Lies of Light (Forgotten Realms: The Watercourse Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – 3 Nov 2006
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Lies of Light picks up from where Whisper of Waves left off. Set on the shores of the Lake of Steam, in the port city-state of Innarlith, the book describes the (rather dull) story of mainly five characters: two engineers from Cormyr, Willem Korvan and Ivor Devorast, a Red Wizard of Thay named Marek Rymut, a young noblewoman, part-time rogue, and native of Innarlith named Phyrea, and Pristoleph, a fire genasi (!), as they go about their respective business in the city of Innarlith.
The book starts off very well with chapter 1 and then it's downhill all the way to chapter 32 on page 145 (almost half way through) where it picks up again... As in the case of Whisper of Waves one immediately feels the difference in mood compared to other Forgotten Realms (FR) novels, especially the older ones; this is definitely not your second edition era FR novel!
The plot continues to swerve all over the place and to a great extent fails to keep the reader's interest and attention. Philip Athans once again seems to have a grasp of essential knowledge relevant to Faerun, but doesn't do much with it. Other drawbacks include the ongoing dryness vis-à-vis the main characters, which makes reading the novel all too often so very boooooring!!! Due to the characters being weak, delusional, and self destructive, the reader does not care for them, feeling frustrated instead.
Moreover, the Zhentarim's sudden and short lived appearance failed in its goal to raise interest and because it was so badly done it had the opposite effect; I never thought I would ever feel disdain at the appearance of the Black Network.
Furthermore, the black dragon Insithryllax in both Whisper of Waves and Lies of Light is clearly lawful evil and not chaotic evil as it should be.
In addition, there are inconceivable spelling mistakes throughout the book that indicate poor performance all around, such as on pages 74-75 where it should read "an ounce" not "an once of political ambition," "handle" instead of "... the axe handl" (p.101), "Civility" instead of "Civilityh" (p.173), and "Red Wizard" not "Red Wizards" (p.204), while the last word in the first line of Chapter 32 should be "she" and not "he" (p.145).
That said, Philip Athans provides in Chapter 1 an extraordinary description of undead at work: "The ghast took another bite, a mouthful of bloody skin from the dead man's thigh. It came off with a tearing sound, duller than fabric... The thing's jagged fangs ripped the skin and meat into strips that it gulped down with undisguised relish. Its burning red eyes rolled back slightly in its misshapen skull, and its shoulders twitched. The ghast's purple flesh was the color of a bruise, but a single bruise that covered its entire bony, naked form. Even from a distance Phyrea could smell rotting flesh, decaying meat, blood both old and new... the odor of a crypt" (p.6).
Chapters 25 and 31 deal very well with assassination and murder, Chapters 59 and 68 with the Animate Dead spell, and Chapter 55 with the effects of a lightning bolt. The highlight of the book, however, has to be Chapter 47 and the description of the wedding in the church of... Cyric!!!
Additionally, Philip Athans provides for descriptions that facilitate the reader to visualize the scenes e.g. "Kolviss's hair, then scalp, dissolved away in front of their eyes, in just the blink of an eye revealing a dome of brilliant white skull. The advisor put a hand to his head, felt the bone, and fainted. Osorkon decided that was a good thing... Kolviss wouldn't be able to feel his eyes melt, then his face. No one should be able to be awake while his head was liquefied" (p.113), "He hefted his longaxe and smiled the leer of a killer... The front of one of the worker's trousers bloomed with a dark shadow, and the stench of urine filled the dense air of the close space" (p.143), "The banelar bit into his shoulder so hard Svayyah heard its fangs scrape bone... bright red fluid bubbled up through the punctures made by the banelar's fangs, as though his blood boiled" (p.156), and "The flesh fell away from the naga's skull, and its eyes dissolved into the water. Its long, snake's body spasmed, cramping and twitching in a ghastly death-dance that kicked up soot and floating debris... including strips of the naga's own burned flesh." (p.244)
In conclusion, despite its shining moments Lies of Light, just like its predecessor, is nothing to write to home about. The first half of the novel is such a waste of paper and the overall feeling one gets is that of watching a second rate soap opera. Nevertheless, I still have hope that the final instalment of the Watercourse trilogy will redeem the Forgotten Realms' lost honor.
First off, if you are thinking of reading this book, you really need to read the first or you will be completely lost. As I said in the review of whisper of Waves, this book is set up differently than any other Forgotten Realms book. There are 67 chapters in this book with each chapter being about 3-5 pages in length. At times this leads to the book feeling jumpy and disjointed, although, I will say this feeling is not nearly as prevalent as it was in the first book.
The overall plot of this books `feels' better than the first book. There seems to be more purpose in it. This could be because the author has introduced most of the major players in the first book and is now able to focus on the story and plot arc. It didn't feel like the author was trying to jam as many details of the characters as he could into the first book. This plot seems to have a solid flow to it that doesn't overly confuse the reader. Although, with all the different, short chapters, I found it difficult to focus on one thing. It seemed just when I got into the flow of a chapter there was suddenly a shift to a new perspective abandoning the flow the author had just gained. With that said, the plot really develops in this book and takes great strides. Yet, I would be remiss to say that I have developed a lot of caring about the plot. I honestly don't really see the reason why this plot deserves a trilogy (of course this may change with book three). It just seems, to me, that these two books could have easily been combined into one and saved some trees.
The characters in this book are so-so. Some are interesting and some are just very bland that they can easily be ignored. The vast majority of the characters I simply could care less about. They didn't seem to advance the plot very much, their dialog seemed force and not true to the character at many points. They were simply there and the plot seemed to drag them along through it. Normally, the character section of my reviews are longer than the plot section, but I simply didn't care enough about the characters to write much about them.
Overall, this book was average at best. If you are looking for multiple points of view fantasy books try G. R. R. Martin and the Song of Ice and Fire books, he pulls it off wonderfully. This book, and the preceding one, doesn't do it very well. I think the book, and series, would have been better served writing it as a `normal' book and not letting it pretend to be something that it's not. If you are a fan of the Realms you may like this, but don't expect this book to be the best Realms book you will read this year. If you do you will be very disappointed.
Story kicks of where the first book left it, so it is absolutely necessary that you read the first novel before this one, or nothing will make sense to you. They are more like a single book divided into volumes, then 2 separate books. Where the first book focused mostly on introducing the characters, this one focuses on plot. The canal construction is well under way and subplots from the first book are merging into a single complex main plot. Interesting, unpredictable and different then what you probably got used to in FR novels.
Characters from first book are all there, but in this one it's Phyrea that steals the spotlight. Willem's road to self destruction continues, and we get to know some new side characters. What I would have liked to see was more of genasi Pristoleph, who all but disappeared since the start of book one. To put it short, characters are just as imaginative, believable and free of clichés as in the first novel.
If you like intrigue, politics, introspection and serious fantasy, pick up this trilogy. If you like senseless slaughter of monsters, then this is not the book for you.
Athans delivers again, five stars from me.