The book is set in the bustling (mega) city of Waterdeep, on the Sword Coast, on the shores of western Faerun, where it describes the adventures of a group of young Waterdhavian nobles who pass their time eating, drinking, playing, and womanizing (all in excess as befits the city's nobility). Their world, however, will never be the same when a cult set on dominating the City of Splendors tests the group's resolve and plunges the young nobles in more adventures (and trouble) than they can handle. Now they must not only save Waterdeep, but themselves as well...
The City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel is the fourth, and last, in the Cities series, which consists of The City of Ravens (set in the city of Ravens Bluff), Temple Hill (set in the city of Elversult), and The Jewel of Turmish (set in the city of Alaghon).
The book starts off incredibly well, immediately catching the reader's interest and attention before stagnation (and subsequently boredom) quickly sets in, only to pick up again with 100 or so pages to go.
The plot as a whole is interesting (for the most part). Ed Greenwood and Elaine Cunningham do a good job of presenting essential knowledge relevant to Faerun, including customs, religion, and the history of the peoples of Toril (especially since the Forgotten Realms is setting is Ed Greenwood's brainchild and Elaine Cunningham has long worked successfully within this setting) e.g. in their depiction of a Dathran, (i.e. rogue witches of Rashemen) (pp.216-217) and the exotic poison Stratha, the Bane of Elves (p.284), to describing gnomes: "It was the way of gnomes to remember faults, longings, and other weaknesses for future bargaining." (p.79)
Moreover, on page 237 they provide a very good description of someone turning down a magical item due to alignment conflict.
Furthermore, the two authors are on the ball with the following two quotes: "I suppose many might be unhappy that Waterdeep's governed in secret, for how can they rise in power and influence unless they can see the path ahead," (p.79) and "If a thing is said often enough: fools aplenty will believe it's true." (p.145)
Finally, the authors provide for great dramatic effect with the following phrases stealing the show: "Boz was calmly biting off fingers, one at a time, to get at the coins clenched in the orc-blood's fist," (p.20) and "Watch your tongue, wench, or I'll cut it out and eat it." (p.25)
On the downside, the book has too much of a French/Russian Revolution theme, with class struggle and the likes, to the point that at times it seems like a political manifesto.
Moreover, for close to 350 pages (out of 476) the book was sooo very slow, with Chapter 6 almost putting me to sleep; dreadfully frustrating reading!
In addition, why didn't the noble families pay for their kin to be raised from the dead? It is not as if there is a shortage of temples and priests or of money.
It is also difficult to believe that Mrelder's efforts alone led to the rumors of Lord Piergeiron's death spreading like wildfire across a city like Waterdeep.
Furthermore, the outcome of Lord Piergeiron and his bodyguards' excursion into the Dock Ward was highly unlikely and improbable; he was hit by a tavern sign and collapsed like a 0-level commoner? The paladin warrior lord of Waterdeep??? And in the midst of it all Mrelder, the monk/sorcerer, stole the Guardian's Gorget! Are you joking?
Moreover, Mrelder neutralized Waterdeep's archmage, Khelben Blackstaff, with such ease and efficiency that he successfully kept him incapacitated throughout the story, while the latter's apprentices were presented as if they were buffoons. Are you kidding? Mrelder did that? If the monk/sorcerer and his mentally deranged father could pull that off, and if a waitress/housemaid is of more use in protecting the city than the Open Lord of Waterdeep, then a score of maimed kobolds can take the City without even breaking a sweat!
Additionally, what friends would leave their buddy alone and drunk in the seedy part of the city as the Gemcloaks did with Beldar at the Gelded Griffon? (p.221) Great friends indeed!
Other drawbacks include the ill relationship between father and son that makes you want to skewer them both, but most importantly the "genius" that conjured them!
Finally, Ed Greenwood and Elaine Cunningham could have and should have done a much better job when dealing with a part of the Realms that they know better than the back of their hands.
In conclusion, The City of Splendors: A Waterdeep Novel will provide for a fair amount of entertainment though it could have been so much better. 3.3 Stars
The authors provide room for a sequel, though I am not sure there is a demand for it.