Shadowbane by Erik Scott de Bie
Posted by travizzt on September 24, 2012
Shadowbane is the second book in the Shadowbane series with the first book being Downshadow, which is also the fourth book in the Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep series, and the third book is Shadowbane: Eye of Justice. The Shadowbane series is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Shadowbane also ties into the Dungeons and Dragons world spanning event called The Abyssal Plague, and carries over the plague introduced in Bruce R. Cordell’s Sword of the Gods novel. Erik Scott de Bie has written a number of novels set in the Forgotten Realms; Ghostwalker part of The Fighters series of stand-alone novels and Depths of Madness which is part of The Dungeons series of stand-alone novels. He wrote Eye for an Eye in Colbat City Double Feature. He also has written a number of short stories for anthologies as well as offering free to download ones off his website, along with working on Dungeons and Dragons game designs and campaigns. Shadowbane was released as e-book only in September 2011 and is published by Wizards of the Coast.
After finding Kalen ‘Shadowbane’ Dren murdering the dwarf that kidnapped her, Myrin Darkdance ran away from him and hoping to find answers about who she is. However fate intervenes in the form of a shadowy woman who takes her away. Fortunately, Kalen is on his way to rescue her, after receiving a mysterious note with “Luskan” scrawled on it. As Kalen nears the deplorable city, he notices that it appears to be under quarantine as Waterdhavian guards surround the city. As he approaches the wall, he is recognized as the vigilante Shadowbane and is forced into a confrontation. As he struggles to get past the blockade, he learns that Luskan has a plague spreading around the city called “The Fury”. After the brief struggle Kalen is able to enter the city, but in the process loses his sword, ‘Vindicator’. Finally in the city of his birth, Kalen begins the search for Myrin and answers as to why she is in Luskan.
1) Beginning. Shadowbane starts off confusing and quick. There isn’t any ‘refresher’ from Downshadow that helps in recalling what happened in the previous novel. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t help that so much is dropped on the reader that if they haven’t recently read Downshadow they would most likely be lost. There’s so much mentioned or brought up that it does become confusing and can leave someone lost. Even some of the main characters felt very vague. Thankfully, most things are explained as the story goes on but it is quite a jolt to realize that you can’t recall who this person is or what happened. While being mysterious can be a good thing, here it just becomes slightly annoying when you get that lost feeling. While most things are explained, there are a few things that will just leave the reader wondering all through out the novel with relatively little to no pay off. As Shadowbane goes on, you learn of a person named Vaelis and of another character called the Horned One. These two characters never felt explored. In the case of Vaelis it can be written off as a painful memory for Kalen to recall, but it is a let-down that you never really get ‘closure’ to this character and what happened to him with Kalen. With the Horned One, he is continually mentioned and appears to have little pay-off at the end. However, it is obvious that he is meant to be a mystery, but there should have been something revealed about this character to make him more interesting, rather than frustrating. While these two people are mentioned or appear throughout the novel, the frustration starts at the beginning and just seems to grow as Shadowbane continues.
1) Characters. Shadowbane has many, many things going for it and, first and foremost, is its characters. Everyone just felt real and developed. They were almost ‘perfect’ characters and you will be hard pressed to not root for the heroes and boo the villains. From the main characters to the minor ones, and even the bit players, everyone played their roles perfectly and even surpassed them. The main characters were just fantastic. Kalen, Myrin, Sithe, and Rhett were wonderful, simply put. You want them to succeed and you want the best for them. When it comes down to it this is Kalen’s story and because of this he does get the most development and the most background into the character. He really grows from when you first meet him to something more. You can feel Kalen’s struggle with his faith and fears, his feelings toward Myrin, and his thoughts about who exactly he is and what he wants to be. All the experiences he endures through the story really hammer out who he is and what he wants to become. As for Myrin, she may not have gotten much development, but there is a lot that you learn about her. She’s still an interesting and complex character, but just lacked some development. Sithe felt like the most interesting character. She had the mystery, the badass attitude, and brought a lot out of every character she interacted with. She just felt like the complete package really. It does help that she comes off as a morally grey character. Rhett was the weaker of the main characters, but he still brought a lot to the story. He gives the reader a character to identify with and helps with Kalen’s development while feeling like that’s not all he gives the story. The other characters are just as good, helping the story move along and while keeping things interesting. Shadowbane‘s characters are just wonderful and helps making the story just as interesting.
2) Story. Shadowbane has a deep and intriguing story that keeps bringing you in. It’s a simple story that has a lot of hidden meaning and deeper context that you will find the more you think about it. The simple premise and the deeper meaning helps in making Shadowbane hard to put down. It’s one of those story’s that you want to learn more about and don’t want it to end. The story never feels stale, thanks impart to the characters and the action. It’s really one of those story’s that are hard to get into too much detail because of running into the chance of ruining the story for someone else. The less said the better Shadowbane is.
3) Action. Shadowbane is full of some intense action sequences. After every fight scene it’s hard to not say “wow”. The action felt amazingly choreographed and extremely easy to follow. It was just amazing to read. It’s fast paced and really does leave you breathless at the end of a few fights. You really start to feel almost every blow, it has that tangible feel to it. Because of this, it makes the story even more hard to put down.
1) The Abyssal Plague. As I mentioned in the background information on Shadowbane, it is part of The Abyssal Plague event. While you don’t really need to read about the event, it may just pique your interest in the event and how it started.
2) Luskan. The city just feels wrong. The descriptions will make you cringe every once in a while and it’s surprising how bad this city has become. It’s great descriptions at their best.
3) “A New Purpose”. This is a short story included with Shadowbane and it tells of what happened after the events of Downshadow and how Kalen received the note pointing towards Luskan. It’s a nice addition and gives you more of a Shadowbane fix, and helps in explaining some plot-holes.
4) Cover Art. Shadowbane has a very epic looking cover. Kalen is in a pretty awesome looking pose. He looks like an epic hero. The red hues in the background really help in drawing your eye to Kalen and makes him the focus, as it should be. It works and that’s all a cover needs to do.
5) Appeal. Shadowbane is really hard to pinpoint who this story is for. Obviously it’s for those who have read Downshadow and those who like to read Forgotten Realms fiction. However, I don’t think a person coming into this story blind is going to like it, right off the bat. There is just too much Downshadow in this for those who haven’t read that.
Shadowbane is a great novel that will leave readers wanting more, well those who have read Downshadow. The only issue is with how much you need to know from Downshadow right off the bat. At times it’s increasingly hard to get into at the beginning, but as the story goes on, you become more comfortable with the things that happen. The characters are fantastic and makes Shadowbane so much fun. Sithe is the highlight, along with Kalen. Sithe is just amazing and badass. She brought a lot to the story. Kalen had a lot of well-earned development. It’s great to see how far he comes and what he overcomes to get there. The story itself is simple, yet deep. It’s a story that you will find hard pressed to put down for very long. Finally the action helps keep you in the story, while being intense and fun. The fights are beautifully done that you feel very swing and every hit. Shadowbane is a really good novel that delivers a lot of fun and excitement. It’s just too bad it’s only available in e-book form.