Erin M. Evans
432 pages, Wizards of the Coast
Paperback, $7.19, Kindle $15.37, Hardcover $ 16.77, Audiobook CD $10.11
As the title of this review suggests, this is the third book in The Sundering series. If you are not familiar with this series, get thee to a bookstore. The Sundering takes place in the fabled Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons setting, and the series heralds the recently announced summertime 2014 release of D&D Next. This series and the events within it are no small matter in the Forgotten Realms or in the real world and here is why. The Sundering has the possibility of breaking the Forgotten Realms or changing it in such a drastic way that people who grew up with the setting might not recognize it. I doubt the Realms will be destroyed, but the changes will be interesting to see. So far, in the real world, Wizards of the Coast has employed their all-star team of legendary Realms authors such as R.A. Salvatore, Paul S. Kemp, and Erin M. Evans, with Richard Lee Byers in the queue for the next novel.
All of that is well and good, but this review is about The Adversary. This book, like all of the other books in the series, picks up on already existing characters and their storylines. Erin M. Evans is best known for her Brimstone Angels series, which features twin tiefling foundlings. The main focus fell on Farideh, who happens to be a warlock, and her struggles of maintaining her relationships with her adoptive dragonborn father, her twin sister, and basically everyone else around her. Before I get any further into this already long-winded review, I must recommend reading the Brimstone Angels series before you embark on the third book in The Sundering series. Knowing about everything that Farideh has been through will make this book much more enjoyable. Reading the rest of the books in the Sundering series wouldn’t be a poor life choice either. The books are not connected, but they are all interconnected.
So, in The Adversary, Farideh is in yet another sticky situation where powers from the Nine Hells are trying to use her, while she is trying to protect her soul from eternal damnation and guard the ones she loves. After yet another deal with a devil goes horribly wrong , Farideh works for a magic-using foe whom she has faced before. To make matters worse, she is in a seemingly inescapable fortress viewing scenes from her past in a magical pool of water while being forced to use her unique powers to identify special people who are trapped in the village that surrounds the keep. When transported to this cage of a keep, she picks up a fallen paladin Harper named Dahl. As Dahl and Farideh try to escape, her father and twin sister, along with a motley crew of misfits and strange bedfellows, try to find this hidden keep and breach the force field surrounding it and the village.
This book requires the reader to have a working knowledge of Farideh and her world. Evans does a good job of filling the reader in as the story progresses, but without that prior knowledge, the reader will be lost and possibly feel a bit overwhelmed. To top that off, the book jumps around quite a bit between the past and present, inside the keep and internment camp, and even within the Nine Hells. In Evans’ defense, she handles this well and includes dates and locations at the beginnings of each chapter—to really follow the action, I recommend paying attention to these.
Evans shines when it comes to interpersonal relationships; that is the aspect of her vast writing skills that has always drawn me in. When viewed from the outside, such as when discussing the relationships with others who haven’t read the book, one might think that some of her stories seem a little like a soap opera, but while reading the book, I didn’t find the interpersonal intrigue to feel like this at all. This book is more of a story than a dungeon crawl, and if you are looking for cover-to-cover action, you won’t be pleased. There is action and there are fights, but they are interspersed throughout this story, and the pacing is just right for the story that Evans told.
I do feel like Evans needs to keep working on her action scene descriptions. They are well thought out; however, I found it hard to visualize some of the actions. It could just be a personal problem, but a few authors out there ram those images into my brain and do not allow them to escape. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I feel like it bears mentioning.
One high point is that there is a big revelation in this story. Based on the overall Realms-changing events that are occurring during the Sundering, it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. If you have not done your assigned reading, then it will be a complete shocker. What I really admired was that it came at a point where we could see some of the consequences of this revelation, rather than a cheesy Hollywood-style cliffhanger that merely served to lead into the next book.
I’m really enjoying The Sundering series, and I love seeing this dream team of authors take their beloved characters and insert them into a really cool storyline. In The Adversary, Evans maintains her outstanding ability to describe interpersonal relationships and takes things up a notch as she adds some new faces to the cauldron of characters she constantly stirs. I’m sure the action scenes in future novels will keep evolving in writing craft as Evans grows more and more as an author. This book is a must for Evans fans as well as fans of the Realms, but the cost of admission is reading the Brimstone Angels series if you really want to get the most out of this book.