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Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils: A Forgotten Realms Novel Mass Market Paperback – December 4, 2012
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“Well, I'm now behind on my own writing, because I couldn't tear myself away from Lesser Evils. Then again, I'm only behind by a single day--because I really couldn't tear myself away from Lesser Evils. If the next one's not out until tomorrow, it's still too far off. And if Evans is not already a name spoken of as part of the true Forgotten Realms pantheon, along with Kemp, Cunningham, and Salvatore, it can only be because she has fewer books out, and thus hasn't reached everyone yet.” — Ari Marmell, author of Agents of Artifice, The Conqueror's Shadow, and the Widdershins Adventure series
About the Author
Erin M. Evans got a degree in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis—and promptly stuck it in a box. Nowadays she uses that knowledge of bones, mythology, and social constructions to flesh out fantasy worlds. She lives in Washington State.
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Lesser Evils is the sequel to Brimstone Angels: A Forgotten Realms Novel (Neverwinter Nights), and is set about a month after the events in the first book. The story in Lesser Evils follows that of the first book very fluidly, so anyone who hasn't read Brimstone Angels yet (what's wrong with you?) should pick it up before starting this second book. Now, onto the review.
The strongest part of Brimstone Angels was its protagonists, and the same is even truer for Lesser Evils. Every character in this book, old and new, is compelling, well characterized, and most of all, utterly believable. Lesser Evils is a novel that focuses very directly on the relationships between its protagonists, and it works out beautifully. There was never a chapter that didn't serve to draw me deeper into the conflicts and goals of the characters involved.
Let's talk about setting. It's obvious that Erin Evans is someone who gives a damn about the Forgotten Realms. She takes full advantage of the history of the setting to tell a story that seems like it actually matters in the grand scheme of things, while also using minor details to ground the reader to the world in a much more granular and immediate way.
I have a lot more praise I could level at this book, mainly about how awesome Havilar is, or how legitimately scary certain villains are, but instead, I'll just say Lesser Evils is the 50th Forgotten Realms novel I've read, and I can't think of one I've enjoyed more.
And that's a shame. I as a reader want an epic. I want the actions in the first story to have consequences in the subsequent ones. I want a continuity of characters and plots. I want the first book to set an intrigue that resolve throughout the rest. That's just my personal preference, and again, no star was docked for that.
So why a 4 star review and not a 5 star review? I wasn't a fan of the pacing, and how the plot unfolded. I wasn't a fan of how a certain character seemed shoehorned in, only to disappear until the end. I wasn't a fan of how an integral (IMP of course) character simply disappeared for the much of the book, taking with him a person I thought could have been a great foil to other characters in the book.
And I'll say it. Not a fan of the bubblegum romance. I understand the protagonists are just kids with no experience, and of course, the twins being teenage girls (very deadly teenage girls, but girls nonetheless) they will gossip and behave in certain ways.
I understand the point of the "secret" library was that it wasn't all that secret by design. Just secret enough. That it would rely on greed and secretiveness of adventurers and treasure seekers to keep it just secret enough. Just secret enough to leave some clues. Just clues enough for a few to find it. Just hard enough to find it appear worthwhile. Just worthwhile enough to make treasure-seekers strike out on their own, instead of selling the location to greater powers. But the concept seemed a bit forced to me. It had to remain "just right" enough for all millennium since its founding, or what happened in the book would have happened to it already. And there was nothing special to the group that ventured in this time, no special juice that would have made all the clues click.
In the end, it seemed a bit rushed. And it's a bit jarring to read about the results several months after even as the author described the present event.
But the strong points were, as ever, the characters and how they interacted with each other. I particularly liked the interaction between Tam and Mira, a scene fraught with regret, love, and hope. I think Havi is a bit left behind compared with Fari in development, however. We learn a lot more about Brin and the implications to surface in the future, but as for his character being developed presently by his actions and choices, not much.
So while this wasn't a book I expected, it was still a very strong book and well worth a read. As a bonus, I bought it for $2.99 during Amazon Kindle sale and well worth the money.
Beginning shortly after Brimstone Angels we find Farideh and party in Waterdeep. While in the city Farideh's ability to find entanglements where a multitude of power groups intertwine comes to the for and leads to a search for an ancient Netherese library. With a party composed of individuals with very different goals, most hidden from the others, the developments plot and intercharacter relations are fun and engaging to behold. The climax is entertaining and has a good payoff. Finally, threads of the upcoming Sundering series ,that Ms. Evans' next book is part,appearing in this book.
With this I put Ms. Evans with the best of the Realms authors, I'll impatiently wait her next novel with knowing I can expect tales of the quality that R.A. Salvatore, Elaine Cunningham, and Paul S. Kemp have been known