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Downshadow: Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep Mass Market Paperback – April 7, 2009
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With the 4th edition (4E) debate still raging and Forgotten Realms advocates having mixed feelings about the changing landscape, this novel kind of saved my favorite fantasy setting (for me at least). How did it do that you ask? It returned my favorite aspect of the Realms that I had felt torn away from me with 4E - which is the god: Helm. I realize the novel did not resurrect him outright from his extremely superficial demise, but at least he is part of the world again and that leads me to believe there is a chance of him coming back. So an essence, this novel gave me hope for the future of the Realms.
While I was never a huge fan of the D&D board game, I fell in love with the Realms in 1998 with the release of Baldur's Gate and have since owned all FR video games and have read nearly all the novels. Since I first played Baldur's Gate which prominently featured Helm, I have seen him as the iconic god of the Forgotten Realms. He was a HUGE part of those games and was likely featured more so than other Forgotten Realms deity. And for whatever reason, Helm really resonated with me and I loved discovering lore about him or having my NPC party members worship him. Maybe it was his aesthetic (as a kid, I loved knights in full plate armor - and here was a GOD in full plate), maybe it was his mantra (it always seemed like a blend of chivalry and being a stone-cold bada** who didn't care about what others thought of him). Or maybe it was just the fact that he punkslapped all of the other gods during the Avatar series, but for whatever reason he has always been my absolute favorite part of Forgotten Realms.
When Wizards of the Coast killed him off for seemingly no real reason, I honestly did not want much more to do with the Realms. I also did not feel like reading any of the new 4E books. Well, the author of DownShadow definitely changed that. I feel like he knew the Wizards of the Coast were getting rid of a special part of the Realms, and he enabled the ability of fans like me to have hope for a grandiose Helm comeback in the future. Or at very least - he is still a part of the Realms (even if he is merged with Torm and Tyr blegghrr). He saved my favorite fantasy setting and I thank him for that. I realize this review is not about the structure of the novel or the author's literary talents (which are both very impressive); it is about something more special to me as a fantasy reader and a fan of the Forgotten Realms. So again, if you are a fan of the Forgotten Realms, enjoy excellent writing and storytelling, and just want a very rich fantasy experience, I strongly recommend this book.
Now, on a separate-but-totally-related note, Please resurrect Helm completely in your next novel (Doesn't hurt to ask, right?).
1) Dagger-throw. The author used the concept of a dagger throw as a way to convey distance. If it happened one time, MAYBE twice, I would be fine with it. But it kept happening again and again and again as if he just couldn't think of a different way to explain something that is not very far.
2) Fayne. I liked the character, but it would have been nice to have been told what race she actually was. There were some descriptions, but I just need a name somewhere, at least once. She was pale, had fleshy wings, a tail with a spade-shaped bone at the tip, and pink hair. When I go off that description, I am not sure what kind of creature that is, or if that's just what her spellscar happens to be.
Outside of that, I enjoyed reading the book. Would I read more involving Shadowbane? Maybe, I am not sure yet. Still need to finish this Waterdeep series first.
However, I was glad to have been proven wrong when it comes to this novel. The main story centers around Shadowbane, a paladin who struggles to do good in Downshadow, Waterdeep's dark side. At the same time the paladin must struggle with his own morality, being constantly surrounded by evil.
The characters are entertaining, complex, and diverse, which is usually the case with DeBie's writing, and it really felt like they were driving the story along, instead of the opposite. Rath and Myrin stands out as clear favorites, and I hope they will be revisited in future stories.
The only criticism I have with the novel is that sometimes I felt like some of the people acted out of character, I thought they were going do to one thing but they did another. It didn't really have any effect on the story as a whole, I was just a bit surprised.
Fans of DeBie's previous stories will be rewarded, as easter eggs are dropped here and there about their fates. I won't say more than that since I don't want to spoil the book.
The action scenes are very well written, in a style not too different from R.A. Salvatore. The detail is very precise, so it wasn't hard for me at all to envision the actual fights.
If you're unsure whether to take the step into 4th Edition, pick this up. You won't be disappointed.
Shadowbane is a vigilante who stalks the warrens of Downshadow, an underground slum built on the top level of a mad wizard's dungeons beneath Waterdeep, the city of splendors. This book has a twisted villain, a femme fatale, a mysterious stranger, and more. There is a strong superhero vibe in this book meshed with a noir vibe as well.
I recommend reading this book if you are interested in an action packed story with twists and turns, care about well drawn characters that you'll remember for a long time, or are interested in the Realms and haven't yet read this outstanding author!
Most recent customer reviews
A supposedly major character died.