Undead by Richard Lee Byers is the second book of the Haunted Land trilogy set in the Forgotten Realms. The first book is titled Unclean (Forgotten Realms: The Haunted Lands, Book 1) and the third book, scheduled for release in March 2009, is titled Unholy. This trilogy is the second trilogy penned by Mr. Byers in the Forgotten Realms, the first trilogy was titled Year of the Rogue Dragons. Mr. Byers also has several other stand alone books, or books apart of other series, set in the Forgotten Realms such as; Dissolution (Forgotten Realms: R.A. Salvatore's War of the Spider Queen, Book 1), The Black Bouquet (Forgotten Realms: The Rogues, Book 2), The Shattered Mask: Sembia: Gateway to the Realms, Book III (Forgotten Realms), and Queen of the Depths (Forgotten Realms: The Priests).
The plot of this book is a direct continuation of Unclean, so if you have not read the first book, then you really need to do so before reading this novel. There are many plot elements that occur in this book that are set up in the first novel. The main plot of this book is the continued civil war that is occurring in the realm of Thay. There are several sub plot scattered throughout the novel as well such as; numerous political aspects. Things such as who is on who's side, and will that person betray the side they are currently on to help the other side. The romantic sub plot from the first part continues into this novel as well. A sub plot involving Szass Tam's army and what it takes to keep an army, such as his, moving and `happy'. There are also a couple other sub plots, but I won't talk about those for fear of spoiling things for some people. Overall, the plot seems a little more developed, which is to be expected, from the first book.
The characters in this book are mostly the same as the first book, but there are a few more added that help the story progress. The main characters remain largely the same. Characters such as Aoth, Bareis, Tammith, and Szass Tam headline the character cast. Much like I felt with the first book, the characters of this book seem to really be an aspect that keeps things interesting. While I enjoyed these same characters in the first book, I was unsure just how much character development would take place in this book. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of character development that did take place. There is even at least one instance that the character development goes beyond normal expectations and adds an interesting touch to what should be a very interesting character in the third book. The thing I like most about the characters, is that they really aren't flashy, they just are. They seem normal, and real. Even the lich Szass Tam has some character development, which surprised me because he has been around in the realms for a long time.
My only real criticism with this novel is how the chapters are setup. They are organized as several small `snap shots' of scenes featuring different points of view. To me, setting up chapters like this causes them to feel disjointed and as though they are jumping around. I would have much preferred slightly longer scenes, and smaller chapters. The way it is right now it is very hard to develop any continuity and consistency. As a reader, it seemed like just as I was getting into the story I was jerked out and thrust into a different plot line. It made for difficulty following things and I am almost positive I missed things due to this.
Some things I really enjoyed about this book.
As I said above, I enjoyed the characters quite a bit more. In fact, I enjoyed them even more with this book, since Mr. Byers did not have to spend as much time setting things up. He was allowed more liberties with them and it really showed.
Also, I have always been interested in Thay, as I am sure many other readers have been. This book, and trilogy, allows us a glimpse into the intrigue and cut throat nature that Thay is.
Overal, I enjoyed the book however, I am still left with the impression that if it was written differently (style wise) I would have enjoyed it more. I don't feel as though I was able to get the full experience and see the full vision that Mr. Byers had. With that said, I think this trilogy is a must read for Forgotten Realms fans as there is one event in this book that will certainly have an impact throughout the entire Forgotten Realm landscape. This is a book I will recommend to hard core Forgotten Realms fans, but aside from that I am not sure how often I will be recommending this one.