin. Why was he the easiest to remember? Because he was the main character. However, he had almost no character development. By the end of the story, he was just like he was when it started. Sure he learned a new spell or twenty, but that’s not development. That’s just picking up a new trick. When there are a vast amount of characters, it becomes hard to remember them and there is a lack of real development for them, which makes not very memorable.
2) Background. Another problem with Forsaken House is that you need a good amount of background in Dungeons and Dragons and Forgotten Realms in order to really understand everything that is going on. There are a lot of references to events that aren’t (to my knowledge) told in other novels, but in source books for the pen and paper game. There is also references to other series and other author’s works as well. Truth be told, a lot of Forgotten Realms books are like that, but most of them do go into greater detail with things that the average reader wouldn’t know. With Forsaken House, there is a lot of references that aren’t necessarily explained as thoroughly as they could have been. Now, I would call myself ‘knowledgeable’ on the Forgotten Realms, but I found myself scratching my head more times than not. There are things referenced that I had no idea happened, and that I had no idea where I could find information about these things and events. The amount of references does become distracting and annoying, and would probably turn off a newer reader.

Praises:
1) Descriptions. The best part about Forsaken House is the very detailed descriptions. Everything was vivid. You could easily picture almost anything that was mentioned. In other words, the descriptions are perfect. Everything that needed to be described was. However, there is an unfortunate side-effect to having extremely detailed descriptions. The story is very slow. The descriptions are so good that it bogs the story down at various times. This isn’t such a bad thing in this case, it actually works to the story’s advantage. It helps the story seem more real and helps place you into it. It’s rare that this happens, that a slow story is this good. The descriptions really help you picture the world in greater detail.
2) Maresa. Out of all the characters, she seemed the most interesting. Maresa is the daughter of one of Araevin’s old traveling companions. For someone who is a minor character, she really made an impact on me. She had the most personality out of everyone and really did leave a huge impression. She also has that mysterious background quality to her. Not a lot is known about her and it adds an element of the unknown. When her past is brought up, she doesn’t really answer it directly. Instead, she takes a very indirect method and it felt unique. The more she talked, the more she became interesting. She’s not the average adventurer. She’s extremely cocky, snarky, and gets in your face. It just made me like her more. Maresa really added some much-needed character to this story and was one of the more memorable characters.
3) Story. Forsaken House has something you don’t see in very many Forgotten Realms novels, political intrigue. Sure there’s the usual adventure that is found in a lot of Forgotten Realms novels, but it’s downplayed. It seemed like the story wanted to focus more on the elven court and what it means to go to war than on the adventure aspect. Truthfully, it felt like the real story was if Evermeet would send aid or not, instead of Araevin finding the other telkiira. The political intrigue seemed more important. I may not be very good at understanding politics, but it was interesting to see it play a big role in Forsaken House. Now don’t get me wrong. Araevin finding the other telkiira was interesting, but I just felt like the more political aspect of the story mattered more. This novel had a very different, and welcomed, feel to it.

Side Notes:
1) The Company of the White Star. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the adventurers that Araevin and The Company of the White Star undertook. Plus I would have liked to see more of the relationship he had with his former friends.
2) Slow Pace. Forsaken House is very slow on developing things, however, it’s excusable. The reason for this is that it’s mostly due to the amount of amazing description there is. This is just something you should note before reading.
3) Cover Art. Honestly, I hate this cover art. It looks bland and ugly. First off, the white border that takes up half the cover annoys me. It’s almost like the artwork is ashamed to show itself and it’s distracting. Instead of focusing in on the artwork, I find myself looking at the white. However, the artwork isn’t any better. It’s not terrible, it’s just ugly. Maybe if it was the full cover, I would think it was as ugly but something about it is off-putting. Maybe it’s just the white border doesn’t go with the cover, but it’s something. The ‘demons’ in the background are a nice touch, but their faces are just wrong. The faces just don’t look good. Araevin, the main focus of the cover, doesn’t look good. What’s up with his hair? Is there wind? Is it on fire? Then what’s with his face? He has an almost emotionless look to him. I just don’t like this cover.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Forsaken House is a good story but it does have its problems. There are too many characters introduced to the reader and it’s hard to follow who’s who. I couldn’t count how many times I forgot a name or who the person was altogether. The other issue is that there is a lot of background you need to know about the history of the Forgotten Realms’ elves. You can get by without any knowledge, but you may find yourself chest deep in references and outside events. However, it’s still good a very good novel. The descriptions were fantastic. They may have slowed the pace of the novel down, but it was well worth it. Things were vivid and very easy to picture, and it made me feel like I was there. The most memorable character has to be Maresa. She has a lot of personality and she’s memorable. There wasn’t a time I forgot who she was. Also this isn’t a ‘normal’ Forgotten Realms novel. The adventure part is very played down and seems almost unimportant at times. Instead it focuses more on political intrigue and war. Basically, it felt like the events really mattered to the world. Forsaken House isn’t for those new to the Forgotten Realms universe. You do need a lot of background to really enjoy the book. However, those who are familiar with the setting, would really enjoy it. So my recommendation is to check it out if you have a good amount of knowledge of the Realms.

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