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The Temple of Yellow Skulls by Don Bassingthwaite

Posted by travizzt on April 20, 2011

A plague has been unleashed, and it’s up to Albanon to prevent it from spreading. If that’s even possible.

The Temple of Yellow Skulls by Don Bassingthwaite

The Temple of Yellow Skulls is the first book in The Abyssal Plague trilogy. The sequel by James Wyatt titled the Oath of Vigilance is due out August 2011 and is the only other book in the trilogy that has been announced. The third and final book has yet to have an official title at the time of this review. The Abyssal Plague trilogy is set in the Dungeons and Dragons novel line. However, the Abyssal Plague spreads into other novel lines. There is an origin novella titled The Gates of Madness by James Wyatt and a prelude by Bill Slavicsek titled The Mark of Nerath. The ‘plague’ also spreads into the Forgotten Realms novel line with Sword of the Gods by Bruce R. Cordell and Shadowbane by Erik Scott de Bie, as well as entering the Dark Sun line with Under the Crimson Sun by Keith R. A. DeCandido. Don Bassingthwaite has written other novels that are set in shared universes. He has written four Worlds of Darkness based novels; Such Pain, Breathe Deeply, Pomegranates Full and Fine, and As One Dead with Nancy Kilpatrick. He wrote two Dark’Matter novels; If Whispers Call and By Dust Consumed. He also wrote two stand alone novels set in the Forgotten Realms universe; a book in The Rogues series titled The Yellow Silk and a book in The Priests series titled The Mistress of the Night with Dave Gross. He also wrote two trilogies in the Eberron universe; The Dragon Below (The Binding Stone, The Grieving Tree, and The Killing Song) and The Legacy of Dhakaan (The Doom of Kings, Word of Traitors, and The Tyranny of Ghosts). The Temple of Yellow Skulls was released March 2011 and published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

The eladrin wizard Albanon finds himself bored after he and his companions took down a dragon. While most of his companion left upon returning to the city of Fallcrest, the remaining find themselves in a desperate search for adventure. The problem is that everything seems to be quiet for the time being. While Albanon, a human fighter Shara, and a sneaky halfling Uldane pass the time by in one of the local taverns, a man comes up to the three and offers a job. After introducing himself as Hakken Raid, he tells the three of his plan, very little of the plan. However, Shara isn’t convinced and tells him to leave, but due to that the three get in an argument. As Albanon heads home, he finds that someone is waiting for him, a cleric and former friend of Albanon’s mentor named Kri Redshal. Kri is looking for a container containing a substance called the Voidharrow, but Albanon informs him that it was taken. Kri is determined to get it back and demands Albanon’s assistance. However, as morning comes, Shara and Uldane don’t show up. After tracking down Shara, the three learn that Uldane has left with Hakken in search of adventure. However, by Kri’s insistence, the three go off in search of the Voidharrow instead of tracking down Uldane. After finding the last place the two saw the container, on a dying dragon, empty, the three begin to worry. Unfortunately, it isn’t good news for Uldane either, as his adventure with Raid turns out more than what it was.

Criticisms:
1) Antagonists. The only real issue with The Temple of Yellow Skulls is that the antagonists came off as way too powerful, only to not live up to it in the end. This issue isn’t a huge problem, but it does leave the reader with a slight feeling of being letdown. The other thing is that the antagonist shouldn’t have been as powerful as they came off to be. For the majority of the novel, it felt like they could never been defeated. They just came off as unstoppable and really made it feel like the protagonists never stood a chance. However, it’s still not a big problem and doesn’t take away from the overall experience.

Positives:
1) Characters. The characters in The Temple of Yellow Skulls are interesting and fun. There wasn’t a wasted main character and everyone felt different and unique. Out of all the major players, the only one that felt average was Shara. She wasn’t a bad character, but she could have been explored deeper. The others came off as slightly better, depth-wise. Uldane had added a lot of levity to the story, however he still surprised me during a certain point in the story. Kri felt average, for the most part, but there was something about him that you knew was being held back. This made him all the more interesting. Hakken had this personality that you know you couldn’t trust or even like. This worked perfectly has he was the main antagonist of the story. It still was surprising by how much I didn’t trust anything he said or did. However, Albanon seemed like the most interesting character, but it’s hard to pin down why. It could be that he seemed to be the more identifiable character in the story or it could have been that he had the most development. He was just great. All in all, the characters help the story stay interesting and fun.
2) Story. The story itself was an exciting and fast paced ride. It’s one those stories that force you to keep reading. The Temple of Yellow Skulls is perfectly paced. It’s fast, but it slows down just when the reader needs it to. It’s full of action which helps with the fast paced, exciting feeling that the story has. It’s also very easy for a new reader to jump right into. The story is just perfectly told and it would be hard to make it any better.
3) Plague. The Temple of Yellow Skulls has a lot of creepy and disturbing scenes when it comes to the Voidharrow and the Abyssal Plague. These scenes aren’t frightening or gross out moments, but instead just wrong. You can feel the wrongness of the Voidharrow and all it corrupts, and it really adds a lot to the novel. You almost want it stopped, that is something I never would have expected.

Side Notes:
1) Background. In order to gain a better understanding of what is happening in The Temple of Yellow Skulls, it would be a good idea to read through the short the novella titled The Gates of Madness by James Wyatt for the origin of the Voidharrow. It would be another good idea to read The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek to get introduced to the characters, even through I am hesitant to say that. You can still get by perfectly fine, but these two things may help here and there.
2) Editing. The Temple of Yellow Skulls has a lot of minor editing issues. These aren’t that noticeable, but I’m sure anyone can at least find one error while reading.
3) Cover Art. The Temple of Yellow Skulls has a very eye catching and interesting cover. The short version is that it’s good. It’s very good. It’s full of action and makes you want to pick up the book. The warm coloring really adds to that excitement factor. The reds and yellows really give you that sense of excitement. Seeing Kri and Albanon take on some strange creature makes you wonder who or what it is. It’s just eye catching.

Overall: 5/5
Final Thoughts:
The Temple of Yellow Skulls is a fantastic novel. There really isn’t anything bad about the book, and what could be considered a problem is only barely an issue. The antagonists may have felt a little overpowered, but it never felt wrong or frustrating. It was just noticeable, especially during the last few chapters. Everything else is just wonderful. The characters are all interesting and unique. Albanon was my personal favorite and I still can’t quite grasp why. The story was wonderful. It was paced perfectly. It was a fast paced experience with just enough short pauses in action to let you take a breath. I never wanted to put the book down for too long. Also I never would have thought that I would want the Abyssal Plague stopped as much as I do after reading this. This was just a great book so of course I’d recommend checking it out. Even someone new to Dungeons and Dragons novels would probably enjoy The Temple of Yellow Skulls.

One Response to “The Temple of Yellow Skulls by Don Bassingthwaite”

  1. grrDonDon said

    tempting to get this one, after such a great recommendation, but the only thing stopping me is that I had been sticking to the Forgotten realms setting thus far, and am a bit afraid of the whole DnD world (as it’s totally alien to me). But maybe as you pointed out – this one is a good starting point.

    grrDonDon

    PS.looking forward to your next review – Sword of the Gods (back into Forgottens again!),

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