Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Fighters: Master of Chains by Jess Lebow

After broadening my tie-in reading recently (with Warhammer 40,000 obviously being at the forefront, but also including Resistance and Rose Red, with upcoming books in Warhammer and Magic: The Gathering), I had to eventually (once I started moving into fantasy tie-ins) reach Forgotten Realms. I first gave it a try by jumping into the series following its most famous character, Drizzt Do’Urden, and I kinda crashed and burned (although this wasn’t necessarily the fault of the book, as I was in the middle of the move and just wasn’t focused on it, so I want to give it another go), but I wanted to give it another chance. So, when I saw The Fighters: Master of Chains on the shelves and couldn’t stop think that it looked really cool, I decided it was exactly the re-entry point I needed.

Ryder is a revolutionary. He is from a family of rural farmers, over-taxed and under-cared for by the local Baron. He and his brother Liam are members of the Crimson Awl, a group working to overthrow the Baron. Yet their plans take a hard turn when an ambush is sprung and the Crimson Awl loses a number of fighters. Ryder is captured in the conflict, is sent away, and begins an odyssey to return home, while Liam remains back to finish Ryder’s work. But all is far from simple good and bad, and Liam may come to question just who is in the right.

Lebow pens the first book in a four book series of stand-alone novels that follow fighters in the Forgotten Realms milieu. While it took a little bit to get into the novel, 50 pages in I was more than glad to have made it, and found myself to be hooked. The rest of the novel soared by. Lebow handles the multiple plotlines well, never letting one lag in favor of the other. Both Ryder and Liam become very well-developed characters, and the Baron becomes far more of a grey (as opposed to black and white) character who goes through some major character changes as the novel goes on.

At times the novel was a tiny bit predictable, but Lebow made up for this with wonderful fight scenes and a very fast-paced plot. His introduction of vampires at first worries me, but he plays it out well, not falling into corny situations. The epilogue leaves the potential for a sequel there, and while this seems unlikely as the series has ended and was made to be a set of stand-alones, I for one would love to see Lebow write a sequel and see how the rest of things turns out.

The Fighters: Master of Chains is an excellent re-introduction to the world of Forgotten Realms, and a very fun fantasy novel in its own right. Perfect for those who have little or no background in this tie-in universe, the novel brings you in and will have you searching out the rest of the books in the series.


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