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Oath of Vigilance by James Wyatt

Posted by travizzt on August 12, 2011

The Abyssal Plague is spreading faster than expected and the city of Fallcrest falling to it and only our heroes can prevent it.

Oath of Vigilance by James Wyatt

Oath of Vigilance is the second novel in The Abyssal Plague trilogy. The first book was written by Don Bassingthwaite and is titled The Temple of Yellow Skulls and Don Bassingthwaite is also writing the third book titled The Eye of the Chained God, which is due out in April 2012. 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 written by James Wyatt and is titled The Gates of Madness and a prelude novel 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. James Wyatt has written a number of novels set in the Eberron universe of Dungeons and Dragons; the third book in the stand-alone series War-Torn titled In the Claws of the Tiger and the Draconic Prophecies series which includes; The Storm Dragon, Dragon Forge, and Dragon War. James Wyatt has written a vast amount of game books for Dungeons and Dragons and its various universes. Oath of Vigilance was released August 2011 and published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Vestapalk has escaped and is now building an army of demons touched by the Voidharrow, who carry the Abyssal Plague. Shara is determined to find the dragon and stop him. After a month of searching with her halfling friend Uldane and the rescued drow Quarhaun, they haven’t found the dragon. However, they have found a large amount of its minions, almost too much of them. The situation quickly becomes more dire and their chance of survival becomes increasingly slim. Elsewhere, Kri Redshal and the eladrin mage Albanon are entering the Feywild in hopes of discovering information about the plague and the Voidharrow. However, Albanon is hesitant coming back home. It only gets worse when Kri, a priest of Ioun, tells him that the tower they seek is deep in the land ruled by Albanon’s estranged father. But something else is pushing the priest, and the closer they come to uncovering the answers, the more irrational Kri becomes. In Nera, Roghar, a dragonborn paladin of Bahamut, believes that it’s best if his friend, the tiefling warlock named Tempest, stays away from the Nentir Vale and the memories of her possession at the hands of the demon, Nu Alin. However, the relative peace they had is soon shattered during an investigation of a string of disappearances. After dealing with the problem, the two decide that it may be time to return to Fallcrest and help her face her fears. But something isn’t quite right as they see the smoke on the horizon.

Criticisms:
1) Beginning. When you first pick up Oath of Vigilance there are a few problems with the pacing and odd behavior of the characters, almost a continuity problem with them. The beginning of the book is slow. Almost painfully slow. There is a lot going on, but it feels like nothing is really happening at first. It does pick up, but it takes a while to really get going. Then we have characters that kind of resemble the characters in the previous novel, The Temple of Yellow Skulls. They have their basic traits but feel like entirely new characters. For example, Quarhaun doesn’t have a good grasp of Common (the basic language in the world) in the previous book, but now he talks in full sentences and seems to have a good grasp on the language. It can be due to being around people who speak it for a month, but still, you can’t learn the in’s and out’s of a language that quickly. It just felt odd. Also we have Shara having this strange and sudden attraction to Quarhaun. It really feels like it came out of no where and doesn’t seem like it fits her character. If they developed a relationship in that one month, it would have helped seeing it bloom. It does kind of bloom during the story, but it’s hard to get past that sudden feelings that she has towards him. Then you have Albanon remembering Tempest’s face for some odd reason. In the previous book, along with the prelude The Mark of Nerath, there wasn’t any indication that Albanon would do this. There didn’t seem to be anything more between the two than a friendship, at best. It just felt like these were different characters. It could be attributed to having another author writing a sequel. It’s not a huge issue, but it does cause the beginning feel even slower as you try to get to know these characters again.
2) Overpowering. The other issue with Oath of Vigilance is that some the characters felt overpowered. They never felt like they were in danger, aside from once or twice. Shara and Roghar seemed like they were unstoppable. Not once did it seem like these two were in danger. They really felt invincible and the hits they were taking seemed like nothing to him. At one point, Shara has her leg clawed up and yet she’s able to run across a room. It didn’t even seem to pain her until she was in relative safety, and even then she seemed okay. The only character that seemed like he was in bad shape was Quarhaun, but it’s understandable seeing as his chest was ripped up. However seeing some of the other characters taking a lot of damage, yet being no worse for wear really takes you out of the novel.

Praises:
1) Characters. While the characters felt different when starting Oath of Vigilance they did go back into their old roles fairly quickly and from then on, began to develop further. Characters were enjoyable and really felt developed by the end of the novel. However, there were some that didn’t really feel there. Uldane is a perfect example. He was more like the comic relief character, but in this novel, he isn’t there while being there. He has a few good moments, especially towards the end of the novel, but for the most part he is just there. Quarhaun, while good, felt very average. This is the first time that the reader gets to know him, but he just seemed average. For a cold-hearted drow, he was a cold-hearted drow. Not much more than that, aside from being slight likable. There was glimmers of something more, but they weren’t explored. However, this works. It makes you interesting in the character and wonder where he is going in the future. The rest was good. You can understand Shara’s destructive behavior, she is still coping with losing her father and lover to Vestapalk in The Mark of Nerath. Her actions in this story do feel like something that a person in that situation would go through. She’s believable, and her behavior really enforces that mindset she has. With Kri you really see his descent into madness and it’s wonderfully done. You feel it and there are points were you legitimately hate the guy. You see his change and you want to stop it, but you can’t. It really immerses you in a strange way. Roghar and Tempest are welcome sights and you really see how changed they are from their experiences in The Mark of Nerath. You feel Tempest’s terror and fear of Nu Alin and the Voidharrow. She’s legitimately traumatized by the experience. Then you have Roghar acting like a friend and you can’t help but like these characters. They really are enjoyable and you legitimately cheer for them. Finally we have Albanon, who undergoes a more subtle change in persona. You see how Kri is pulling his strings and you feel bad for the situation that he is in. He feels out of his element and you believe it. Then when he starts to act like a leader, you cheer him on. Then you have his change to his way of thinking later on in the story and you wonder what is in store for him. To put the characters simply, they were good and really grew on you.
2) Ending. The ending of Oath of Vigilance is exciting. There’s a lot going on and it’s presented wonderfully. It really draws you in and makes you invested in the outcome. You cheer on the characters and hope that they make it out alive. The ending closes a lot of threads, while opening more for the third book, which is a good way to end a second book in a series. It gives you some closure while making you wonder how it’s going to end. The climax was fantastic. It was exciting and brought some of the necessary cliffhangers that are apparent in middle novels. By the time it’s all over, you wonder how it’s going to continue and you become excited for the conclusion of the trilogy.
3) Fights. The fights were extremely exciting affairs. They were fast paced and kept the excitement up. The were wonderfully written and easy to follow. They weren’t jerky and there wasn’t any real downtime where characters talked to each other, like in most fight scenes. They were a few, but the conversations didn’t last long and seemed believable. Aside from the problem of some of the characters feeling overpowered, a lot of the outcomes had you wondering what was going to happen. Then you had the very exciting climatic battles. Both of them were fantastic and were very fun to experience. The fights really were well paced and exciting, making the story that much more enjoyable.

Side Notes:
1) Deep. There were a lot of deep things are discussed in Oath of Vigilance. There is a lot of talk about how religion should be viewed and a lot of theological questions. There also were a lot of other things that really surprised me, for example, Tempest trying to overcome a traumatic event and Shara trying to get over the tragic deaths that she experienced. There are a lot of deep moments and insightful discussions throughout the novel.
2) Background. It would be a good idea to read The Mark of Nerath and The Gates of Madness. Tempest and Roghar appear only in The Mark of Nerath, and were not in the previous novel, they weren’t really mentioned in it, so new readers would be rather lost. The Gates of Madness would be a good idea to read for some necessary background.
3) Cover Art. Oath of Vigilance has a very eye-catching cover. The colors are wonderful, using warm colors that really attract your attention. The red on the plague-demon really stands out and the orange-yellow background helps it stand out. It’s also a very tense looking moment, which makes you interested to know what is happening. Kri does look a little ridiculous, but aside from that, the characters look great. It’s a wonderful cover and does its job.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Oath of Vigilance is a good sequel with a rough beginning. It could be argued that most of these problems stem from changing authors, but after reading through the whole novel, that doesn’t seem to be the case. That said, there were quite a few odd inconsistencies between the novels. Characters didn’t feel the same and really felt drastically different. Because of this, the novel had a very rough and slow start. It almost felt like coming into something new. Thankfully, this does change and the characters start feeling like they did previously. The other issue is that some of the characters seemed way too powerful. It really seemed like nothing could stop Shara and Roghar and that does take you out of the story. That said, the characters were still fantastic. There were some weaker ones, but overall they were interesting and likable. They go through a lot and it’s wonderfully presented which gives you a better feel for the characters. The fights were exciting and fast paced affairs. They were insanely fun and easy to follow. Finally, the ending was exciting and well worth it. It sets up the next novel perfectly, while giving some closure. Overall, this was a good sequel and for those who read the first novel, there’s no reason to not continue reading the trilogy. This series is really giving me more hope for future of the Dungeons and Dragons novel line.

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