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The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson

Posted by travizzt on February 4, 2011

A young man seeks revenge against the man who betrayed his family. In order to take him down, Kall Morel must discover the secrets of the Howling Delve.

The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson

The Howling Delve is the second book released in The Dungeons series of stand-alone novels. The series contains three other entries, which are written by different authors. Since each novel is a stand-alone which means you can read the series out-of-order. The Dungeons series is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. The other novels in this series are Depths of Madness by Erik Scott de Bie, Stardeep by Bruce R. Cordell, and Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones. The Howling Delve is Jaleigh Johnson’s first Forgotten Realms novel. She has written two other novels based in the Forgotten Realms. Her second novel is part of the Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep series titled Mistshore and her third novel is titled Unbroken Chain. There is going to be a sequel to Unbroken Chain titled Unbroken Chain: The Darker Road that is going to be released in July 2011. Jaleigh Johnson has also written an original novella titled Nautilus Cell. She has also written a number of short stories for various anthologies and magazines. The Howling Delve was released in July 2007 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Kall Morel seeks revenge. His father’s only friend, Balram, betrayed his family and left his father as little more than a puppet. Thankfully, Kall escaped with the help of his friend Aazen, who is also Balram’s son. As Kall wanders about trying to elude his pursuers, he stumbles into a graveyard and lies down to rest. After waking, he finds himself not where he laid down but miles away. As he tries to comprehend what happened, he is found by two people, a human named Morgan and a half-elf named Laerin. He learns that he was teleported through some sort of portal and arrived in a camp full of diggers, lead by a dwarf named Garavin. During one night, Kall comes to the aid of a young woman named Cesira, who is a mute druid. The two become friends. After spending a few years with the diggers, he returns to Amn to try to save his father but runs into a Harper sent to kill his father. The Harper, an elemental mage named Meisha Saira, lets Kall’s father live and agrees to help him track down the puppeteer, Balram. However, after seeing a pendent that Garavin carries, Meisha is plagued by dreams of her past and of her teacher Varan in a cavern called the Howling Delve. Meisha’s teacher, Varan taught her how to control the element of fire so long ago. She, among a few other elementalists, lived miles under the country of Amn, whose residents feared and hated magic, to safely learn their craft. However, Varan soon becomes obsessed with something he discovered while exploring the delve. His obsession affects his students, because without him, they have no way to leave the delve or find food. The situation becomes so disparate that one of the other students wanders off and Meisha goes after her. However, what she finds causes Meisha to confront Varan and to leave the delve, never to return. As more years pass, Kall finds a gem that is linked with Balram and after giving it to Meisha, she realizes that it’s something that Varan created. She decides to return to the delve, only to find that a lot has changed in the few years away from the place.

Criticisms:
1) Characters. For the most part, the characters in The Howling Delve were bland and uninteresting. They weren’t awful, but there was something about them that made them feel like they were “cookie-cutter” characters. There wasn’t anything really unique about any of them. Kall is just some revenge seeking character and is little more than that. He does have flashes of being more, but they aren’t pursued in greater detail. There is a lot that could have been done with his character. His relationship with his father could have been further explored, along with his relationship with Aazen. For being the main character of the story, he never felt like he was a main character. We also have Kall’s friends and companions, and they were just bland. Morgan and Laerin could have been interesting characters. They were used mostly for comic relief, but even in that aspect they were bland. They were incredibly one-dimensional. Garavin was the same way, but he was more forgettable. When he was introduced, he gave off this feeling of being important, but that feeling quickly passed. For the most part, he was forgotten by soon after he was introduced and didn’t return until the last seventy pages or so. Later in the story we are introduced to a young man named Talal, who didn’t have any presence in the story. Varan is decent and had a lot of good moments, but was ultimately forgettable. As for the antagonists, they were not great. We barely seen Balram and Aazen. It doesn’t help that they have almost no presence in the story when they are in. They don’t come across as intimidating or threatening, just boring. All in all, the characters were just bland.
2) Storytelling. The storytelling aspect of The Howling Delve felt ‘jerky’. There’s no other way to say it. There was hardly any establishing words that told of where the characters were and what they were doing. A lot of the time, characters suddenly appeared out of nowhere and it was jarring. There were a few times when a conversation was going on between two characters and suddenly another character, who was never mentioned to be anywhere near, pops up. It just felt ‘jerky’. Also during fights, it seemed like the fighters were inches apart from one another in a heartbeat. When a character is obviously on the other side of a room and is suddenly and unexpected in a challengers face, it’s jarring. This feeling continued throughout the whole novel.

Praises:
1) Meisha and Cesira. These are the only two unique and interesting characters in The Howling Delve. They both catch your interest and hold it. It could be because they are unusual and showed a lot of uniqueness in their character along with having interesting back-stories. With Cesira, she doesn’t have a well-developed back-story, but that adds to the mystery behind who she is. On top of the mystery, Cesira was a unique character. She couldn’t talk, yet the way she communicated with people was clever and interesting. It added a lot to her character. However, she could have been better developed. Her relationship to Kall could have been explored better. Also she just disappears at the end of the story, which was a letdown. Thankfully, Meisha Saira is the best character in this story and I would have liked the story to be solely focused on her. Everything about her was interesting. Her past, before Varan, had a lot of thought go into it. It really helped flesh out her personality and who she is. When she was with Varan learning her Art, her personality becomes even more fleshed out. As the story continues, she’s the only one to really change throughout the story. She becomes more three-dimensional and realistic. These two characters really make this story worth reading.
2) Meisha’s Story. The Howling Delve had two major stories that made up this novel. The main focus was on Kall’s revenge, but it wasn’t that interesting. Thankfully, Meisha’s story was fantastic and should have been the main focus of the novel. Her story had more to do with the series that this book belonged to, but aside from that it was the more interesting story. What she went through was engaging and really saved The Howling Delve from being a boring story. I would have liked to see more of Meisha’s training instead of Kall’s … whatever he did. Her story added a lot to the novel and helped in building up the end. I don’t want to give away anything about this part of the book, but it’s good.

Side Notes:
1) Amn. For a country that despises magic, they sure don’t seem to mind all the magic that goes off in this book on the surface.
2) Howlings. The Howlings are dwarven adventurers who made the Howling Delve. I would have liked to have learned more about them.
3) Cover Art. The Howling Delve has a generally creepy cover. Varan looks scary and twisted, just like he does in the book. The darker and muted colors really do help in giving this cover a disturbing look. If I ever saw that face looking at me, I would be seriously scared to death. It really does grab your interest and make you want to pick up the book.

Overall: 3/5
Final Thoughts:
The Howling Delve is an average story. The characters are mostly bland. Every once in a while they do have a good scene or two, but mostly they are bland and uninteresting. They are one-dimensional and don’t seem to really grow as the story goes on. The storytelling could use a lot of work as well. Characters seemed to appear out of thin air and there was this ‘jerky’ feeling to actions people took. Thankfully there are a few things that balance out these issues. Cesira was great. She had this mystery quality about her that I always like in characters. She could have used more characterization, but still she was memorable. That said, Meisha surpassed everyone in this story. Everything about her was fantastic. She was well-developed and pretty much carried this story on her shoulders. I do wish that the story focused more on her than anyone else. Her side story was more engaging than anything that Kall did. The Howling Delve would be a good story to pick up if you are new to the Realms, but there are a lot of issues that could turn you off.

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