A Long and Winding Road
The Crimson Talisman is the first book in Eberron’s War-Torn series. The concept is pretty simple: the story must be self-contained and deals with the character. Wizards of the Coast even held a contest last year, the winner of which gets to write in this series. Me being a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, this was one of the books I anticipated, at the very least to see what kind of writing Wizards of the Coast was interested in seeing.
Since I was used to the presence of an appendix from the previous two Eberron novels released this year, it was a big surprise for me to find out that this one didn’t have one. At least it had a map. Oh well, if anything’s going to satisfy me with this book, it has to do it with the writing. Which unfortunately was very mundane. It was more or less easy reading, but Cole’s writing style has no real strengths. Everything was pretty much average, whether it’s attention to detail, characterization, or dialogue. So I guess all that’s left is plot.
The story is pretty okay, and it would have been satisfactory, if it weren’t for the fact that the book is really a series of short adventures. It follows a certain formula: protagonist is pursued by undead villains, are outmatched, hence protagonist flees to another country. Repeat. There’s a variation to the formula near the end though as this time, it’s the good guys that do the chasing. Honestly, rather than being an action-adventure novel, this is more like Eberron: A Geographic Tour. I can’t help but feel that the writer is prolonging the story just to fill the minimum-words quota.
That’s not to say that the book doesn’t have its good points. There is intrigue from the very start of the novel, as the main protagonist doesn’t know who to trust. That’s augmented midway through the novel as we sense that more than one villainous force is after the heroes, hence causing a three-way conflict. There’s also one character in the novel that I’ve grown fond of, but there are times where his supposed slyness just doesn’t come into play. A failure of the novel for me though was the cheesy love interest, whom the character falls for at first sight. And it probably won’t be any surprise if I told you they ended up together at the end.
Despite all my criticisms, I actually enjoyed the book. Not as much as I’d wanted, but it’s better than reading other horrible drabble. An objective analysis though will tell you that even for a Dungeons & Dragons book, this is at the lower end of the spectrum. There are probably other, more exciting novels out there and the only ones I can honestly recommend this book to would be the Eberron fans (or would be Eberron fans). If you really want to get a feel of Eberron, get the other two novels, Marked for Death and The City of Towers. The only advantage of this book over those is that it ‘s self-contained and probably the fact that it has a pretty cover.