The Sellsword by Cam Banks is the first novel in the Anvil of Time series, set in the world of DragonLance. It is Mr. Banks first novel, however, he does have a short story that was included in the anthology Dragons of Time (Dragonlance Anthology) that story is called `Chain of Fools'. The second book in this series is scheduled for release in November, 2008 and is called, The Survivors - it is being written by Dan Willis, the third book is scheduled for release in March, 2009 and is titled Renegade Wizards and is being written by Lucien Soulban.
The plot of this book, at least to start with, is about a Sellsword who accepts an assignment from a local lord. Little does he know that this is anything but a simple assignment. There are an assortment of mishaps, near-misses, and run-ins with people from his past. There are also a couple subplots woven into this story as well. Such as, just what the relationship between the Sellsword (Vanderjack) and his sword, the designs of an evil mage and what his scheme really is about, lastly, there is the subplot of the Dragon Highlord Rivven and what her many plans are and how they affect Vanderjack and his companions. Plot wise, for a Dragonlance book, it is about average if not a little lacking. The entire plot, at least for me seemed rather shallow and only we I got to the end did it really pique my interest. Before the ending, I was apathetic to it. It is not a bad plot, but there is really nothing here that made me sit back and say wow either.
The characters are equally as average. Sure, they each have some uniqueness, but I found myself not really connecting with them throughout the novel. Characters such as Vanderjack, Theodenes, Gredchen, Rivven, Star, and Cazuvel are all decent characters but nothing about them really stood out for me. I don't mean that they are flat characters, but I think some of the feelings I have derive from the fact that even though there are many events, it seems that perceptive readers will be able to gather the outcome of the book fairly early. If you are looking for surprises from characters, they are few and far between in this novel. While there are hints of greatness with these characters, it seems that they fall just short of that extra level to be memorable.
A couple criticisms about this novel are;
1 - There is a great deal of humor in this novel. At times it fits perfectly, yet, at other times it seems really forced and doesn't mesh with the events that are occurring. Don't get me wrong, I love humor in fantasy novels, in fact I have often said I wish there were more of it, yet this may be the case of too much of a good things ruins it. After a while, I honestly because frustrated with some of the attempted humor.
2 - I wish there was more character development, or at least something to make these characters more memorable. As a long time fantasy reader, I felt a little cheated that these characters didn't seem to reach their full potential. They did just enough to get through the story, but that extra stuff wasn't really there.
Some of the brighter spots of this novel are:
1 - Mr. Bank's prose is fluid and easy to read. For the most part he allowed the story to speak for itself. He provided enough description, without over doing it allowing the reader to see both his vision, but also the reader's vision as well. It was a nice balance.
2 - The ending proves that Mr. Banks did have a solid vision for this novel and was able to tie everything together nicely. I think with some more practice and the honing of skills, Mr. Banks will weave start to weave stories that are both interesting and impactful. It's only a matter of time.
I realize this is Mr. Bank's first full length novel and as such, there are bound to be a few bumps in the road. However, based on this novel and Chain of Fools, I am willing to take a look at his next novel to see what, if anything, he has learned. Fans of the Dragonlance world will probably want to pick this up, but they should temper their expectations as well. Fans looking to start reading in the Dragonlance world would be best served by starting with the class Dragonlance Chronicles and working out from those. When all is said and done, this is an average Dragonlance novel, but the author does show some promise as a writer.