Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

The Godborn
Written by Paul S. Kemp
The Sundering Book II
Dungeons & Dragons
Forgotten Realms

This book has more categories than it knows what to do with. It's Forgotten Realms, it's Dungeons and Dragons, it's the Sundering and it's the continuation of Paul S. Kemp's work of sun and shadow.

Hate to say it, but the initial chapters didn't win me over. It's not that Paul isn't a solid writer, but rather, that he's shackled by the setting. In this case, the 'Sundering'. See, it wasn't enough that the Forgotten Realms in Paul's last book was getting ready to undergo changes, and that oh, it's been about 100 years since the last book, well, 70 at the start, and you know, the whole 4th edition Spellplague and whatnot, but...

As I've gotten older, I've become less a fan of the dreaded 'women in refrigerators'. Paul does that to Vara, the mother of Vasen Cale. Some might argue that it's some weird necessary trial or tribulation but hey, he gets raised by a stepfather of sorts and that character dies off screen.

That's because by the time we're introduced to Vasen, he's thirty years old.

There was absolutely no reason why Vara couldn't have had the same kindly end. When something similar happens, later on, it's enough to get an eye roll from me.

I'm also not a fan of the whole time jump thing. In this book, in many ways,  it's even more obnoxious than in others.

Riven: One of the three who has the divine might of Mask in his shadowy blood. Waiting for Vasen to grow up. Oh, he's undergone many a change in the waiting time mind you and in that aspect, is probably one of the few who has.

Cale: Trapped under ice. In hell. So yeah, not a lot of character development for him eh?

Rivalen: He's one of the other three who has a shard of Mask's divinity. His name is also way too similar to Riven. He's one of Shar's Chosen and has sat for the last one hundred years looking at a tear in reality grow larger. Not a lot of development.

Magadon: The half devil literally spent the entire time in a bar waiting for something to happen. Anyone see a pattern here?

Mephistopheles: Been ducking a call from his boss for the last one hundred years until he could get some more divine energy.

Brennus: Brother of Rivalen, one of the Shadovar. A master of magic, a specialist in divination. He's spent the last one hundred years looking for a way to kill his brother Rivalen.

So all of the main characters from the previous series have been letting moss grow on them.

The new characters, or at least the main ones, keep things moving. Vasen Cale is a paladin, a dawnsword, a man whose spent his life in the shadows of Sembia. He's protected the Oracle his whole life. He's the one with the most seniority.

A strange being, Orsin, a deva, one whose lived many lives, befriends him. The duo makes a solid pairing. Paul has always had a solid grip on making characters move forward and take to the action.

And it's this ability of Paul's to move characters, even characters who've literally been sitting on their backside for one hundred years, to action, that makes this a solid read. One that I finished in a day.

When the pieces all line up, the action happens. There are those who, under the assumption that Mephistopheles is to be trusted in any shape, Zeeahad and Sayeed, two who have been cursed by the Spellplauge, are hunting the son of Cale. Mephisopheles believes that the son has the answers he needs.

In their hunting, we get to see what monstrous characters they are. They make a great evil duo to cast contrast against Orsin and Vasen.

We also have Paul's little nods to repetition that work well, especially when dealing with sayings that the faithful would have. For example, Rivalen notes on many occasions "Your bitterness is sweet to my lady." A great bit acknowledging Shar and her dark desires.

There's also the fact that for all the importance the Sundering is supposed to have, this story, this here very story, is in its own way, far more important. The hole in reality that Shar has started and that is growing, will eclipse all wars. Will eclipse all personal matters. Will devour the world itself and all those who are in it. Against this, the war of the Shades against the Dales, against The Forest Kingdom, those are all petty bit players in the grander scheme of things.

And Paul captures that epicness well.

Paul wraps up his chapter of the Sundering leaving the Forgotten Realms changed and a little more familiar. It allows those who hope to see Cale or who want to see more of his son in future adventures, to have that opportunity. Someday. Maybe. As you know, Wizards of the Coast may in some distant future decide to actually publish more fiction.

I know I've picked on Paul a bit for what I saw as weaknesses in the pulling together of the characters. But honestly, I don't know how much of that was on Paul. When you work in a shared setting, while it's great to have access to long known characters like Shar and Mask, the peril of having to work on 'event' bits like how the last series ended or the very necessity of this book itself, the 'Sundering', show that it has its own perils.

Glad to see that Paul's been doing his own work lately. with Egil and Nix. I've got the first book in my queue and it's just waiting for (more) free time to devour it.

Am I being too hard on the Forgotten Realms? Or the shared setting? Or the whole Spellplague and the whole Sundering? Or were these big events the death knell of the fiction line?