Scream of Stone is the third and last (thank goodness) instalment in the Watercourse Trilogy. The book is definitely an improvement compared to Whisper of Waves and Lies of Light, nevertheless it is too little too late.
To start with, the characters are burned out and there is not much one can do with them. In addition, as in the previous two books, there continue to be inconceivable spelling mistakes throughout the book, which is simply unacceptable, such as on the second to last line on page 151 where it should read "from" not "form," on page 211 it should read "heard" instead of "head," on page 279 "Rainwater and spittle `flew' (not few) from the man's lips," while a word is missing altogether from "The naga yanked back hard and came out with the still-beating, black heart of the firedrake [in] its clawed fist." (p.163)
On the positive side, Chapter 39 introduces the reader to the Tanar'ri Maurezhi (details found on page 110-111 of the AD&D Second Edition Planescape Monstrous Compedium II) through a well described summon monster spell. Additionally, Chapter 62 tells of the fate that befell Phyrea's ancestors that later came to haunt her. Moreover, Philip Athans provides on pages 157 and 219 wonderful descriptions of a wizard casting a polymorph other spell and of a cleric using her turning undead ability respectively. Furthermore, the author provides for some extraordinary descriptions of undead at work: "He smashed her face against the floor and the scream was momentarily combined with a wet crack, then she quieted to a moaning, sickly sound that made Willem's dead flesh crawl, so he smashed her face down again. Her body convulsed and her legs kicked out. He drove her face once more into the ever-increasing puddle of hot, sticky blood and broken teeth. She kicked one more time then was still" (p.213), "The ghoul staggered backward, clawing at its face and tearing free great strips of flesh, revealing the bone beneath. It had no skin on its face at all when it finally fell still" (p.165), "Surero's head exploded from the force of Willem's blow. The dry-skinned fist shattered teeth, drove the alchemist's mouth open, and continued on through flesh, bone, brain, and sinew to burst out the other side drenched in blood and saliva" (p.204), "The undead barrel-makers poured water into a barrel they'd finished. It was bad enough that the thing sprung leaks in a dozen places or more, but as they poured the water in, strips of their own rotting flesh fell into the barrel, fouling it" (p.289), and finally "Willem Korvan ate his mother's corpse, little by little, over the course of seventeen days not because he required sustenance, but out of some dimly-felt sense of necessity. Marek Rymut could feel the undead thing's need and confusion the second he stepped into the house. It hit him just as squarely, though not quite as hard, as the stench. The smell of the rotting carcass of Thurene Korvan mixed with the dried-meat and spice smell of her son. Throughout was the tang of disease." (p.246) In addition, Philip Athans provides for vivid descriptions that facilitate the reader to better visualize the scenes e.g. "Willem could smell the urine that drenched his already rain-soaked trousers" (p.92), "When the mist hit her, her skin blistered. She opened her mouth to scream again and inhaled a deep breath of acid. Instead of another scream, what came out was a white and pink froth. Her eyes melted into her skull and were gone entirely in less than a single heartbeat. The girl lived too long, dissolving away while trying to breath and scream, but succeeding only in sizzling," (pp.134-135), and "Marek snapped his fingers and the demon's forearm snapped. The creature howled in agony and grabbed the twisted limb. Its clawed hand hung limp at the end of it." (p.156) Finally, the author speaks truthfully when stating that: "You can only use people that allow themselves to be used... and anyone who would allow that is not worthy of your shame." (p.191)
In conclusion, despite several shining moments the Watercourse Trilogy was such a disappointment, especially after reading Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, and Philip Athans' story ("The Lady and the Shadow") from the Realms of the Arcane anthology, which were amazing. Hopefully the author's future work will be more in line with his better earlier novels. 3.5 Stars