Dangerous Games is the second book in the Netheril Trilogy set in the region of the Anauroch Desert in Faerun's North thousands of years in the past when the inhospitable desert was covered by lush forests and green fields, all part of the mighty Netheril Empire. The book deals with the ongoing adventures of Sunbright, a northern barbarian, who finds himself sent three and half centuries into the future at the exact time of the fall of the great Netheril Empire.
Clayton Emery continues to do a wonderful job of presenting essential knowledge relevant to Faerun, including customs, religion (especially the mention of Tempus' predecessor: "...like the arrow of Targus, God of War," (p.288) and Mystra's predecessor: "Mystryl, Lady of Mysteries, Mother of all Magic. Mystryl was the goddess of lovers, and the poor, and those in dire strife" (p.218)), and the history of the peoples of Toril.
Clayton Emery's description of the battle between the two cities of Ioulaum and Karsus was breathtaking: "Screams. A charred smell of scorched flesh filled the air, an autumnal whiff of burning leaves. There was nothing to see, but soldiers died where they clustered. Barely visible heat ripples ticked the air as men and women felt their clothes, their skin and hair, ignite. Painted K's on their breastplates curled and smoked, then each person became a ball of writhing flame, then a melting pool of blackened fat." (p.237) Moreover, the author depicts the chaotic neutral alignment, through the archwizard Karsus, superbly just as he had done in Sword Play with Sysquemalyn's chaotic evil alignment; again, probably the best depiction I have seen to-date. In addition, Clayton Emery does a magnificent job in Chapters 21 and 22 of describing Karsus' attempt to challenge the goddess Mystryl, and then describing Mystryl's ultimate sacrifice in the latter (and final) chapter. On pages 85 and 130 respectively, the author provides more exceptional descriptions that help plane shift the reader to Faerun, beside Sunbright and his companions: "... poor Baron Onan. He was disemboweled and strangled with his own guts. Hung from the bedpost," and "Seeing his mistake, the guard let go of his weapon. Too late. Harvester slammed into his belly, bowling the man back and spilling his guts." As for the graphic descriptions found throughout the book, and especially the torture scenes on pages 216-217 they are extraordinary indeed, while Chapter 13 provides for great battle scenes versus assassins: "Harvester of Blood split the assassin's guts and rocketed out his back," (p.182) "Howling, he slammed Harvester overhand and smashed it down on her shoulder, splitting her back to expose white ribs, and knocking her sprawling," (p.183) and "Sunbright's sword slammed her across the midriff, cutting her to the spine. The warrior heaved the heavy trunk off his blade and the assassin in two halves." (p.184) Moreover, the author continues to convey Netheril's pure decadence and corruption, through Chapter 5 especially: "There was no end to the corruption of the empire, he saw. It was built on the bones of the unjustly-treated dead, and the hunched backs of the dying living," (p.73) while page 86 in particular provides for a great summary of the Neth Emprire's woes/ills. Furthermore, the author speaks truthfully when stating that: "... plump women hated skinny ones worse than poison." (p.210)
On the down side, the battle against the beetles with which Dangerous Games started was not that interesting and should not have been at all challenging, especially following Sunbright's previous venture into the Nine Hells (!) in Sword Play. Moreover, when Sunbright saw Knucklebones' "milky white eye" and thought it looked "familiar," the author did not provide any follow up, just like we never learned Greenwillow's background story in Sword Play; subsequently, the reader is just left hanging (again). An additional question that arises is in regards to Candlemas' dramatic change of personality from one who is majorly into his chambermaids (even twelve year old girls) and takes part in wagers with chaotic evil wizards to falling for the comely middle aged woman without him or us really knowing how or why?
Overall the plot is not as enticing as in Sword Play, however, the author's wonderful style of writing and the novel's great historical value make it a must-read for Forgotten Realms fans; looking forward to the final installment: Mortal Consequences. 4.5 Stars