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The Shard Axe by Marsheila Rockwell

Posted by travizzt on October 10, 2011

Sabira must return to a city she swore to never see again, in order to defend a dwarf she hates, for murders that she knows she stopped.

The Shard Axe by Marsheila Rockwell

The Shard Axe is a stand-alone novel, at least at the time of this review, that is set in the Eberron world of Dungeons and Dragons. The Shard Axe is also based on the popular free to play massively multiplayer online game called Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited. Marsheila Rockwell has written another Eberron book titled Legacy of Wolves. She has also written short stories and poems for a large amount of anthologies and collections. The Shard Axe was released in September 2011 and was published by Wizards of the Coast LLC.

The life of Sentinel Marshal Sabira d’Deneith has been a hard one ever since  putting an end to a murdering spree caused by someone named the Nightshard and becoming known as The Shard Axe. After the fateful and tragic end to the Nightshard’s reign of terror, she has to return to the city she never wanted to see again. What makes matters worse is that she has to defend the dwarf that she was tasked to protect from the Nightshard, who is being accused of similar crimes. Even with the word of a Sentinel Marshal, the dwarf, Aggar Tordannon, is going to need all the help he can get. But there is something that isn’t quite right about the case and it is up to Sabira to uncover the secrets.

Criticisms:
1) Characters. The Shard Axe falls into that unfortunate category of having too many characters that become mixed up in the long run. There were quite a few characters whose names seemed to either blend together or had names that were way too close to one another. Because of this, it was hard to recall some of this characters and their roles in the story. Another unfortunate side-effect of this is that a lot of the minor characters didn’t feel that developed or interesting. Of all the characters that were either introduced or mentioned, only a select few really came off as memorable. Then out of those select few, only one or two of them really stood out. In fact, most of the characters are forgettable and really did feel not that important as they should have been. The rest was easily forgotten as soon as you would put the book down.
2) Pacing. While the plot of The Shard Axe is not bad, the pacing makes it hard to really get into. To have an enjoyable plot, the pacing needs to work in making everything exciting and interesting. The pacing here is very slow. It takes a while for the main plot to show up. It felt like it took forever for things to get going and the main plot doesn’t seem to really show up until near the halfway point. This wouldn’t have been a problem, but it feels like there was something more interesting going on before the main plot shows up. It almost seems as through the main plot inserted itself into the story. This whole situation puts the brakes on what otherwise would have been an interesting story. While it does recover, the odd feeling of reading something totally different does persist. The jarring change in plot and direction really makes the story feel longer than it is.
3) Knowledge. For new readers to the world of Eberron or have basic passing knowledge of the world, like I do, will find themselves lost in references and background of the world. Those that do have knowledge in the world or have played Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited probably won’t have any problem understanding the references. For being a stand-alone novel this doesn’t work. It may pique the interest of new readers, but it seems to mostly leave you in the dark. There are countless references to things that happened in the past outside of the story as well as things that are told and not shown. The best example of history is a scene where Sabira is looking at a few books on another character’s bookshelf and vague exposition shows up, mostly made up of names and places that a new reader wouldn’t know of. An example of not being shown something is when Sabira is walking down a street in Stormreach and there are street names and places listed with little to no description. It doesn’t leave much for the imagination to picture and it causes the story to slow down. This book is definitely aimed towards the Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited audience, but it should really be for everyone and anyone to pick up and enjoy.

Praises:
1) Sabira. The best thing about The Shard Axe is Sabira d’Deneith. She’s an interesting and likable character with a colorful background, and as soon as you meet her, you instantly want to know more about her. She has that charisma that every good main character should have. Sabira does go into the ‘normal hero role’, but she is more complex than your normal hero. Early in the story, you see that Sabira isn’t perfect and those imperfections really round out her character. From that moment on, you see her in a different light. She’s flawed and because of this, there’s more dimensions to her character.  That is something that makes characters like her likable and enjoyable. These flaws of her makes her feel more realistic. As the story goes on, you learn more about her and she becomes really intriguing. You begin to wonder more about her past and what she has done. Sabira is one of those characters that make you yearn to read more about her.
2) Beginning. The beginning of The Shard Axe instantly reels you in. It’s fast, exciting, and instantly drops you into the story and characters. Everything about the first few chapters is written very well. In fact, the first sixty pages felt like it should have been the real story. There was a lot there to go off of and there is a lot that is left unanswered. There are interesting characters that are introduced who we never see again that could have been more interesting to read about. That said, it was a good way to get you interested and hooked into a story.
3) Main Plot. The main plot of The Shard Axe is interesting. It has a very mystery type feel to the plot. It was fun seeing Sabira unravel what is going on and who the real killer is. On top of that, there was a lot of intrigue with the ‘courtroom’ setting. It almost seemed like something you would see on Law & Order, or a similar show. While it did take a while for this plot to get going, it still worked rather well.

Side Notes:
1) Dungeons and Dragons Online. I really wonder how connected the novel is with the massively multiplayer online game. Is there any story elements from the game that are talked about in the novel or visa versa?
2) Injuries. Was it just me or was some of the injuries that the characters accumulate throughout the story seem to be rather unimportant? I would think that if your hand was bathed in acid for a few minutes, it would take a while to really heal, and not just a few hours (if that). Some of the injuries really did seem serious, but never really impacted the characters like injuries of that magnitude should have.
3) Cover Art. The Shard Axe has some very appropriate artwork. It really reflects a video game with the three-dimensional look and the colors are rather nice. The blue really is eye catching and a nice contrast to the warmer colors. However, it still looks rather generic. It is still good, but the generic feel really doesn’t get you interested in picking the novel up.

Overall: 3/5
Final Thoughts:
The Shard Axe is a very average novel. It’s not by any means bad, but it feels lacking. There are a lot of characters in the novel that tend to either be forgotten or easily mixed up. It doesn’t help that a lot of the minor characters aren’t developed. Also, the pacing does become very slow at points and never really is that constant throughout the novel. The slow pacing leads to problem with the plot suddenly appearing out of nowhere. The Shard Axe doesn’t seem to be for everyone and those with passing or little knowledge of the world will be lost. Thankfully, there are some positives for the novel. Sabira d’Deneith is a fantastic character. She’s flawed and likable. She is the sole reason that this story is enjoyable. The beginning of the novel really throws you into things. It’s exciting, action-packed, and allows you to really get a grasp on what is going on. Finally, the main plot was rather enjoyable. It had a very fun mystery feel to it and having Sabira unravel clues to it was a blast to read through. All in all, The Shard Axe is just like Sabira; flawed but enjoyable. It’s not really aimed for new readers to the Eberron world, but it seems like if you have knowledge of the world or play Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited this is a novel for you. But when all is said and done, I just want more Sabira.

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