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Sword Play (Forgotten Realms: Arcane Age series, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – May 21, 1996
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Top customer reviews
I would recommend this to readers newer to forgotten realms.
After reading this I couldn't wait to start reading the next one!
Clayton Emery does a wonderful job of presenting essential knowledge relevant to Faerun, including customs, religion (Garagos, Tyche, Chauntea, (p.2) Moander (p.22), Selune-"She Who Guides" (p.147), Talos-"god of the tempests" (p.156), Mystryl (p.219), Shar (p.235), and the history of the peoples of Toril. His solid grasp of factual detail makes him capable of providing the necessary background needed to carry out the difficult task of writing Forgotten Realms novels, which is often missing from the work of many Fantasy authors. Moreover, the book is so incredibly well written and presented that the reader feels that they have been transported to another plane of existence and are actually present among the characters, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, and sensing what they sense.
Specifically, the description of the battle at Tinnainen was breathtaking: "Wrathburn wheezed, and flames shot from his nostrils. The stone gateposts ignited, even the granite threshold blistered. The guards shrivelled to charred twists dotted with molten metal. Screams sounded inside the gates as people's clothing and the thatch on houses ignited." (p.186) Moreover, Clayton Emery depicts the chaotic evil alignment through Sysquemalyn superbly; probably the best I have seen to-date. In addition, Chapters 14 and 15 provide excellent descriptions of the Nine Hells (Baator), especially page 231.
Clayton Emery is also well versed and very much in line with the D&D game and its rules such as in the case of describing the process of regeneration (p.43), the effects on a mage of the death of his familiar (p.271), and Planescape rules regarding the weakening of magic the farther away one gets from the prime material plane (or the plane of origin): "Mighty as the mages were, they'd been born in the material world, and this was Hell." (p.270) On pages 37 and 69 respectively, the author provides two more exceptional descriptions that help teleport the reader to Faerun, beside Sunbright and his companions: "The gaping jaws clamped down on his biceps, biting flesh to the bone. Candlemas screamed, then shrilled as the beast ripped down toward his elbow. Horror stricken, the wizard saw muscle and arteries stripped from his arm bone like a peel wrenched off an orange. The fiend bit again, and he heard its harsh teeth grate on bone-his. Then the bone snapped, parted, and the fiend fell back with Candlemas's right arm in its mouth," and "The grappler urped, then vomited hot, stinking ale and stomach juice all over the barbarian's shirt. That made Sunbright furious. Spitting out the howler's thumb, he gave a battle shriek that raised hackles and set dogs barking all over the village." As for the graphic descriptions found throughout the book, and especially on pages 200-201, 281, and 288-289 they are extraordinary indeed! Moreover, the author successfully conveys the pure decadence that is the Neth, especially through Chapter 6 with "the Hunt." Additionally, Clayton Emery provides for descriptions that facilitate the reader to visualize the scenes e.g. on page 252: "The sword's heavy nose penetrated deep, popping a black eye to spill gore, knocking the lemure to the ground with a split head," and on page 248 "Another, beating its wings at Sunbright's head, had its belly sliced so a loop of guts spurted loose," and "The sword sheared through a wrist, hacked toes from a foot, lopped off a wing." Furthermore, the author speaks truthfully when stating that: "The world was a hierarchy of lords ruling underlings. The trick was to ascend high and fast, and so have more underlings and fewer lords." (pp.60-61)
On the down side, on page 210, the author seems to slip up when Greenwillow exclaims: "Elves weren't supposed to fall in love with humans," before going on to state "With a shock, she realized she looked not like an elf, but like a human," (p.218) although she is a half-elf herself! Moreover, we never find out what her actual story is. An additional question that arises is whether the Elven High Court would have chosen a half-elf as its emissary? Furthermore, on page 241 there is mention of "Plagiarizing the Nine Hells," which is hardly a phrase one would encounter in a Fantasy novel. Nevertheless, these are just minor faults, which are overshadowed by the plot, the dialogues, and the author's wonderful style of writing that have resulted in one of the best Forgotten Realms novels that I have ever read; looking forward to the sequel: Dangerous Games.