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June 7th, 2009

6:18 PM

Free book! Black Crusade by Ari Marmell

Ari Marmell's dark fantasy story Black Crusade was planned to be the first book in Ravenloft Dominion series, but it had been canceled (the whole line had been canceled anyway), only to be reissued as a free PDF book at the Wizards of the Coast website.

I won't review it because it's a free book, but I've read it and I can say this: it's an interesting book. It doesn't quite succeed in capturing a sense of horror as the book is more gory than scary, but I like the concept behind the story. We have a brand new domain, Malosia, which is waiting for its darklord. Our hero is a knight from the Crusade who is blinded by vengeance and in this story he pursues his enemy, a rogue priest who has turned to dark and forbidden magic. If you are used to the way Ravenloft works, you can guess easily who the darklord of the realm will be, but the journey in getting to that point is quite interesting.

What can be improved? This book suffers from too much head-hopping, for one. The author mixes up not only POVs, sometimes within a single paragraph, he also muddles the situation further by sometimes pointing out things from a character's POV, things that this character shouldn't be able to discern. Also, it seems like of all the three books published under this line, only Samantha Henderson seems to get the balance between character introspection and action right with Heaven's Bones. That one has excellently drawn characters - even the villain has a human aspect to him, which makes him doubly more terrifying. Here, the author didn't allow enough glimpses into the characters' heads. Diederic ends up rather on the cardboard "blinded by zeal" side. Mr Marmell also commits the cardinal sin of wasting time focusing on some characters only have to them vanish from the story at some point, never to be seen again.

Oh, and historical accuracy purists, be careful: Diederic speaks like a 21st century guy here.

Anyway, if you collect Ravenloft's books published by TSR years ago, you may be happy to know that this book is closest in feel to those books. This also means that this book can sometimes resemble a tabletop RPG transcript too much, sigh. Nonetheless, the concept of the story is very interesting: Malosia is definitely more intriguing and darker than the Inquisition-plagued canon domains of Nidala and Tepest, that's for sure. All in all, this is a readable book, entertaining in many ways. I'd rank this book higher than David A Page's very problematic Mithras Court but considerably lower than Heaven's Bones.

2 comment(s).

Posted by meh:

LOL. Wizards of the Coast. You're something of a gamer geek, and not even in the closet about it. How'd that happen? :-)
June 8th, 2009 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Always been that way since my fantasy reading days, meh, back then when Spectra was still a sci-fi imprint for Bantam and WoTC was still TSR.

I had a large collection of TSR novels back in those days. I sometimes wonder how much I can sell those first edition Dragonlance books, including those out of print ones.
June 8th, 2009 @ 12:04 AM