Published by Wizards of the Coast (www.wizards.com)
Shadowbred test drive: http://home.earthlink.net/~paulskemp/paulskempshomepage/id23.html
Faith once again plays a large role in Paul Kemp’s second Twilight War novel, Shadowstorm. Riven and Cale are two sides of a coin in their service (i.e. faith and devotion) to their god Mask) while their friend Magadon (Mags) is both sides of those coin in one person. Mags is the son of Mephistopheles, an Arch-Devil of the Plane of Hell in the Forgotten Realms and there’s little subtlety in why the creators of the Forgotten Realms shared world named him as such.
The events of the previous novel are picked up directly as Shadowstorm begins. Riven, Cale, and Magadon are still on Mephistopheles’s plane of Hell as they try to escape after bargaining with the Devil. The dialogue between Cale and Mephistopheles came across as both humorous and interesting in how it illustrated, in a different light, a priest and the devil bargaining for a soul. It’s an age old theme (from Faustus to The Exorcist) and I got the sense that Kemp had a good deal of fun playing with classic theological themes in such a metaphorical sense.
While Cale and friends are dealing with a conflict of personal and internal matters, war and strife have fully engulfed Sembia. Puppetmistress Mirabetta, who was glimpsed pulling strings in Shadowbred, comes more into the light as a dark designer of this war. On the opposite side, the ages old sorcerer Prince Rivalen is still pulling the heartstrings of Tamlin, the son of Cales former liege. Though somewhat predictable, the encounters when Tamlin confronts Cale with the resentment he’s been harboring towards Cale over the years is still played out fairly well.
Faith is tested again and again as one of the supporting characters, Abelar, who’s god of light is the opposite of Cale’s, finds his young son abducted as part of the war. He forsakes everything, including his faith and devotion to his god of light, order to save his son, On one hand, Abelar is more devoted to his family than his god; regardless, this plot point allows for more interesting scenes of debated faith between Abelar, Cale and Riven.
Kemp juggles quite a few storylines in this novel and that might be where my only criticism can be leveled. Cale and Riven are trying to help Mags deal with his problems with his father and his gradually shifting personality; Tamlin and Rivalen are fighting off civil war in Selgaunt; Rivalen’s motivations are slowly being revealed; Tamilin is unraveling at the seams after living in his father and Cale’s shadow; and we see hints at the other side of the war Tamlin and Rivalen are fighting. On the whole, Kemp balances these very well, and in fact, integrates one into the other quite seamlessly. For my enjoyment, and again, this is only minor, the story veered away from Cale and Riven more than I would have liked.
However, any portions in the early part of the novel where readers may have missed Cale and Riven are balanced by the spectacular battle they have with Furlinastis, the dragon, as the novel concluded. Only once or twice did the specter of rolling dice creep into this battle, but it was a rousing scene of action and battle. Throughout, Kemp balanced it with the emotion Cale felt at fighting a monstrous creature in which he saw much of himself.
In Shadowstorm, Kemp managed to tow the line of the story without simply treading water very well while laying the groundwork for what could be a terrific payoff.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford