Sandstorm by Christopher Rowe
Posted by travizzt on April 8, 2011
Sandstorm is a stand-alone novel set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. This novel is Christopher Rowe’s debut novel, but he has written a few short stories along with writing a short story set in the Forgotten Realms called “Feast of the Moon” for the Realms of the Dead anthology. Sandstorm was released in March 2011 and was published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.
After only knowing how to survive in a gladiatorial arena all his life, Cephas urns to escape his prison. He is denied touching the solid ground, else his earthsouled genasi heritage may manifest. Thankfully, his chances for escaping may have just improved. Watching the floating earthmote and the young genasi gladiator with interest is Corvus Nightfeather, a kenku (a humanoid hawk). The kenku, along with his circus troupe, named the Circus of Wonders, plan an escape/rescue attempt for the young genasi. After the successful escape, Cephas finally touches the earth and hears its song, but learns that his rescuers has plans for him.
1) Plot. There is one major problem with Sandstorm and it’s the hard to follow plot. The story starts off simple enough with Cephas escaping from the gladiatorial arena and slavery, then becoming the strongman of Corvus’ circus, and then learning what it means to be an earthsoul. These things alone could have made for an entertaining story and could have taken it in a whole different direction. Instead the plot is a confusing mess of elements thrown together, creating a mess. Truth be told, it’s hard to talk about Sandstorm‘s plot because I honestly couldn’t follow it past Cephas learning the abilities that all earthsoul’s have. From that point on, it seemed like everything jumps around from one scene to the next with no rhyme or reason. There were even some scenes that didn’t need to be included because they added almost nothing to the story, other than to add another element to the ever-growing mess of a plot. They just felt like padding instead of an actual plot. If Sandstorm kept going with how it started, it wouldn’t have been such a confusing mess.
2) Antagonists. The other problem with Sandstorm is that there weren’t any real antagonists. There were a few characters that could be considered antagonists, but none of them really felt like they were. The problem mostly comes from the short time that these characters appear in the story. The most dominant of the supposed antagonists only appear for an eighth of the book, not really giving them much time for the reader to feel like they were the villains. It also didn’t help that after they showed up, there were large gaps between their next appearance. It got to the point that whenever they showed up, I forgot who they were. However, this little issue wouldn’t have been so bad if they actually came off as villains in stead of just another character thrown in. The supposed antagonists all felt like just new characters or, in some cases, background characters. They didn’t feel developed or even that important in the long run. If Sandstorm had any antagonists, they sure didn’t make their presence known.
1) Characters. Sandstorm did have an interesting and diverse cast of characters. While the main characters could have used a bit more development, they were still interesting. Most of the interest comes from the main cast being very unique. The main character, Cephas, was the more basic of the cast, but still had that unique quality to him. The main thing about him was that he saw the outside world through fresh and new eyes. It may have not been anything that new or that fresh, but it still was interesting to experience. I just wish that there would have been more of this with his character instead of him seemingly ‘going with the flow’ after the a few chapters. On the flip side, Corvus was the most exotic character, but this is mostly due to his race. I haven’t read any stories featuring or talking about kenku’s but now I’m interested. Corvus was full of mystery and you never really knew what he was planning, which made him feel different from the rest of the main cast. You never really knew what side he was on. The other characters in the Circus of Wonders really did steal the show. From the deadly acrobatic halfling twins, Shan and Cynda, to the old, crippled ranger, Mattias, they were memorable. The twins were unique because they couldn’t speak and had to use body language to get what they want to say across. This did work surprisingly well and it seemed like I could understand what they were trying to convey. With Mattias, you never really know who he really is. For almost the whole length of the novel, we only see him as an old, crippled ranger. He does seem to be very competent, but I was surprised by how competent he really is. However, the character that stole the book is the goliath Tobin. Tobin was just something else and wasn’t what I would have ever expected. When you picture a huge goliath, you would assume that he would be a strong, maybe dumb character, but Tobin really isn’t those things. All Tobin wants to be is a clown and entertain people. Sure he was strong, but he was constantly entertaining. Tobin had charisma and it really showed through reading. Overall, Sandstorm has some great characters that made the story feel unique.
2) Pacing. Sandstorm is also a fast paced and exciting read. As soon as you pick up the novel, you’re hooked in and you may find it hard to put down. The action was fast and made you want to keep going. It even seemed like this is one of those books that you could finish in a day, if you had the time. It was just exciting to read and it never felt boring or slowed down.
1) Genasi. Sandstorm really helps give you an understanding of what and who the Genasi are. It’s the first book, to my knowledge, to really delve into the race.
2) Current Events. If were wondering what happened to the nation of Calimshan after the Spellplague, Sandstorm really delves into it.
3) Cover Art. I have one word to say concerning the cover art for Sandstorm; awesome. It’s just awesome. I can’t explain it better than that. It’s exciting and while it’s mostly muted browns and grays, it feels colorful and vibrant. It’s full of action with having Cephas looking like he is about to smash the displacer beast’s (the panther-like creature) head in with his double-headed flail. It’s exciting and really gets you pumped up for what you’re about to get into.
Sandstorm is a good book that has a lot of problems holding it back. The plot is hard to follow and at times seems almost nonexistent. The book does start out very promising, but it seems like there was too much happening all at once along with it feeling like there was way too many things to cover. Also, there didn’t seem to be any antagonist or villains. There were some that could be considered the “bad guys”, but they never seemed to be there enough to be considered as the villain. Once again, it seems like the book had too much going on and felt like it was meant to be more than a stand-alone novel. Thankfully, the characters were unique and very memorable, the best being the goliath clown Tobin. The other characters were still good, but are never going to be as memorable as Tobin. Also, this book is a fast read. As soon as you pick it up, you’ll lose track of time. Overall, Sandstorm did have a lot of potential, but it felt as though it needed to be longer or split up into another book. For new readers to the Realms, this may be a little confusing at times, but it is fairly easily to follow with little to no knowledge of the world. As for a general recommendation, I do think that Sandstorm is worth a read, just be prepared for a confusing plot.