Farthest Reach by Richard Baker
Posted by travizzt on December 30, 2010
Farthest Reach is the second book in The Last Mythal trilogy. The first book is titled Forsaken House and the final book is 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. Farthest Reach was released in July 2005 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Araevin Teshurr is trying to understand his new-found magical knowledge, granted to him by the mysterious Nightstar. After declining to stay at Tower Reilloch and learning high magic, Araevin decides that he has learned everything he could from the mages there and sets off to discover more about the mysterious Nightstar. His journey for knowledge leads him to the city of Silverymoon and its store of arcane knowledge. There he meets up with his betrothed Ilsevele and his two companions, the genasi Maresa and an elf cleric Filsaelene, and goes to work searching for answers. Hundreds of miles away, the daemonfey queen Sarya Dlardrageth is fuming over her defeat by the elves of Evermeet. She and her army find themselves in the ruins of an ancient elven city named Myth Drannor, where the elves of Faerûn last met with failure and were forced to Retreat to Evermeet. There she waits for the elven army to come, knowing that they won’t succeed in defeating her this time, thanks to the help of a demon prince. At the site of Sarya’s old base of operations, Seiveril Miritar is searching for the daemonfey, hoping to rid the world of their evil once and for all. After finally finding their location, thanks to the help of Araevin, Lord Miritar moves his army to the forest of Cormanthor and prepares to take back Myth Drannor and put an end to the daemonfey forever.
1) Characters. Farthest Reach, like the previous book, has major problems with its characters. There are too many and almost no one has any real personalities or grow during the novel. Unlike Forsaken House, Farthest Reach does have less characters, but there are still enough of them to become confusing. The characters seem to be little more than stick figures, being almost transparent. The main characters only show maybe two different emotions without the story. The first is anger and the other emotion is generic sadness. There are shades of other emotions, but they are fleeting and barely show long enough to warrant mentioning. Another major issue with the characters is that it seems a lot of characters are quickly forgotten. After being rescued by Araevin in the previous book, Filsaelene is only there for two chapters before melting into the background. Another character who appears late in the novel, Jorin Kell Harthan. He helps the main characters in their quest to find the knowledge that Araevin is seeking. However, during most of the action scenes he is in, it seems like he is totally forgotten. We learn where everyone else is and what they are doing, but I don’t remember ever seeing anything talking about what he is doing or where he was positioning himself. Finally, we have a side story about a tracker named Curnil. He gets quite a few scenes throughout the novel, but there seemed to be no real point of him being featured. If he wasn’t there, we could have had more time devoted to character development of the main characters. Overall, the characters in Farthest Reach were extremely disappointing and are easily forgettable.
2) Lore. Farthest Reach relies heavily on Forgotten Realms lore. It really seems like you need a heavy background in events and knowledge of the surrounding world. This does cause some issues while reading. It causes the average reader to not really understand what is going on. If you don’t know anything about the area, the people, or the history around the Cormanthor forest, you would probably be extremely lost. Also, it slows the story down. If you do some research, then the lore isn’t that bad and it is bearable. However, there is a lot that is mentioned that you may need some extra background. Overall, the massive amounts of references really does make reading Farthest Reach hard to follow and understand at times.
1) Story. If you can get past the character flaws and the lore, Farthest Reach is a very exciting and interesting story. It continues the feeling of being epic and important, much like Forsaken House did. This time, the adventuring part of the novel seems to be the main focus. It’s an exciting adventure, that’s not in the norm for a typical Forgotten Realms novel. Most adventures are action focused, but with this one is more knowledge and learning focused. Farthest Reach takes more time in setting up the adventuring aspect more than relying on action to carry it along. Most of the adventure focuses on Araevin finding information about the origin of the Nightstar and other things about concerning it. Amazingly this is exciting. Mostly because it is vastly different from the norm and words carry more meaning than swordplay. Farthest Reach still does have action, but it seemed secondary to everything else. It’s just different, and that makes the story all the more interesting.
2) Maresa. Once again, the genasi is the only entertaining character. She does have a smaller role in this story, but she still makes the most of it. She steals a lot of the scenes she’s in. Her personality is undeniable and gives a lot to these scenes. She’s the only one that has a real personality. She’s a loudmouth, smart mouth character who effortlessly grabs your attention and holds it. She’s just likeable. If more scenes revolved around her, the other character’s flaws wouldn’t be as noticeable. I just wish she had more to give the story.
3) Political Warfare. I mentioned that Farthest Reach isn’t like the normal Forgotten Realms novel and that it relies mostly on words instead of swords. Even with a warlike atmosphere, the treaties, promises, and interactions between the characters seemed to have most of the focus. Basically, the political aspects are more important than anything else in the story. The intrigue and backstabbing the protagonists and antagonist do is really compelling and interesting. The backstabbing that happens with the antagonists of Farthest Reach is the best part. It was interesting to see how the these antagonists try to out do one another. It was almost like a chess game. The antagonists tried to get things in their favor with stepping on the backs of everyone else. All the backstabbing was just interesting and gave the story something more.
1) Star Elves. It’s not often that star elves are brought up in the novels and it’s a shame. I think that they need to be in the spotlight more often, because they do seem like an interesting race with a lot of lore and history.
2) Eladrin. It’s nice to see an eladrin before they became more prominent in the Realms, but what did it do to Araevin? I don’t quite understood what happened to him.
3) Cover Art. The cover art for Farthest Reach has the same problem as Forsaken House, but it’s leaps and bounds better. You still are more focused on the white borders than anything else. Aside from that rehashed complaint, the actually artwork isn’t that bad. Sarya and the skeleton, I think it’s the demon prince Malkizid, look great. Although, Sarya’s skin-tone should be a reddish hue and not tan. The flash of green in the background really does catch your eye and distracts you from the awful border. It’s eye catching and interesting. It’s also the best cover for The Last Mythal trilogy.
Final Thoughts: 4/5
Farthest Reach is a great sequel, with a problem that continues to hamper the trilogy. The characters are bland and have almost no personalities. It’s amazing that this book still is really good, even with horrible characters that harm the overall experience. They just aren’t memorable or interesting enough for me to care about the majority of them. Another issue, and a smaller on at that, is that Farthest Reach is full of Forgotten Realms lore and if you don’t know anything about Myth Drannor or the lands around the Cormanthor forest, you’ll be lost. You can still get by it, but it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. However, the story is great. It’s exciting and keeps you interested. It doesn’t rely on action scenes to carry the story along. Instead, the dialogue and wordplay really keeps you interested. That’s surprising for a fantasy novel. Once again, the only interesting character is Maresa. She continues to steal the show, mostly because of her personality. You can’t help but to like her. She’s just great. Finally, all the backstabbing that happens with the antagonists was interesting and adds something different to the story. Farthest Reach is a hard recommendation. If you’re a new reader to the Forgotten Realms line of novels, I would say skip it. Otherwise, if you have knowledge of the Realms and enjoyed the first book, pick this one up.