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The Nether Scroll (Lost Empires Series, A Forgotten Realms(r) Novel) Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2000
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The Nether Scroll is the last in a series of four novels (known as the Lost Empires series and which includes The Lost Library of Cormanthyr, Faces of Deception, and Star of Cursrah) that deal with the secrets of four of Toril's long lost ancient civilizations.
The book starts off with a bang and then it's downhill all the way to the end...
In short, the book is so darn boring! Although Lynn Abbey seems to indicate that she has a grasp of essential knowledge relevant to Faerun, she doesn't do much with it. The adventure is mostly a wilderness adventure focusing on wizards, but misses out in providing that insight vis-à-vis the everyday life of a wizard with the exception of the following quote: "Wizards trained their memories the way warriors sharpened their swords and merchants counted their coins." (p.178) Aside from that, the only other notable phrases/quotes worth salvaging from this novel is a good description of zombies: "The zombie's face was fully skeletal, and flesh hung in tatters from its long bones," (p.11) and the truth that lies within the following words: "...there'd never been a slave-trade that didn't rely on the cooperation of some element within the enslaved population." (p.171)
Instead, Lynn Abbey provides for a bland story, bland dialogues, and bland (and let me add "weak and unlikable") characters. An utterly useless thief that goes adventuring with his step mother and her ex-, a wizard (Dru) who used to go out with the party's fighter (Rozt'a) only to walk out on her, which lands her marrying her ex's best friend, sounds like a second, if not third rate soap opera.
In addition, the author burdens us with an annoying goblin named Sheemzher who is a cross between Gollum from LOTR and Dobby from Harry Potter! Why, Lynn??? What made you think it is remotely amusing or necessary? A pet goblin, really...
Furthermore, reading the book at times felt like watching/playing a video/pc game, while the characters' entry into the mines was reminiscent of LOR and Baldur's Gate, which was kind of interesting.
Finally, enough with the "What's cut stays cut" over and over and over again!
In conclusion, The Nether Scroll was a disappointing way to bring the series to an end, especially after reading the third novel in line, Star of Cursrah, which was amazing. Nevertheless, the book's interesting mention of Zhentil Keep politics (Manshoon and Sememmon) and the encounters with goblins, Zhentarim, Red Wizards, Otyugh, and zombies prevents it from being a total waste. 2.5 Stars
I would give spoilers but there is very little left to spoil. The plot spirals unoriginally out of control, using elements from Tolkein galore. The little goblin uses dialog identical to Gollum. The whole purpose of the Nether scroll goal is very disappointing. By the time these cardboard character find them, I didnt care. Maybe, Netherise Arcanist showed up and zapped this author for nearly sinking the my enthusiasm for this series.
There have been some good, mediocre and bad Forgotten Realms books. This gets my vote as the worst of all. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast regrouped its talent search and found some writers who actually may like contributing to the vast epic of the Forgotten Realms. The direction Lynn Abbey was taking it was down, indeed things looked a little dark at that time. Wizards inherited some talented writers; Greenwood, Salvatore, and Cunningham. In fact, I am going to explore some of thier new writers. Things could not get any worse than the Nether Scroll!
The overall impression I'm getting from these reviews is that readers wanted epic developments, stunning revelations, and outright heroic characters. Naturally, if you're going to limit your tastes to that form of fantasy, you're going to think this book is boring and terrible.
Fundamentally, this is a book about the characters - every one of them flawed, but none flawed to the core. Druhallen is stubborn and nomadic, but fiercely intelligent and a seeker of wisdom. Roz'ta has strong maternal instincts and a fierce temper, coupled with pragmatism and a strong bond with her compatriots. Tiep is immature, irritable and even cowardly, but he silently values and cares about his adoptive family.
People thought Sheemzher was a rip-off of Gollum. I would remind these readers that goblins are not known for their mastery of Common, and that Sheemzher has a good number of traits that distinguish him from Gollum - outright loyalty and good, as well as a childlike nature.
I found this change of pace from the usual save-the-multiverse fare extremely refreshing. This is the story of a group of unambitious adventurers just trying to make a living in an often unfair world. Boring to some; very fulfilling for me. And this from someone who doesn't even enjoy most Forgotten Realms literature.
I highly recommend this book. Just know what's on offer here and what you like from fantasy before you read it.