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In Defence of the Crown (The Aielund Saga)
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I purchased these books since I was familiar with the author's work as a module writer in the Neverwinter Nights computer game by Atari (also excellent work). I figured it would be a fun series to revisit in a novel format and gave it a try. As stated above, I finished reading four books in a short time. That said, here is what I think of the writing:
The concept is based upon two young men who find themselves pulled into an adventure they were not expecting. What I found really intriguing is that unlike the majority of fantasy books, the protagonists are not some super warriors that fight their way through impossible odds and worry if they break a sweat. Instead, the characters are realistic; they're young, inexperienced and are not really prepared for what awaits them. In conflicts, they don't act like the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail shouting, "Tis only a flesh wound!" and fight on like nothing is wrong. In contrast, when they are hurt the effects could be minor or it can be serious enough to pull them out of the battle completely. Also, if a significant threat is facing them, the characters have the common sense to be afraid and at times try to avoid the conflict if possible. Instead of fighting with brute force, they rely on whits, developed skill and a little luck. Overall, I really enjoy the characters in how they interact, deal with their personal demons and interpersonal conflicts amongst the group.
The plot itself is based on the module that he wrote for NWN but how he pulls the story together in the novel is smooth and believable. Often the heroes find themselves not looking for adventure, but are manipulated into situations outside of their control or they are just pawns of events transpiring around them. I feel this series is worthy of the high marks I gave it and I look forward to the future installments!
A couple of characters that were in the first book are no longer with the party, but new ones come in to fill the void. Each character is introduced to the reader and given time to develop. They have their own distinct personalities that either blend or clash, making the relationships very dynamic.
My favorite character is Nellise . . . at the moment anyway. Nellise is the type of character that led me to write my own books. She goes through moral dilemmas. People are mean to her. Others try to sway her opinion for their own needs. Nellise suffers and will continue to do so. I don't know what's going to happen in the next books, but I know for certain that whatever happens to Nellise is going to piss me off. The women in my books tend to be anti-Nellises. By now, she would have killed Pacian. At the very least, she would have distanced herself from him. Just sayin'.
I like the princess too, except that she started out as tough, but then became a bit useless. I'd like her to find some gumption along with keeping her flair.
Speaking of moral dilemmas, the author has great fun with them. The characters constantly argue about right and wrong, each making good points about their position. The reader tends to side with certain characters, or at least I did. Random banter between the characters leads to laugh out loud moments.
Every step of the adventure is perilous and exciting, from on board the ship, through the city and into the castle. I highly recommend these books and am looking forward to the rest . . . even if I'm going to get pissed off at the fate of Nellise.