The Erevis Cale Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp
Book 1 Twilight Falling (July 2003) 310 pages
Book 2 Dawn of Night (June 2004) 302 Pages
Book 3 Midnight’s Mask (November 2005) 312 Pages
Published by Wizards of the Coast
The Forgotten Realms setting is the most well-known milieu in which Wizards of the Coast publishes and slaps their logo. This has a dual effect – the many fans who are loyal to both the Realms and Wizards are very loyal indeed. The counter-effect is that it keeps many people away from trying fiction set in the Forgotten Realms because (as some say) the world is too overloaded with magic, the setting does not allow for true fantastical creativity, and/or the writers are not on the same level as those who write “their own” stories set in “their own” world. Like most axioms, one should judge something for themselves. Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale Trilogy is no exception; the quality of his writing and storytelling is what should be judged on its own merits, and those merits are quite good indeed. The story, as is no surprise given the title, follows the former assassin and a current priest of the dark god Mask as he tries to make peace with himself, for those he once respected, and to save the world.
The entire trilogy has a caper-like feel to it, as the titular character, himself a rogue, becomes embroiled in a plot to irrevocably change the world of Faerûn for the worse. Kemp introduces the villains, or antagonists, into the story line first. It does not become clear in the first book why the bad things are afoot; however. Cale, intends to get to the bottom of the matter, and takes his friends and the reader along for the ride.. Kemp reveals these things to the reader as Cale and his companions discover what is occurring.
We are introduced to Erevis Cale as one portion of his life is coming to an end – he is leaving the great house that took him in, employed, and sheltered him for many years. As he is ready to start this new life, his former home is destroyed, pushing Cale towards the road of revenge. What he uncovers is something much more dismaying than a crazy wizard flinging fireballs. Into his quest for revenge, Cale brings a growing relationship with a dark god, Mask. Mask is granting Cale with powers beyond those of mortal men, he is in fact, pushing Cale towards something beyond human. Luckily, Cale’s Halfling friend, Jak, goes along for the ride, both for the adventure, and to help keep Cale grounded in his humanity.
Although this tale is primarily focused on Erevis Cale and how his quest for revenge intertwines with his growing connection to the god Mask, Kemp features a number of supporting characters that greatly flesh out the story. In addition to the aforementioned Jak, Cale is joined by an even more roguish character, Drasek Riven, one of Cale’s peers. Riven is not only an assassin, he is also a disciple of the god Mask. In fact, Cale is Mask’s first chosen, Riven is the second chosen of Mask. Their relationship is tenuous at best, and throughout the trilogy Kemp contrasts the two characters in many ways. Riven is pretty much a personification of what Cale would do if he had no conscience, in terms of unmerciful killing and self-serving acts. Cale sees in Riven all those things he is afraid of becoming.
The villains are even darker than our assassin protagonists, and though Kemp provides the reader with some glimpses in the prologue of Twilight Falling, they become more fleshed out as the story progresses over the course of the three novels. Kemp provides a ringleader and three henchman as the primary group of antagonists – a wizard and three shape-changing lizards (slaads, in the world of Forgotten Realms). Azriim is the arrogant “leader” of these shape-changing monsters, Dolgan is the heavy and Serrin is the subtle one.
By the end of Twilight Falling, all of the things Kemp set up turn out not what to be what they seemed. The novel does not end with closure, which is to be expected in the first part of a trilogy. That said, Kemp really gives readers a cliffhanger ending and I’m glad I had the next book, Dawn of Night, ready to read. In this second book, Kemp reveals more of what lay in the shadows he cast in the first volume. By the end of this novel, Kemp once again changes what had been accepted as the status quo and leaves readers holding their breath for the next installment.
With Midnight’s Mask, Kemp does bring closure to the storyline he began in Twilight Falling, but does not completely wrap up the stories of the protagonists he introduced in the first book. Some of the choices he made in bringing each of the characters to the conclusion of the trilogy were surprising; where other writers may have made choices based on their “heart,” Kemp instead did the right thing by the story. The concluding chapters were emotionally charged and went by almost too fast.
So, how to compare this book to others? Well, my only other experience reading anything from the Forgotten Realms was R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, and some of my earliest reading in fantasy/science fiction was Weis/Hickman’s original DragonLance trilogy. The Erevis Cale Trilogy at the very least, holds up well against my memory of those books, not the least of which is due to Kemp’s ability to put the reader in the character’s head.
As much as I enjoyed the books, a few aspects did stand out negatively. One in particular was some of the banter between Cale and his friend Jak, a Halfling. Very often, Cale would call Jak “little man” as a nickname. It was a little wearying after a while and seemed to be almost derogatory term. While the villain’s themselves were handled very well, their motivations were almost like a MacGuffin. Considering this is often an indicator of a caper story, this wasn’t too much of a problem.
I would recommend The Erevis Cale Trilogy; I found the entire trilogy to be an entertaining, action-packed story. I’ve seen other reviews say the following about Kemp’s books: don’t let the negative stigma of shared-world/Forgotten Realms deter you from reading these books. The man spins a damned entertaining story, and keeps you turning the pages.
© 2007 Rob H. Bedford
Copyright © sffworld.com. If quoted please credit "sffworld.com, name of reviewer".