Stardeep by Bruce R. Cordell
Posted by travizzt on February 12, 2011
Stardeep is the third 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 novel, you can read the series out-of-order and should be able to pick them up without any prior knowledge. 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, The Howling Delve by Jaleigh Johnson, and The Crypt of the Moaning Diamond by Rosemary Jones. Bruce R. Cordell has written other novels set in the Forgotten Realms universe; a book in The Priest series titled Lady of Poison, a book in The Wizards series titled Darkvision, and the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy (Plague of Spells, City of Torment, and Key of Stars). He is also writing the second book in the Abyssal Plague series titled Sword of the Gods, which is due out in April 2011. He has also written a novel under the pen name of T. H. Lain titled Oath of Nerull. He has also contributed a number of short stories to various anthologies. Stardeep was released in November 2007 and was published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
Deep in the prison of Stardeep, a being of immense power and evil is held. Ten years have passed since the Traitor’s last escape attempt, thanks in part to the watchful eyes of the Keepers of Stardeep and those pledged to the Cerulean Sign tasked to keep the Traitor locked up. As the Traitor’s attempts at breaching his cell are foiled by Stardeep’s security measure, a golem-like being named Cynosure, along with the help of a Keeper named Delphe, she notices that Cynosure’s response was severely delayed. After voicing her concerns to the golem, he assures her that all is well. However, the other Keeper of Stardeep, Telarian is planning something. Elsewhere, Raidon Kane is tracking down his family’s heirloom sword that was taken from his father. After finding the man who took it, he easily gets it back but is forced to leave the city, but not before he notices that his mother’s forget-me-not amulet has changed. Worried that he may lose something that ties him to his mother, he sets off to the Yuirwood, the only place his mother talked about. When he arrives, all is not well with the elves that live there. Elsewhere, a thief by the name of Gage is on a job to recover an item that was stolen from a friend. After having a rough time taking it back to its rightful owner, he decides to tag along with her, but not solely for companionship. The items rightful owner is the elven swordswoman Kiril Duskmourn. After being reunited with the righteous sword Angul, she has Gage reiterate what happened as he stole the sword back. As Gage is telling her what happened to him, he mentions that the thieves who stole it worked for a man named Nangulis. Kiril is shocked to hear the name of her dead love and sets off to return to Stardeep, the place where her and Nangulis were Keepers ten years ago. When they arrive at the hidden prison, they learn that all is not well in Stardeep.
1) The Traitor. The main problem with Stardeep is that the Traitor never really felt that menacing. Throughout the story, the Traitor is built up to be this all-powerful evil force but it never felt like it panned out. Instead we just have little bits where the Traitor tries something small but is quickly foiled. Sure, you can argue that it’s because of the Traitor’s influence that the events in the novel unfold like they do, but up until the last fifty pages, it never felt like it was because of the Traitor. There was almost no hints or suggestions that the Traitor is pulling the strings, until close to the end. We are lead to believe that the Traitor had a hand in everything that happened, which would have been fine if it was even suggested anywhere else. The Traitor just felt very underused with all the build up that was given.
2) Lore. Stardeep‘s other problem is with the amount of previous knowledge and lore you need. The book is rather heavy on Forgotten Realms lore. Without any knowledge of what star elves are or what Sildëyuir is you may be a little lost and confused at times. Thankfully, these two things are explained enough that a casual reader would understand them quite quickly. However, there are too many other things that aren’t. There isn’t any real explanation of who exactly is the Traitor and all we know is that he used to be a star elf and almost betrayed his race. There are bits and pieces about the Traitor thrown in here and there, but for the most part, he is never really explored further. Also, aboleths are brought up but never talked about or explained. The only thing that seems to be given is that they are bad, and that’s basically it. There are other things here and there that aren’t explored as far as they could have been. This shouldn’t be the case for a stand-alone novel. Stand-alone novels should be able to bring new readers in and not alienate them with knowledge that hardcore fans would know. It shouldn’t be a requirement to have to read a Dungeons and Dragons campaign supplement to understand creatures or things. Even the casual fans of Forgotten Realm novels would be turned off at times in this story. In order to understand Stardeep fully, you would need a superior background in Forgotten Realms lore.
1) Main Characters. Stardeep does have some truly interesting and surprisingly deep main characters. Most of the main group was well-rounded and have morally grey views, which help them be a little more realistic. The best characters are Kiril, Telarian, and Gage. However, before I delve into them, I have to mention that Keeper Delphe and Raidon Kane lacked any real depth. Delphe was just oblivious to almost everything. That’s really all she was. There isn’t much else to her character other than that. On the other hand with Raidon, he didn’t really seem to have any true and believable motivation. The motivation he did have felt forced and awkward. Why try to find your long lost mother after years of not even trying to when having the ability to do so? Raidon just felt too convenient. Let’s not even go into his personality, or utter lack of one. Aside from those two characters, the other three main characters were fantastic. They were deep and brought a lot of ‘grey’ to the story. Gage is the weakest of the trio, but still had something about him. He was Stardeep‘s ‘thief with a heart of gold’ and you instantly liked him from the moment you met him. He struggles choosing between getting a job done and his friend Kiril, and it really comes to a head in the last act of the book. Now I won’t spoil anything, but his decision really brought him up a few notches in my book. From that point on, I just enjoyed Gage. Telarian really pushes the whole morally grey story. His character really is the embodiment of that. His views on what is right and what is wrong really makes you question those same things. If you ever wanted a character to make you think, Telarian is just that character. Finally we have Kiril. Kiril is just awesome, there’s no other way to put it. She isn’t your typical heroine. She’s a foul-mouthed alcoholic who just happens to be our heroine. In Stardeep, we start to see why she is like this and the horrors she’s witnessed. It really adds a lot to her character and makes her all the more interesting. She isn’t normal, by any means, and that’s what I like about her. All in all, the characters in Stardeep are good and give you a healthy dose of morally grey.
2) Action. The action scenes in Stardeep were breathtakingly awesome. Every fight scene had me on the edge of my seat wondering what is going to happen, and I wasn’t let-down. The fights were fast paced and action-packed, which helped in adding to the excitement. A lot of the fighting was also very stylized, with flying kicks and acrobatic moves. It really allowed your imagination to run wild. At times it really reminds you of a kung-fu movie. All in all, the fight scenes were awesome and definitely made Stardeep more exciting.
1) Darkvision and Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy. There are a few characters that appear in these books. Kiril appeared in Darkvision and Raidon Kane was one of the main characters in the Abolethic Sovereignty trilogy. You don’t need to read these books, but if you would like to learn more about these characters, it wouldn’t hurt.
2) Raidon Kane. Does anyone else get the feeling like Raidon is unstoppable? He just felt too powerful or good at everything. It left a bad taste in my mouth after finishing the book.
3) Cover Art. The artwork for Stardeep is interesting. It’s a good cover and it does it’s job at being eye-catching. It may not be colorful, but the muted colors do a good job at making it look interesting. The character on the cover, who I think is supposed to be Delphe, has a great pose. You wonder where she could be going and what is down there. However, something is horribly wrong with Delphe’s face. The nose seems like it was added after the rest of face and really makes the face blurry and horribly unattractive. From a distance, it looks okay, but up close it’s distracting. The last great thing about this cover is the shadow behind Delphe, who I assume is Cynosure. It adds a sense of horror to the cover, because you don’t know who or what that is and you just want to scream, “Look out behind you!” Overall, Stardeep does have an interesting cover that really grabs your attention.
Stardeep is an average story that could have been so much more. The build-up that the Traitor received throughout the story of being this horrible threat never really felt like it was realized. Instead, we get something that feels like a half-hearted attempt at explaining that the Traitor was behind it all at the end. The Traitor didn’t live up to the hype. Also, there is a lot of unexplained or unspoken lore. For a stand-alone novel meant to draw in new readers, this isn’t good. Thankfully the characters add a lot to the story. They toe the line of black and white, and are mostly morally grey. They make you question what is the right thing to do. Also, the action scenes were fantastic. They were fast paced and kept you at the edge of your seat. However, I can only recommend Stardeep for die-hard Forgotten Realms fans otherwise skip it.