Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (Forgotten Realms: Baldur's Gate) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Sep 2001
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Abdel and his companions race to save the lives of Bhaal's offspring, who are being killed by people of Faer un who are unaware that each death provides additional power to an evil group of Bhaalspawn intent on returning their father to Toril.
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Top Customer Reviews
This final book in the series sees Philip Athans replaced by Drew Karpyshyn as author and I would say that this change nice as the new writer seems a little better than the original one. The book still has a few minor issues with its writing though with a few mistakes here and there. As well as this a lot of the plot twists are quite obvious while the plot itself seems a little anaemic and could probably have been improved by expanding the story somewhat. On the plus side the action scenes are quite well written and are enjoyable to read with the battle against the last of the Five being particularly well done.
Overall while this is easily the best book in the trilogy, it is still something of a let-down when compared to the brilliant game and is only really worth three stars at best.
If you want a well written story about Baldur's Gate - buy the games. If you want a well written book, buy Salvatore.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Athens was thankfully replaced as author for the third book by Drew Karpyshyn. Sadly the destruction was so complete that there was little left to salvage. Mr. Karpyshyn's writing is several steps up from Athens. The problem of this third book is not the talents of Mr. Karpyshyn rather it is the horrible and incoherent mess of first two books of the series. The very fact that Mr. Karpyshyn could continue the story and bring the tale to its conclusion speaks very well of his talents.
It is very sad that it is only in the last half of the last book of the series that some of the themes of the game actually make an appearance. The nature of good and evil, the possibility of redemption finally get some thought put to them. The notion that what makes an individual a hero are not things one is born with but arise out of the choices we make. Unfortunately this attempt to redeem the series comes far to late.
Chose to play the game and don't bother with the books.
The novel opens with Bhaalspawn Abdel Adrian, around whom the trilogy revolves, travelling through a forest with his half-sister (from whom he sucked out the Bhaal juice in one of the earlier books) and his lover WHO IS A BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF. We know that she is a HALF-ELF and BEAUTIFUL because author Karpyshyn *tells us* that she is -- often. Abdel Adrian is BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR; we know this because author Karpyshyn tells us that he is every second page or so. He is also INVULNERABLE TO MELEE ATTACKS; we know this because Karpyshyn tells us ... constantly, apparently believing that anyone who would read this book must be doing so only because it is named after a video game and must therefore suffer from such severe Attention Defecit Disorder that if something is not repeated at least twice in every three pages the reader will forget it. Did I mention that Abdel Is BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR? Because he is. And his girlfriend is a BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF. Who loves him despite his being a Bhaalspawn and prone to suddenly turning into a four-armed bug which is twelve feet tall and prone to quoting Kafka. The bug, called The Ravager, is BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR and delights in slaughter, which is awkward for Abdel's half-sister and his girlfriend (who is a BEUTIFUL HALF-ELF, by the way).
BIG, STRONG, MUSCULAR Abdel, his half-sister and Abdel's BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF girlfriend are attacked by one of the Five, who is killed within four pages, so don't worry about her name. She uses rune-inscribed arrows to shoot Abdel's BIG, MUSCULAR, STRONG body, causing wounds which don't heal. This surprises him, because his body HEALS ITS OWN DAMAGE (we know this because Karpyshyn tells us at least four times in every single chapter). Surprised that the arrows prevent his BIG, STRONG, MUSCULAR BODY from HEALING ITS OWN DAMAGE, Abdel goes to some nether plane and there meets his dead half-brother -- another Bhaalspawn, whom he had killed in Book 1 or 2 -- and lets him have some Bhaal juice, which makes him come back to life. This half-brother, Sarevok, is an essential character because Abdel is as stupid as a brick and couldn't figure out that when you are in a nether plane in which *nothing* exists except for five doors hanging in mid-nothingness, the way to get home is to click your heels and say ... I mean, the way to get home is to OPEN A FRIGGIN' DOOR WHICH HAS YOUR HOME ON THE OTHER SIDE AND STEP THROUGH. Sarevok, who wears BLADED ARMOR -- which has BLADES on it, don't forget, because those BLADES will be important later on! -- tells his BIG, STRONG, MUSCULAR half-brother to open the door which has the big neon sign reading "THIS WAY TO THE FOREST WHERE YOUR HALF-SISTER AND BEUATIFUL HALF-ELF GIRLFRIEND ARE LOOKING FOR YOU," and there is the forest where his half-sister and BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF girlfriend are wondering where his BIG, STRONG, MUSCULAR BODY (which HEALS ITS OWN DAMAGE, remember) has got to! What a surprise! (Bet you didn't see *that one* coming from five pages earlier!) The four of them then go to Saradush, where lots of Bhaalspawn are gathered.
Saradush is under siege, but they manage to walk through a sewer outflow and enter the city. The sewer is large enough for Sarevok, who wears BLADED ARMOR and Abdel, who is BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR (and seven feet tall, by the way) to walk through with no problem. Twenty thousand besieging soldiers failed to notice this open grate in the wall at any time in the past six months, presumably because Karpyshyn didn't write up a neon sign for it, saying, "THIS WAY TO THE SECRET ENTRANCE!!! BHAALSPAWN! BHAALSPAWN! BHAALSPAWN!"
Sarevok, in his BLADED ARMOR and Abdel, with his BIG, STRONG, MUSCULAR BODY, and their half-sister, and Abdel's girlfriend, the BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF, are immediately caputured by the defenders, who seem to have forgotten that there was an eight-foot wide hole in the city wall, and blah, blah, blah, they meet Melisaan, who was the one who gathered hundreds of Bhaalspawn here "for their own safety." (If you haven't already figured out who the Chosen of Bhaal is by this point in the novel, don't worry, you're no more stupid than the characters.)
Abdel is sent out to fight the besieging general, who is EVEN MORE BIGGER AND STRONGERER AND MORE MUSCULARARERER THAN ABDEL and whose WOUNDS ALSO HEAL THEMSELVES. The latter surprises Abdel, who, being slightly more a dullard than George of the Jungle, was not quick to realize that a guy who is nine feet tall and EVEN MORE BIGGER AND STRONGERER AND MORE MUSCULARARERER THAN HE, and who goes half-naked into battle against a seven foot tall BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR BHAALSPAWN who can turn into A FOUR ARMED, 12-FOOT TALL BUG could *also* HEAL HIS OWN WOUNDS -- doh! (Don't forget that Abdel's girlfriend is a BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF -- not that it matters much at this point.)
Abdel wins. Did I mention that the enemy general, who was EVEN MORE BIGGER AND STRONGERER AND MORE MUSCULARARERER THAN ABDEL, had a rune-inscribed axe, too? This surprises Abdel. It surprises him so much that he leaves it lying on the ground and walks away from it despite the fact that many bad things still exist in the world and want to kill him and his half-sister and kill (re-kill?) his half-brother (who wears BLADED ARMOR, don't forget), and these rune-weapons are the only things which can wound BIG AND STRONG AND MUSCULAR BHAALSPAWN who HEAL THEIR OWN WOUNDS.
Then ... oh, God. Why bother telling more? There are dragons, who seem to exist only to be killed for experience points, being invulnerable before twenty thousand soldiers but dropping life gnats when fighting twelve-on-one against some schmuck in BLADED ARMOR who has no weapon but his BLADED ARMOR, and there are still more of the Five (three more, in fact!), and a mysterious monastery with a bad abbot and blah, blah, blah.
This book reads like a first draft penned by a bright twelve-year-old -- someone who can put together a good story but who does not yet know how to write it well. When a writer with a good story and an execrable writing style submits material to a publisher, it is the responsibility of an editor to either fix the problems or else send the manuscript back to the author and tell him to rewrite it and keep rewriting until people like me won't be tempted to write reviews like this. Obviously no one at Wizards of the Coast bothered to do this. No *competent* editor would have allowed such sloppy, amateurish writing as this to hit the stands. Those who have played the game have complained here about the book failing to mention huge amounts of the material which is covered by the game. Had the book an editor who was even passably competent, at least one-eighth of it (which consisted of telling us that Abdel was BIG AND STRONG, etc., that his girlfriend was a BEAUTIFUL HALF-ELF, that his brother wore BLADED ARMORER, etc.) could have been cut and replaced with new information. That this was not done is entirely the fault of The slap-dash editorial policy of Wizards of the Coast, whose parent company, Hasbro, apparently thinks that, "If you publish it, they will buy it." Not this dreck!
What is most galling about this lousy writing and editing is that there *is* an exciting, ripping yarn to be told about this chapter of Faerun's recent history. Except for Gregor Samsa -- er, Abdel Adrian --turning into a twelve foot bug just before the end, the last couple of chapters in this novel are very good (albeit somewhat flawed), and *I* honestly did not know who would win in the end. One character makes a surprising revelation which elicits a major shift in sympathy from one character to another and leaves Bhaal's plan to be reborn through his children in doubt -- up until the last couple of pages the outcome is uncertain, and not in a phoney, mock-suspense way, either -- there really is no certainty of who will win in the last two chapters.
This uncertainty is dashed by the most obnoxious character in the entire book, an angel (for want of a term recognizable to non-gamers) who works for Ao, the Overpower, who gives marching orders to the gods. I know that this is what Ao does because I have read many other Forgotten Realms books. Karpyshan seems not to have known or cared who Ao is; he sticks this angel in the book *only* to pull off an _angelus_ _ex_ _machina_, thwarting the high level of suspense created just before the end and forcing it into the result that 99.99% of readers will have expected just from reading the blurb on the back cover.
The angel (who wears a robe of black with a psychedelic star pattern, which I interpreted as indicating that this creature *was* Ao until events proved otherwise), constantly prattles about what is permitted and not permitted, and then proceeds to do what is not permitted. Ao, mind you, threw every god but one out of heaven because a few of them cheesed him off. We are to believe that he is going to let a mere angel disobey orders and alter the theological history of Faerun forever? I don't think so! A competent editor would have cut that thing from the book and told Karpyshyn to figure out some other way for Abdel to move around and know what he knows. This book did not have a competent editor.
(About the protagonist's name: I don't know who is to be blamed for the name "Abdel Adrian," but as anyone who is even slightly familiar with Arabic, or who has ever read a baby name book -- or the AD&D book "Arabian Adventures"! -- knows, "abd-el" means "servant of" and is meaningless on its own; it must be followed by another word/name to show of whom the person so designated is the servant. In this series the central character's name literally translates as "servant of Adrian" -- as roughly *one billion people* could have told anyone at Wizards who cared enough to ask. Every time I came across his stupid "name" I kept wondering: "Who's Adrian?" Every page of this book burns with the result of such sloppy editing.)
I give this book two stars because the sections about the essence of Bhaal being manipulated by the Chosen of Bhaal are interesting (to me), and the ending -- except for the damned angel -- was well-done. I have not read the first two books in the trilogy. If other readers are to be believed, they are far worse than this book!
Regarding the story itself, well, Drew Karpyshyn didn't really have much to work with and I don't think it's his fault that it came out bad and far far away from the story presented in the awesome game. The reason for that lack of ability to change the story to the better lies in the fact that the story has been mutilated beyond recognition by Philip Athans, for example one of THE best characters in the game, Imoen, who is an innocent, kind, funny, light hearted and sweet soul in the game is turned by Philip Athans into an abused child who grows into a lesbian (also, unlike in the game she dies in Drew Karpyshyn's book).
The protagonist, like in the previous books, is a spineless jerk and a fool and not somebody who's prophesized to stop the rebirth of Bhaal, The God Of Murder. He doesn't grow to be somebody who's supposed to fulfil the prophecy, it seems like the prophecy would've fulfilled itself even if he hadn't lifted a finger (Blthazar reviving the protagonist and then killing himself so that the prophecy will be fulfilled ? Really ? Why didn't Balthazar kille all the Bhallspawns by himself and then fetched the protagonist from Candlekeep and then broke his own neck so that the prophecy will be fulfilled ? Who's the hero here ? The protagonist or Balthazar ? Sounds more like Balthazar is the hero here and the worthy one of the prophecy).
In short DO NOT buy any of the books, buy the games.
In Drew Karpyshyn's defence I must say that as far as I know it's his first book and he wasn't given any material to work with and I think that with some practice he will become a good writer(maybe he'll rewrite the entire trilogy into one book then, writing the story the way it should be;)). I certainly hope somebody does, somebody skilled in writing and who won't be lazy to play the games or at least take the final scripts from Bioware and write the book according to them (The protagonist having a spine and a brain, and Imoen being the same Imoen like in the games who also stays alive and then continues to travel, at least for a while, with the protagonist before starting to make a name for herself in the realms).
The Baldur's Gate series was (and still is) one of the most beautiful and endearing games I'll ever play. To be twenty four years old and still have 'pangs' where every few years I'll suddenly get the urge to reinstall them says a lot at how timeless they are. Unfortunately, the novelizations left me feeling cheated. I am insulted the authors in all three novels didn't seem to bother inserting any of the wonder and epicness the games achieved. It's better to try than not bother at all, I say.
On the other hand, Throne of Bhaal IS a novelization of a video game - don't expect high literature. They're trashy by nature and put together for desperate nerds seeking to further their adventures in yet another fantasy universe. Just buy it, read it, revel in your ultimate nerddom and then put it back on the shelf for this is their soul purpose of creation... You won't ever need to read ToB again either - one can see what's coming a mile away and the actual content is merely copy and paste and edit who dies next.
Like other Baldur's Gate gamers I have the sense of urgency to shout out "play the games first!" but the harshness of how primitive the graphics are may deter some youngins. Grit your teeth and in the first five minutes it will be plain to see the games and books are entirely different creatures. Judgement of the game based on the book is therefore tantamount to sin, in my humble opinion.
The 90s was an interesting time for game development.. things had advanced enough to give fuel to envision what was to come but it was still just out of reach. This meant developers had to discover that special blend of storyline, character immersion and a sprinkle of NPCs or some other oddities that would inspire future nostalgia - and who doesn't remember Boo and Minsc, hmm? :)
To be honest, it's quite nauseating to read this sad mess and bear witness to doves crying blood tinged tears at how it's even possible to reduce the depth and creativity Baldur's Gate had to a grey, withered dried out piece of dog excrement. Seriously, they had so much material to work with... WHY?