Forgotten Realms: Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Book Review)
It has been a good long while since I’ve read a Forgotten Realms novel. The last one was in December of last year, Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham. It was a fairly good read, but I’ve definitely read better, from the works of Erin M. Evans and Paul S. Kemp and Richard Baker and all. It is definitely a setting that I love exploring and the more I read in it, the more excited I get about it. Forgotten Realms fully explores the multiverse side of things for a fantasy setting, and that is part of the charm, in addition to the utter abundance and wonder of its many different races and cultures and what not.
And in that respect, Richard Baker’s first novel in the Last Mythal Saga, Forsaken House, is really good. It presents many different facets of Elf life in the Forgotten Realms and it also presents a really fast-paced, excitable and intriguing premise paired with some really interesting characters. The only other novel of Richard’s I’ve read before this is his Condemnation, the third novel in the 6-part War of the Spider Queen multi-author extravaganza and that too was a damn fine read. It is great to see Richard’s best replicated here, and the Last Mythal Saga is definitely a tale that I want to read in full now.
Elves are a fantasy race that I have been enamoured of ever since I read The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. They are fascinating in many aspects and their grace and beauty attracts me as much as the dour brashness and roughness of dwarves. And given that, the many different societies and cultures of Elves presented in Forsaken House are a treasure trove indeed, and in just the perfect way of Forgotten Realms. There are wood elves, sun elves, moon elves, dark elves, demon elves etc aplenty in this novel and part of its charm comes from this very element. Richard Baker doesn’t really delve much into the differences between all these cultures, but he does a good job of navigating those differences, and that’s where the true value of the novel is.
As I said before, the novel also has some really great characters, whether they be of the forces of good or evil. The premise is that an ancient Elven evil has reawakened and wants to reclaim its lost powers, thanks to the fell magics of the underworld, and the opposition to this evil power is both mundane and magical for Elves wizards and warriors have both responded to the call for battle, and are rallying around their champions. The first twenty percent or so of the book deals with all the setup and once that phase of the story is over with, Richard quickly delves into the main plot and he does so with an almost wild abandon that I found thrilling to watch unfold.
The mage Araevin, the warrior father-daughter duo of Seiveril and Ilsevele Miritar, Queen Amlaruil of Evermeet, and more are characters that I really wanted to read more about. They are all of those Elves who left Faerun behind for Evermeet, or at least descendants of such, and their interplay is one of the strongest elements of the novel. Given the way that events unfold, Seiveril and Amlaruil also present quite an interesting view of Elven politics in Evermeet, and that was quite good to see because it broke up all the physical tension nice enough and provided me with something else to focus on beyond the adventuring side of things that Araevin and Ilsevele and their friends engaged in or the more martial aspect of things once Seiveril made his big play. And that balance in itself is a great positive because too often fantasy novels easily sway towards an extreme. An unbalanced novel like that can be quite draining to read and I’m glad that Richard maintained that balance here.
Of course, where the good guys are all excellent, the villains are the same. Sarya Dlardrageth, Lord Floshin and others did a good job at brightening up the scene with their out-and-out villain. It was refreshing to read about villains who start off as evil and end as evil. Forsaken House is no origin story, for that I’m thankful, and part of that is because Richard lets the tale of the feyri, the demon-elves unfold quite naturally through the prose rather than playing it out in scenes (whether in the present time or flashbacks or what have you). There is a certain complexity to the characters sure, and it is more surface-deep, but I loved the simplicity of the villains nonetheless. You know where you stand with these villains and that’s important because then you aren’t guessing too much about what they are going to do next. They are dependable, is I guess the word.
And I love that! I most certainly do!
Another great thing about this novel is that it so steeped in the history of the setting. For one, Sarya and her armies represent a rather ancient threat to the Elves and that history unfolds very naturally over the course of the novel. Many of the greatest events of the setting, as they pertain to our specific characters, are mentioned here and that makes the novel feel that much more complete. In a great coincidence Richard references Elaine Cunningham’s Songs & Swords trilogy quite a bit, of which the aforementioned Elfshadow is the first novel. Sure, the references kind of ruin the trilogy for me since I’ve only read the first book, but given that some of it is hinted at in the ending of Elfshadow softens up the blow a bit. And for me, really, it just gives me more of a reason to continue on with that series, and perhaps evens finish it sometime this year, if I get the chance, though that looks unlikely.
Though Richard often repeats certain things in the novel, such as descriptions and certain (mild) info-dumps, I won’t deny that he still writes some really compelling and moving prose. His descriptions are always detailed and they help you visualize the novel as you read along, providing an even better experience. There are few authors in science fiction and fantasy who do the same, or who I’ve noted doing the same, and Richard is really a great example of such. I mean, if the descriptions are not good enough, then it is tough to enjoy a novel at all, and that was most certainly not the case here by far.
Most of all, I loved the ending of the novel. Richard built it all up really well and then he executed it very well too, for which he deserves a standing ovation, for I’d become slightly concerned about it by the time I got to it. Thankfully he didn’t disappoint, and he just gave me more of a reason to stick to the setting and to his series. Coming off of Condemnation, Forsaken House is a most enjoyable novel and part of that reason is because Richard is good at what he does and what he is supposed to do. Without that, the novel really wouldn’t be anything.
So yeah, in closing, Forsaken House is most definitely a book I’d recommend. It is really great to see that yet another novel from a series on my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge has proven to be so good, given some of the disappointments I’ve had.
More Richard Baker: Condemnation.
Posted on July 13, 2014, in Book Reviews, Review Central and tagged 25 Series To Read In 2014, 25-in-14, Araevin, Book Review, Demons, Elves, Epic Fantasy, Evereska, Evermeet, Faerun, Fantasy, Fantasy Multiverse, Forgotten Realms, Forsaken House, High Fantasy, Last Mythal, Mages, magic, Moon Elves, Novel Review, Review, Review Central, Richard Baker, Sarya Dlardrageth, Sun Elves, Wizards of the Coast, Wood Elves. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.